The Pervasive Effect of Priors: Part Four

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1 Response

  1. Sub Specie AEternitatis says:

    A very interesting post and the NYT article induced in me the same question: What would motivate an average person, presumably not otherwise inclined to larceny or dishonesty, to make the claim that–but for the invidious action of the Department of Agriculture–they would be farming their own land right now, even though that claim would in the vast majority of cases be plainly untrue?

    In that regard I found the following passage from the NYT article particularly interesting:
    “The judge has said since you all look alike, whichever one says he came into the office, that’s the one to pay — hint, hint,” [Mr. Burrell, a promoter of the Pigford claims] said.

    This strong claim that the Pigford court itself was prejudiced against and hostile to African Americans–it could not even tell one black face from another!–would seem to me to be a likely factor in convincing many of the applicants to lie. Even otherwise-honest persons may be convinced to lie, and even to consider themselves righteous for doing so, if they are convinced that the target of the lie, here the court, is an enemy, holds them in contempt, or is gratuitously trampling on their dignity.