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Saturday Night Card Game (What you see is not always what you get)

Saturday Night Card Game (What you see is not always what you get)

Oberlin College cancelled classes based on a report that an individual was seen wearing a KKK-hood.

It turned out that the mystery figure likely was a woman in a blanket.

As we wait for further details
 as to who was behind hate-graffiti in the weeks prior to the dramatic school closure, and what their motivations were, I wanted to share some observations from a scientific perspective.

Discovery News writer Benjamin Radford explores the psychological reasons the student at Oberlin who made the sighting may have jumped to the conclusion that the drapped figure was dressed in Klan regalia instead of considering alternative explanations (like a toga from an “Animal House” celebration):

One powerful influence on our perceptions is our expectations. A well-known example of this can be seen in the image …

The same ambiguous symbol can be interpreted in very different ways, depending on the context. Read vertically, the symbol in the middle of the picture can be easily read as the capital letter B, while read horizontally the symbol can be easily read as the number 13. Neither answer is wrong; both interpretations are correct within their context. But the context makes all the difference.

How does this apply to the Klansman seen at Oberlin College? There were at several contextual factors that led the eyewitness to associate the figure with the Klan. Most importantly, the campus had recently experienced a string of events characterized as hate crimes, with flyers and graffiti targeting African-Americans, gays, and Jews appearing on campus.

The events were widely reported and triggered much discussion on campus about the presence of hate groups.

Radford’s review provides further explanations for the confusion:

..the location played a role in the misidentification: The white-clad figure was not seen outside a local pizza place or library, but instead outside the Afrikan Heritage House, the building on campus most closely associated with African-Americans. It’s unlikely that if the same woman had been seen outside a campus synagogue she would have been interpreted as a member of the Klan.

Then there’s the fact that the eyewitness probably didn’t know exactly what an actual KKK outfit looks like. …

Our brains often “fill in” details with what we expect to see –not necessarily what we actually see — and we tend to bias our reports accordingly. Thus a person wrapped in, or even carrying, a light-colored blanket can become a Klan outfit.

Based on Radford’s analysis, it would not be surprising to hear more “reports” of suspicious characters, as expectations have been created.

In an atmosphere like Oberlin, what you see is not always what you get.

And as we know from a prior Saturday Night Card Game, what you think you heard is not always what you heard.

It’s worth noting that Michelle Malkin has covered the history of dubious hate crime hoaxes at Oberlin, her alma mater.

One has to wonder to what extent the pressures at a progressive institution like Oberlin to be race-consious contribute not only to visual misperceptions, but to the willingness of some students to create incidents and events for the purpose of proving what they believe to be true about racism in society.


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Uncle Samuel | March 9, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Speaking of hate crimes, Ft. Hood killer, Nidal Hasan has been given a promotion and an award of merit while in prison.

Is anyone left in the government and military who is sane and able to think logically and morally?

Is PC Liberal-think some kind of cognitive neuro-warfare tactic that destroys neuron synapses by causing them to fire wildly and out of sequence?

The Friendly Grizzly | March 9, 2013 at 6:43 pm

It’s satire. The post was updated.

Uncle Samuel | March 9, 2013 at 7:02 pm

As a peace and good will offering, here is the hilarious “Book of Obama” from that blog:

Here in the South, we understand this language.

Jeet Jet? No, Jew? Jawanna? Ahraht…

If you are a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail. If you are race obsessed, everything looks racial.

    Paul in reply to myiq2xu. | March 9, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    I have come to the conclusion, after much first hand experience, that the race-obsessed individual will be the first person to make a distinction between people based on race.

    I call this, the “Smelly Fart” test, as in “Who smelt it, dealt it.”

    While real racism may always exist, overt racism of the kinds that are best known in the media always seem to turn out to be manufactured hoaxes by some race obsessed liberal, hoping to “Raise awareness of racism” by….wait for it….perpetrating and perpetuating racism.

    How we get away from racism, is to not ignore it, but to not codify it in statistical distinctions, or in distinctions between race which denote hatred towards an idividual.

    For example, if there is a black man and a white man, let us get away from the distinction in skin color, and say there are just two men. This goes for “hyphenated” nationalities as well. I don’t see “hyphen-americans” I see Americans. Or what not. It’s the fact that we have codified racism in our attempts to make up for past errors which perpetuates the problem, in my opinion.

    I chalk it up to educators and race-baiters who make a cottage industry out of identifying and protesting racism. We have come a long way, only to be hamsrung by those who wish to perpetuate the problem for ilicit, immoral gain.

I see that Oberlin has brought in the FBI.
This should put an end to any pranksterism, or at least have a chilling effect.

Henry Hawkins | March 9, 2013 at 9:29 pm

I know Ben Radford from my days running a scientific skepticism website and discussion board. One term basically describes what he’s talking about: pareidolia – seeing patterns in otherwise chaotic or unorganized observations. Example: face of Jesus seen in tree bark, burnt waffles, water stains and the like.

    Henry Hawkins in reply to Henry Hawkins. | March 9, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    PS: Another description of the phenomenon: “Believing is seeing.” (Nobody ever reports seeing Frank Zappa’s face in tree bark, burnt waffles, or water stains).

Yeah but… if Bush hadn’t ruined the economy by giving all our tax money to Halliburton, people wouldn’t have to walk around wearing blankets.

A common theme among the hoaxed racial incidents at Oberlin and elsewhere is that the hoaxer hoped to generate sympathy for themselves, directly or indirectly, through the phony “racism.”

It is very similar to Münchausen syndrome.

Unfortunately, it is the artificial “racial sensitivity” which has been created in our society which invites and even encourages such frauds.