Monday, June 9, 2008

Tell me your name, I'll tell you if you are a criminal...

Globe and Mail reported today on an 'outstanding' piece of academic work: the work of two Shippensburg U scholars on correlating first names with criminal behavior. So, if your name is Jarit, Alec, Ivan or Ernest, watch out, there's a criminal future ahead of you...

Dr. Daniel Kalist (whose
webpage contains nothing of his research, but a lot about German shepherds - hey, I love those dogs!) and Dr. Daniel Lee have done some statistical work (excuse my arrogant ignorance when it comes to stats, but I don't really buy the assumed 'objectivity' of numbers) to show how first names and criminality correlate. Now, correlation does not mean causal relation, but then it must mean something, right?

As the above mentioned article describes, "rather a name suggested the presence of a set of background factors, such as poverty and broken families, that predisposed a young male to delinquency". * Sigh * I'm relaxed now, it's all about those young, poor, single mom type of dysfunctional men!

And indeed, the researchers (should I even call them like this?) add "We show that unpopular names are associated with juveniles who live in...female-headed households or households without two parents"... Damn all those women who have kids and then live on their own! I say it's all their fault. Their fault, because they are predisposed to choosing those awful, criminality correlated names for their soon-to-be delinquent boys!

Can anyone tell me why some people get a phd? And how come they get a job? I just hope their research was not funded from public funds! In any case, I'd recommend this brilliant piece of work to be added to the archive of useless research.
Yet, after laughing my heart out, I'm still left with a bitter taste: it's not about the results of this research, but about it's assumptions. About how these assumptions are being carried and embedded in the research, leading to conclusions of the type mentioned above.

Photo credits: Steven Fernandez

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