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Psychological Errors and Logical Pitfalls in Racial Profiling. Jack Glaser Goldman School of Public Policy UC Berkeley. OVERVIEW. The Psychology: Problems with the accuracy of stereotypes The Logic: Problems with the applicability of stereotypes

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psychological errors and logical pitfalls in racial profiling

Psychological Errors and Logical Pitfalls in Racial Profiling

Jack Glaser

Goldman School of Public Policy

UC Berkeley

overview
OVERVIEW
  • The Psychology: Problems with the accuracy of stereotypes
  • The Logic: Problems with the applicability of stereotypes
  • The Math: Problems with the efficacy of racial profiling
what is racial profiling
What is Racial Profiling?
  • The use of race, ethnicity, or national origin (or proxies thereof), by law enforcement to determine criminal suspicion
    • Most prevalent in drug interdiction
  • Distinct from criminal/offender profiling
psychological perspective profiling as stereotype based discrimination
Psychological Perspective: Profiling as Stereotype-based Discrimination
  • Stereotype: a belief about the traits typically possessed by members of a group
  • Stereotypes serve an adaptive function: heuristic – cognitive shortcut to simplify a complex world
  • Are stereotypes overgeneralizations? Are they accurate? Does it matter?
factors influencing accuracy
Factors Influencing Accuracy
  • Indirect Experience
  • Direct Experience
  • Illusory correlation
  • Tendency to stereotype is compounded by outgroup homogeneity effect
  • Stereotypes are resistant to change
  • Predictions about individuals are problematic
logic affirming the consequent
Logic: Affirming the Consequent
  • Even if a stereotype is “accurate” (i.e., based on a real correlation), we run the risk of affirming the consequent
    • If A, then B
      • A, therefore B 
      • B, therefore A X
    • If criminal, then likely to be minority
      • Criminal, therefore likely to be minority 
      • Minority, therefore likely to be criminal X
the math effect of profiling
The Math: Effect of Profiling
  • Difficulties with studying profiling:
    • Reports of profiling (e.g., Gallup poll) based on subjective experience
    • Police stop/arrest data lack “benchmarks”
    • GAO (and CA LAO) frustration
  • Particularly difficult to determine the effect/iveness of racial profiling
    • Do not know true “criminality rate”
modeling racial profiling
Modeling Racial Profiling
  • Assume criminality of groups is stable across time (through attrition and renewal)
  • Assume criminals who are stopped are convicted/incarcerated in equal proportions across groups
  • Generate hypothetical data (multiple scenarios), test effect of profiling over time
    • Attempting to simulate only the contribution that profiling makes
modeling racial profiling9
Modeling Racial Profiling

It = It-1 + σ(C – It-1) – ρIt-2

slide10
Group

% of Population

Incarcerated at Start (It=0)

Criminality Rate (C)

Stop Rate (σ)

No-Profiling Scenario: No Diffs.

A

20%

5%

10%

5%

B

80%

5%

10%

5%

Total

100%

5%

10%

5%

slide11
Group

% of Population

Incarcerated at Start

Criminality Rate

Stop Rate

No-Profiling Scenario: Differences

A

20%

12.5%

25%

5%

B

80%

3.125%

6.25%

5%

Total

100%

5%

10%

5%

slide12
Group

% of Population

Incarcerated at Start

Criminality Rate

Stop Rate

Profiling: No True Difference

A

20%

5%

10%

20%

B

80%

5%

10%

1.25%

Total

100%

5%

10%

5%

slide13
Group

% of Population

Incarcerated at Start

Criminality Rate

Stop Rate

Profiling: Real Difference

A

20%

12.5%

25%

20%

B

80%

3.125%

6.25%

1.25%

Total

100%

5%

10%

5%

slide14
Group

% of Population

Incarcerated at Start

Criminality Rate

Stop Rate

Extreme Profiling: Real Difference

A

20%

12.5%

25%

25%

B

80%

3.125%

6.25%

0%

Total

100%

5%

10%

5%

slide15
Group

% of Population

Incarcerated at Start

Criminality Rate

Stop Rate

Extreme Profiling: No Diffs.

A

20%

5%

10%

25%

B

80%

5%

10%

0%

Total

100%

5%

10%

5%

conclusions
Conclusions
  • Profiling is assumed to increase police efficiency, lead to more convictions, and is thus justified (re public safety), but…
  • The efficiency of profiling may be illusory
    • Stereotypes may be misleading
    • “Benefits” may attenuate rapidly
    • Self-fulfilling effect on targets
    • Neglects large criminal population
slide17
Relevance to Counter-Terrorism
  • Differences with drug courier profiling:
    • May be an instrumental connection between group membership and behavior
    • Correlation may be stronger
    • Much rarer events
    • We are farther along on the drug-war “curve”
  • Similarities: affirming the consequent still applies
    • Searching in a large haystack
    • Neglect non-Middle Eastern/Muslim terrorists
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