When it comes to a moral judgment, whatever, we are crossed by biases, but also noise. For that reason, it is not enough to have empathy .
Because empathy, for example, favors the members of the in-group (own group) over those of the out-group (outside group), as this study suggests.
Noise is ubiquitous
As the Nobel Prize winner in economics Daniel Kahneman explains in his latest book Noise, a flaw in human judgment , a general property of noise is that it can be recognized and measured without knowing anything about the target or the bias:
To understand error in judgment, we need to understand both bias and noise. Sometimes noise is, as we shall see, the most important problem. Yet in public conversations about human error and in organizations around the world, noise is rarely recognized.
In real world decisions, then, the amount of noise is usually very high. Here are some surprising examples:
- Medicine : when faced with the same patient, different doctors judge differently whether they have skin cancer, breast cancer, heart disease, tuberculosis, pneumonia, depression and a long list of conditions. In psychiatry, where sober judgment is important, the noise is even louder.
- Predictions : professions rarely agree on predictions of all kinds, such as the probable sales of a product, the growth of the unemployment rate, the probability of bankruptcy of a company …
- Personnel selection : interviewers of job candidates make very different evaluations of the same people.
- Judicial decisions : the same case can be tried in a very different way by a judge, sometimes sentencing many years, other times a few years, and even in some other cases the defendant can be acquitted.
All of these noisy situations are the tip of the iceberg. Wherever we examine human judgments, we are likely to find noise. To improve the quality of our judgments, we need to tame both noise and bias.