May 14, 2006

The depravity expert.

"When is a murder like many other murders and when is a murder truly the worst of the worst?" says Dr. Michael Welner, an NYU forensic psychiatrist who's designed a "depravity scale":
In 39 states, including New York, judges and juries can mete out harsher sentences for crimes described with words such as "depraved," "vile" and "atrocious."...

Using a Web-based poll (www.depravityscale.org), Welner asks 25 nuanced questions that gauge why a person thinks one crime is more depraved than another.
A web-based poll? Isn't that an atrocious research method? I'll analyze the comments to this post in my quest to become a reseach methods expert. And I'm counting on you to keep it nuanced.

14 comments:

Dave said...

New York doesn't have the death penalty. That is rather depraved, no?

Jacques Cuze said...

The real problem of course is the sample population. It would seem to a) be very non-random and self-selected, and b) hard to validate that the demographic responses are accurate, although I would think that could be a problem in many sample populations. But you can (and should) direct your questions to: questions at depravityscale.org

offtopic but timely, you can visit C&L to see last night's S&L opening....

Jacques Cuze said...

Um, wasn't I telling you about the junk science of psychology and psychiatry like just yesterday?

Marghlar said...

I'd say that some data is better than none, but that this data will never be that useful.

The problem is the need to get a randomized sample of the general population, in order to assure that your data actually represent the attitudes of the general populace. I took a look at their FAQs, and it does seem that they are going to try to normalize this at the end to match general social demographics, so they are at least making a nod in that direction.

However, the big limitation of this research is that they cannot correct for two big ways that their entire sample will differ from the public at large:

1: They are all internet users (only 68% of the US population uses the internet; even fewer browse it enough to find something like this).

2: They are all people who chose, voluntarily and without pay, to participate in this type of survey.

So this survey is likely to draw only the responses of those with fairly developed views of the death penalty (on either side of the issue) and it is likely to draw a more wealthy, sophisticated, tech-savvy slice of the population than a truly random selection would.

I'll still be interested to see their data at the end, but I think it will be hard to make the claim that this is representative. It might be a step closer to figuring out what the general population's views are, but not a good way to answer the real question.

(NB: a lot of these defects show themselves in public opinion polling as well, by the by, which is one reason not to give such polls too much credence...)

SippicanCottage said...

No, no, we all know George Bush's evil plan to...gasp...inconvenience a narcoleptic unkempt whoopie cushion salesman is the personification of depravity. Stay on topic, monkeyman!

Senescent Wasp said...

But, isn't that being, like, judgemental?

Besides, most people think the internet is is just for porn.

Ann Althouse said...

That SNL skit was pretty lame. The part about the glaciers was funny, but it dragged on...

Ann Althouse said...

Senescent: That was hilarious. And way better than Al Gore on Saturday Night Live. Two clips have been recommended in this thread. Watch them both. One is way funnier.

Jacques Cuze said...

That was truly excellent S. Wasp. I had heard the song of course, but never seen this animation.

Thank you!

Jacques Cuze said...

Yes, Ann is right. A song that came from a Broadway Show, written and developed over many months upon which an entire cast of people will either be employed for years or for a few nights is in fact far far funnier than a five minute skit for put together in a day or two for SNL. for porn.

Here is a direct link to the Al Gore skit on YouTube.

Ann Althouse said...

Writing for SNL is a plum job. There's an obligation to make a better script than that, especially for lines you're making a celebrity deliver at the beginning of the show.

As for the song, I was hearing it for the first time -- it's from "Avenue Q" -- so that made the clip funnier to me than it deserves credit for.

Dave said...

Well, I just filled out the survey.

Just so you know, I'm a 46 year old female lawyer from Beverly Hills, CA.

SippicanCottage said...

Now, Ann. I call shenanigans on your headline.

We have our own depravity expert right here in house. Spends all his time fantasizing about cabinet members and their cattle prod collections while downloading nipple slip pictures of Janice Karpinski at her shoplifting tribunal, for his, well, you know, personal collection.

Qxxo aparently has a partner in his Karl Rove cover band duo now, named Gardner. He's changed his name again, though.

Madison Guy said...

I thought the guy was a charlatan when a plug for his "survey" appeared as a comment on my fledgling blog. I deleted it as comment spam. I'm not a lawyer, but his Forensic Panel, a referral service for expert witnesses, sure looked dubious -- and the research seems designed to generate more junk science for his crew of "experts" to testify about.