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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Perception of Skill and Bias

I’ve been thinking a lot about reputation and how it can bias us into doing or believing things about a person. I know for a fact that a person’s reputation can carry them far both positively or negatively…like someone with a good reputation might not have to jump through as many hoops in order to prove themselves whereas someone with a bad reputation many never get that chance at all.

I guess it sucks in a way, but we really are a society built on judgment and perception, whether right or wrong.

Applying this to the world of writing, I’ve been wondering whether bias really does cloud our judgment when it comes to buying books or following certain authors. I mean, how many times has a novel been hyped up only to fall short in the quality department? How many authors have you followed dogmatically, buying book after book…even if those books haven’t been all that great in years?

Personally, I believe that perception and bias does cloud our judgment. At least, it clouds mine. I might say that I’m not going to buy the next book in an author’s series because the last one was crap, but I don’t mean it…I ALWAYS buy the next book (with very few exceptions).

The only time it doesn’t seem to work on me is when a new book gets a lot of hype. I hate being told what to do. Hate it to such a degree that I usually do the opposite…juvenile I know, but that’s the way I work. My friends and family have learned to make suggestions instead of demands = they get better results that way ;-D

So what do you all think? Does bias impact your buying habits? Do you fall for the hype or revolt against it?


  1. I certainly remain loyal to others I've loved in the past, but I'll admit, I do tend to revolt against hype. I might read it eventually, but only after the praise has died down. I'm the same with movies. Despite (or perhaps/more likely Because) everyone telling me I should go see the film Avatar, because it was "so me" and I would "really love it", I never went.

    Great subject for reflection!

  2. Hello Angela,

    Excellent post. Thought provoking, well written, and it touches upon a few very interesting cultural weirdnesses.

    In answer to the questions:
    Bias must impact buying habits. Every factor that has influenced your mind influences decisions. Every decision is based on perceptions, and we all know how wishy-washy those things are.

    I have a tendency to feel more comfortable with non-mainstream. That, in itself, is a bias. I'm comfortable with that. Let the normals have Justin Bieber and sparkly fucking vampires. I'll take Jon Lajoie and pot-heads over a politician any day.

    I've learned and am still learning how to make decisions based on intuition. It's the instruction book for how to live a nifty life. Besides, intelligence and imagination are our best tools. We can build something worthy with them.

    Every dollar is a vote. Vote for art. Vote for responsible science. At least votes cast by a dollar are counted.

  3. So deep so early in the morning! lol
    Great points, Patrick! I, too, have a tendency to go against the flow...to a fault at times.
    Thanks for stopping in!

  4. Oh, Krista! I am exactly the same way...wonder if it's an only child thing ;-)

  5. I'm much like you in the sense that when someone says I need or I have to read this book, I just don't. Example: I still haven't read Harry Potter.

  6. Rarely does a piece of art - movie, music, book - live up to the hype machine. I prefer the unexpected surprise - the dark horse. I don't like to tell other people what to do with their time, but if they ask for an honest opinion, I'll hand it over.

  7. I'm with Anne on that. Good blog this week again Angie. I haven't read Harry Potter either. Sometimes I like to follow my own path and just pick something that looks good to me rather than being told what is good. Reputation is a powerful tool, with most anyone, not just authors. Excellent points! :)

  8. Interesting thoughts you have Angie... I always wonder about bias and identity... Some define themselves by belonging, so follow current trends, others define themselves by deliberately swimming against them. I guess the trick to being really free is to know what your own tendencies are, catch yourself in the act, then as Patrick mentioned above you are free to let your intuition, and intelligence guide you, not the push against, or the pull toward the herd.

    Sounds nice? Not sure I can do it either yet...

    As for book series for me not so much about hype but emotional involvement with the world, plot and characters. That can keep me coming back to a series even when the writing is tailing off in the quality department... I just want to know what happens in the end...

  9. I also try to ignore hype. I like to "find" my own treasures. For this reason, I don't like radio because I feel in some way I'm being told what to like. I like to make up my own mind. Same with books. I'll take recommendations but the books I love the best are usually the ones I pick up or discover online myself.

  10. To be honest I'm one of the ones who manages to avoid the hype. I don't go looking at what others have said and if its something that interests me I'll give it a go.

    I think thats one reason I tend to like being able to view Trailers online if I hear about a film. The ones that do tend to worry me are the trailers made up of people telling you how good it was or showing thier reaction. For me, thats usually a good enough indication to give it a miss.

    Also as an aside to what you've already said, don't you also find it funny that a good person does one bad thing and they're remembered for that for eternity, yet a bad guy does one good thing and yet they get remembered for the positive. Talk about Irony.

  11. It's funny how we all seem to agree on most things ;-)

    Gareth, I totally know what you're talking about...although I think a person with a good reputation can get away with a lot more than someone with a bad reputation.

  12. I give a much-loved author one chance to disappoint me. If it happens again (or the next one is WORSE), I bail. I've stopped reading authors (or at least buying them) when their public behavior has really bothered me (this has to be pretty extreme though, as in I fear what they'd do with my money LOL).

    As far as hype goes, I don't avoid books because of hype, but I try to approach them without buying into it all. If I hadn't, I would have missed out on the Hunger Games, which I LOVE.

  13. I think the true path of avoiding the hype means reading even the MOST hyped book around, if the story interests you. I read whatever tweaks my interest regardless of hype, genre. BUT, as for still buying subsequent books in a series that I liked in the beginning but have gradually gotten worse...I MUST still purchase them. I keep hope. It's the OCD in me. *grin* Great topic Ang, thanks for posting this. :)

  14. I do follow the authors that I've found and enjoyed and will continue to buy their books whether or not they get the best reviews. I usually don't follow 'popular hypes' like those promoted by big companies that are out to make money. If I take a suggestion on a book at a store, it's usually in a 'Staff Pick' area. I've also been known to purposely go to a book store with the intent to buy two books of authors I don't know and stories that usually don't attract me. I haven't been dissapointed yet and always learn something from these books and the different styles/genres/etc. It's like a mini adventure down the path less travelled! Great Post.