Monday, October 17, 2011

Looking for Outliers


Writing about "patterns of misconduct", Paul Krugman observes,
My sense, after 11 years of punditizing, is that people are complicated, but gangs of people less so. Individuals are often mixed in their behavior: incorruptible politicians may cheat on their spouses, political scoundrels may have impeccable personal lives. But groups, like a politician’s inner circle or the management team of a media empire, tend to behave similarly on multiple fronts. If they lie and cheat routinely in one domain, they tend to do it in others as well.
My sense is a bit different - what's true for the group is also true, on the whole, for the individual. I do grant, you're far more likely to find an exception while looking at individuals than when looking at groups, but if the general pattern didn't hold for individuals it would not hold for groups.

For a related study of perception, if you've seen The Ides of March, is Clooney's governor an incorruptible politician who happens to cheat on his spouse, or is he a sociopath?

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