344. Bias, Behavior, and Baseball with Keith Law

[Editor’s Note:  Now that the 2021 Baseball Season is in full swing, Mad Scientist Laboratory is revisiting last year’s interview with proclaimed Mad Scientist Keith Law, author and Senior Baseball Writer with The Athletic.  His insightful discussion regarding the parallels between baseball and the Information Environment, how stats skew our thinking, and the implications of anchoring bias remains especially relevant as we wrestle with continued social polarization and the ramifications of the COVID 19 Delta variant.   Please note that this podcast and several of the embedded links below are best accessed via a non-DoD network due to network priorities for teleworking — Enjoy!]


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In this episode of The Convergence, we talk with Keith Law, Senior Baseball Writer at The Athletic, which he joined in January 2020 after spending thirteen and a half years at ESPN. Before joining ESPN.com in June 2006, Keith spent just over four years as the Special Assistant to the GM of the Toronto Blue Jays, and prior to that had written for Baseball Prospectus. Keith Law is the author of Smart Baseball: The Story Behind the Old Stats That Are Ruining the Game, the New Ones That Are Running It, and the Right Way to Think About Baseball, published in April 2017; and The Inside Game: Bad Calls, Strange Moves, and What Baseball Behavior Teaches Us About Ourselves, published in April last year.

In today’s podcast, Keith Law discusses the parallels between baseball and the Information Environment, how stats skew our thinking, and the implications of anchoring bias:

      • The brain develops cognitive biases to manage extensive information. These biases lead information consumers to draw false conclusions and ignore conflicting data.
      • Anchoring bias occurs when the brain latches onto the first piece of information, even if it is irrelevant to what you are working on.
      • Creating radical change in a large, traditional organization, like the Army or a sports team, is best done through an individualized grassroots effort. Radical change, especially from people new to the organization, does not usually “win hearts and minds.”
      • Information environments are full of persistent yet harmful beliefs. These need to be addressed, as those with these beliefs are often more aggressive about promoting their viewpoints.
      • “Credibly foolish beliefs” benefit from a “first mover” advantage. These irrational narratives are rarely challenged by peers. Once these fallacies are adopted, they are difficult to let go.
      • Data collection tools are becoming democratized, leading to individuals having more agency over information.
      • To become a better writer, future analysts should work to become better readers, especially when it comes to reading books and articles outside the genre they write in. For people with a STEM background, being able to write well provides a personal competitive advantage for future employment.

Stay tuned to the Mad Scientist Laboratory for our next podcast which, given the West’s current focus on blunting China’s ambitions, will feature last year’s interview with Doowan Lee discussing disinformation, changes over time in approaches to information warfare, and revisionism and the Chinese Communist Party on 19 Aug 2022.

If you enjoyed this post, check out the video from Keith Law‘s presentation on Decision Making [view via a non-DoD network] delivered during our Mad Scientist Weaponized Information Virtual Conference on 21 July 2020.

Read what we learned from last year’s series of Mad Scientist Weaponized Information Virtual Events in Weaponized Information: What We’ve Learned So Far… and Insights from the Mad Scientist Weaponized Information Series of Virtual Events.

You can watch all of the other presentations from this series of events here [via a non-DoD network] and explore all of the associated content (presenter biographies, slide decks, scenarios, and notes from each of the presentations) here.

Explore the following related posts and podcasts:

The Convergence: The Next Iteration of Warfare with Lisa Kaplan and associated podcast

The Convergence: True Lies – The Fight Against Disinformation with Cindy Otis and associated podcast

The Convergence: Political Tribalism and Cultural Disinformation with Samantha North and associated podcast

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