Shankar Vedantam has this interesting article about the associations we make between individual action and consequent judgement about large groups (i.e. Juan William’s comments).
After reading the first page, the article bothered me: it seemed too complacent, too willing to just accept that these connections are just “how we operate,” but the conclusion of the piece changed my mind.
” If you know there are 1 billion Muslims on our planet (low estimate) and you’ve heard of 1,000 incidents where Muslims carried out terrorist attacks (an exaggerated number), and terrorist sympathies were (improbably) distributed evenly across the world, the odds that a particular Muslim is a terrorist are about 1 in a million. A rational Bill O’Reilly should be much more exercised about asteroids striking Earth, or dying from dog bites, than about Muslims being terrorists.
The fact that so many of us subscribe to illusory correlations can be blamed on our unconscious minds. The fact so few of us challenge our unconscious minds? That’s on us.”
Also check out this clip from the Daily Show with regard to the same issue.