Daily Archives: November 30, 2006

Outgroup Homogeneity Bias


Someone I know was posting a bunch of common cognitive biases recently, and described something called the Outgroup Homogeneity Bias. Wikipedia says, “According to the outgroup homogeneity bias, individuals see members of their own group as being relatively more varied than members of other groups.”

This of course can be applied to all kinds of things. Right now I want to quote a few people, though. Keep in mind, the groups don’t even have to objectively exist, this stuff also applies to perceived grouping, is in fact possibly an artifact of perceived grouping.

Here is what Stephen Shore says about which autistic people he believes to be mostly alike, and which autistic people he believes show more variation:

The high-functioning Asperger portion of this syndrome has the greatest diversity in shapes because the variation in presentation along with the number of people with autism in this area is the greatest.

This is accompanied by a graph, as shown on this page (scroll down to the part called “The Autism Spectrum”). It shows an arrow saying “increasing variability of presentation”, where the “most variable” people (“HFA/AS”) are supposedly the “least autistic” people, and the “Kanner’s” people are more alike.

Then you have the exact opposite, as stated by Donna Williams:

As a consultant in the field of Autism for the last ten years I have seen many people diagnosed at both the Autistic and Asperger’s end of the spectrum. I have found that Aspies are a far more homegenous group than those with Autism.

Stephen Shore views himself as on the extreme “HFA/AS” end of the autistic spectrum. Donna Williams views herself as part of the “autistic” end of the spectrum. Stephen shore views “Kanner autistics” as more homogenous. Donna Williams views “aspies” as more homogenous.

And many autistic people seem to view non-autistic people as more or less homogenous, and vice versa. And, as I said, this applies to many other things. Sometimes, when you see a group of people (a real one or one you imagine) in your head, as all being the same, it’s because you don’t view yourself as one of that group of people, and you’re falling into that kind of bias.

Food for thought.


From On Women by Schopenhauer. Hopefully the relevance to disability is obvious.

These passages not only equate certain qualities with being a woman, but also equate those things with being inferior. Two-step process, at least, not the single-step one most people take it as. (I bet even Schopenhauer, for all his “great male reasoning,” didn’t entirely notice.)

Women are directly adapted to act as the nurses and educators of our early childhood, for the simple reason that they themselves are childish, foolish, and short-sighted—in a word, are big children all their lives, something intermediate between the child and the man, who is a man in the strict sense of the word.

Man reaches the maturity of his reasoning and mental faculties scarcely before he is eight-and-twenty; woman when she is eighteen; but hers is reason of very narrow limitations. This is why women remain children all their lives, for they always see only what is near at hand, cling to the present, take the appearance of a thing for reality, and prefer trifling matters to the most important. It is by virtue of man’s reasoning powers that he does not live in the present only, like the brute, but observes and ponders over the past and future; and from this spring discretion, care, and that anxiety which we so frequently notice in people. The advantages, as well as the disadvantages, that this entails, make woman, in consequence of her weaker reasoning powers, less of a partaker in them. Moreover, she is intellectually short-sighted, for although her intuitive understanding quickly perceives what is near to her, on the other hand her circle of vision is limited and does not embrace anything that is remote; hence everything that is absent or past, or in the future, affects women in a less degree than men. This is why they have greater inclination for extravagance, which sometimes borders on madness.

It is because women’s reasoning powers are weaker that they show more sympathy for the unfortunate than men, and consequently take a kindlier interest in them. On the other hand, women are inferior to men in matters of justice, honesty, and conscientiousness. Again, because their reasoning faculty is weak, things clearly visible and real, and belonging to the present, exercise a power over them which is rarely counteracted by abstract thoughts, fixed maxims, or firm resolutions, in general, by regard for the past and future or by consideration for what is absent and remote. Accordingly they have the first and principal qualities of virtue, but they lack the secondary qualities which are often a necessary instrument in developing it. Women may be compared in this respect to an organism that has a liver but no gall-bladder.9 So that it will be found that the fundamental fault in the character of women is that they have no “sense of justice.” This arises from their deficiency in the power of reasoning already referred to, and reflection, but is also partly due to the fact that Nature has not destined them, as the weaker sex, to be dependent on strength but on cunning; this is why they are instinctively crafty, and have an ineradicable tendency to lie. For as lions are furnished with claws and teeth, elephants with tusks, boars with fangs, bulls with horns, and the cuttlefish with its dark, inky fluid, so Nature has provided woman for her protection and defence with the faculty of dissimulation, and all the power which Nature has given to man in the form of bodily strength and reason has been conferred on woman in this form. Hence, dissimulation is innate in woman and almost as characteristic of the very stupid as of the clever.

It is only the man whose intellect is clouded by his sexual instinct that could give that stunted, narrow-shouldered, broad-hipped, and short-legged race the name of the fair sex; for the entire beauty of the sex is based on this instinct. One would be more justified in calling them the unaesthetic sex than the beautiful. Neither for music, nor for poetry, nor for fine art have they any real or true sense and susceptibility, and it is mere mockery on their part, in their desire to please, if they affect any such thing.