Rumor -- Gossip   -- Deception


Availability cascade:


A self-reinforcing process  in which   a  collective belief

gains  more and more  plausibility  

      through its  increasing  repetition   in public discourse  

             (or "repeat something long enough and  it  will become true").


The driving mechanism involves a combination of informational and reputational motives:   
Individuals endorse the perception partly by learning from the apparent beliefs of others and
partly by distorting their public responses in the interest of maintaining social acceptance.
. . .
Availability entrepreneurs - - activists who manipulate the content of public discourse - strive to trigger availability cascades likely to advance their agendas. Their availability campaigns may yield ... benefits . . .


Kuran, Timur;   Cass R Sunstein (1998).   "Availability Cascades ...". Stanford Law Review 51: 683.

Grime and Punishment:

      How  Disgust  Influences . . .  judgments

by  Yoel Inbar,   Harvard University;  

and  David Pizarro, Cornell University

– March 1, 2009


. . . On its face, disgust may seem less relevant to legal judgments . . . its influence on courtroom proceedings is not intuitively obvious.    Nonetheless . . . disgust plays an important role in a much wider set of social and moral judgments than was once believed. . . . sheds light on what disgust is, how it influences judgments, and why legal scholars, judges, and attorneys should pay attention to it.


. . .  This basic disgust reaction to noxious stimuli is what researchers have come to refer to as “core” disgust — the disgust that is tied to those elicitors that signal the possibility of contamination. . . .    A fair amount of research is converging on the conclusion that feeling core disgust seems to make us harsher moral judges, even when the person or action we’re judging has nothing to do with the thing that originally disgusted us.  . . .     evidence of two ways in which disgust seems related to moral judgments—as a cause of moral harshness and as the result of moral infractions. . . .    researchers investigated whether a subtle disgust manipulation would affect subsequent, unrelated moral judgments. . . .    evidence implicating disgust in moral judgment comes from findings that disgust is elicited by moral infractions that have little to do with the elicitors of core disgust    . . .   there are a few key areas where disgust is likely to be of special concern. . . .    

. . .   A juror who is especially sensitive to disgust, and thus more likely to find purity violations offensive, would be more likely to convict . . . ​  be aware of the role that disgust can play in moral condemnations of such behavior. . . .   Infusing moral values into science   is often considered one of the worst “sins” a scientist can commit.   In studying moral psychology it is especially necessary to maintain an objective stance in order to arrive at an accurate descriptive account of how morality works; we are interested in how and why people make moral judgments, not how they should make moral judgments (that is the business of moral philosophers, after all).  . . . 

[Comments from John McCabe, appended to the paper.]  . . .   Emotional responses like disgust (and anger)   not only  lead to   greater moral outrage  . . .   but  also to  greater certainty   in judgments.   This greater  certainty can  lead jurors to use less effort   . . .  in their examination and processing of trial-related information.     Some even speculate that emotional responses are a heuristic:    jurors recall the magnitude of their negative emotional reaction   to certain evidence  or testimony   and   use it as a generic prejudice,   a gauge of the probability of the defendants’ culpability  or liability   unrelated to the facts of the case.   As the paradigm of the decision-maker as solely a   “rational man (or woman)” quickly recedes into the past,   the role of emotions such as  disgust in jury decision-making is ripe for understanding. . . .


    The subtle  Role of  NTSB

       in   Disgust-Manipulation:

           Rumor  and   Gossip

and    misinformation


The Investigator's  Human  Instinct:

The  Invisible Hand   in Accident analysis



Mysterious   accident?


A  Rumor

as   The   first    "Explanation",


  . . . . . . moral   turpitude,  

 . . . .  moral turpitude, n. gross violation of standards of moral conduct, vileness, 
. . . . . . . . . . such that an act involving moral turpitude was intentionally evil, making the act a crime.
. . . . The existence of moral turpitude can bring a more severe criminal charge or penalty
. . . . . . . . . . . . . for a criminal defendant.

 

      A whiff?       Gossip.

 

Unconscious    gut-reaction ?

 

Disgust?    Revulsion?    

emotion triggers  in the listener

 an     Unconscious

Moral Judgement   of those  Mythap-Pilots:


Consensus,   "The Boeing Scenario"

...

 in a section  highly critical of   the airline management ...

        a predetermined  plan of deception   at    the  Inquiry ...
                          an attempt to conceal

                              a series of disastrous  administrative blunders ...


  I am forced  reluctantly   to say  that  

         I had to listen to  

                   an   orchestrated   litany of lies 

                                              ... disappearance of documents   ...

This  REVIEW     by      a  Public Inquiry  

   should be   a lesson :    to correct  the weakness in USA law

        regarding  USA's  "independent"  Safety Board.

Images below are from the award winning TV-documentary:

''The Plane That Fell From the Sky,'' _CBS Reports_:

CBS News, broadcast over network TV (Wednesday July 14, 1983), 10pm EST.

NTSB  Board Members  endorsed  the Rumor  as instead a  "FACT",  

and   later  adopted  the Boeing Scenario as  "probable cause"

at the  second   Sunshine Act Board Meeting on June 9th, 1981.  

NTSB  employees Repeatedly  cited  the Rumor,  

   then denied that anyone at NTSB had spread it,

         then  staff  declared it only a Rumor  . . .


?  Pilot wrongdoer ?


   November 19th, 1979,   NTSB's  Chairman King  wrote ALPA's President:


The     NTSB  Chairman   responded:    

         "We do not believe that the  integrity  and  credibility 

                                of this investigation has been compromised  

    

Media-bias,   as  fed  by  that   country's   "investigative authority"  

                                   (USA's NTSB,    NZ's  MoT,     Canada's  former  CASB,   UK's  AIB)


Concurrent  with the   BOEING-ntsb   investigation   of  the  mysterious  upset-dive  of  B727  N840TW,

similar  complaints,    public outrage,           

                            arose  during  the investigation  of  Air New Zealand  901,  Mt Erebus,  28Nov79


New Zealand's    public-release of  the official  accident report

             the Chippindale report  ,     was  on 12 June 1980. 


“Despite its careful catalogue of ... contributing causes, 

            it had very clearly placed the responsibility for the accident upon the aircrew.” 


 Media  outlets  fueled the public perception of   an incompetent flight crew   with headlines like:


           “CRASH REPORT POINTS TO ERROR BY DC10 CAPTAIN”,    and
                                                “FLIGHT THOUSANDS OF FEET  TOO LOW.”


Calls for   a public inquiry    into the Erebus disaster,

           shortly after the accident,

             continued amid  controversy  over  who had received   Chippindale's interim report.


An   official

       Investigative  Authority,

                       reviewed  by    

                                                      A   Public   Inquiry

Dan Rather, CBS News:  

"...  the talk of coffee houses . . . amazed how

a rumor takes off  like  mildew . . .

Err- genesis :      the  authoritative  statement.

Infusing moral values

into science  . . . 

Infusing moral values

into science  . . . 

  "Infusing moral values into science ...

 the worst sin a scientist can commit."  

Inside the USA's

NTSB

a  collective  belief

gained  plausibility

Condemnation

  Tags:   B727,  N840TW,   April 4 1979;   Saginaw,    NTSB-AAR-81-8,   Investigation:  Cause- Mysterious, 

Rumor,   Deception,   Misinformation,   Inference-as-Fact,   Unwarranted-Assumptions as "Findings",       

    The Boeing Scenario,    A Case Study,    patriotic-protectionism,     erroneous Probable Cause,

      Engineering,   Ethics,           

Board-Chairman King

Investigator-in-Charge

   NTSB spokesman told Press:

      'I think those guys were fooling around up there, 

                     and I don't think we really know what they were doing yet.'"  

As quoted in _The Aviation Consumer_,   from an interview done  in September 1979.

  A  role for  the Board's  "Human Factors" specialists,    

during the investigation:

 

 --   Acknowledge  and  counter  this  subtle    unconscious infusion,  this  diversion,

          affecting  working-investigators  during the official investigation;

           by explicitly recognizing the distracting influence of  widespread gossip;

 --   employ   Human Factors Specialists,   in-house,  during the investigation,

            to  prevent this   unconscious   investigator-bias;    and to  thus

              avoid  "scientific misconduct",   induced by these effects of

                    the distracting bias  that has grown-up from  widespread  gossip.


Failure - Interactions


The Mahon Report   :

  The Report of   the Royal Commission of Inquiry,
the single dominant and effective cause  was  

 the mistake by airline officials

  who  programmed the aircraft
to fly directly at Mt Erebus  and

      neglected to tell the aircrew.   ...​​

The decision to hold  a royal commission    had been announced
     by   Attorney-General   Jim McLay    in early March 1980
         – before   Ron  Chippindale,    the Chief Inspector of Air Accidents,
                                                                        had  released his report.

Deception   and   Misinformation
offered  by  NTSB   staff-managers

as the central focus   for their  Board Members.

Core

Disgust

Rapid  Propagation  of  Misinformation


In April 1979,  within a few days of the first press reports about    the airliner  dive   that happened  during    evening  hours  of Wednesday the 4th,  the early  rumors  were born.


These rumors,  born within days of the accident,  matured  into  various entertaining stories -- and even without the internet,  the spread of rumors was   as quick  as   the rumors  after the TWA 800  inflight-breakup in July 1996.


By the summer of 1979,  the USA's  investigating  authority, NTSB,  had acted as one of the main contributors, with repeated  telling  of the rumors.   These repeated accounts,  spreading  misinformation about  a B727 mishap,  even confused   NTSB Board Members and the staff -- who  alternately  repeated the Boeing Scenario, and   then backed-away from the rumors  (denied advancing the rumors when challenged by ALPA);    then  later in June of 1981  voted to accept the  rumored  Boeing Scenario   as their official P.C.  


NTSB's   Investigator-in-Charge  worked  closely  with the manufacturer,  to insure that  the mishap-pilots  were  prime suspects:   The  best selling airliner,   from the USA's biggest exporter,   was not to be doubted by USA's  NTSB-investigators.  It was an "independent" investigation,  with the Boeing Scenario  as its pre-agreed  conclusion.


The NTSB's  propagation of rumor,  repeatedly,  advanced the  goal of the the USA's   "independent"  Safety Board  --  "a self reinforcing process"  described as  an   Availability Cascade.

Deception   and   Misinformation

offered as  a  central focus   for investigators


 Lesson for investigators  

             -- The  Role of  Rumor  and   Gossip

and    misinformation:



After  an  unexplained   mishap,   

or a  "mysterious"  occurrence,     

an  early  RUMOR,   and  rapid  spread of  Gossip, 

has  misdirected the course of several INVESTIGATIONS  

during the prior seven decades.


Exemplar:  during the first week after the  July 17th,  1996   "mysterious"   inflight-breakup    of  the B747   (TWA800)   off the south coast of Long Island,   rumors spread rapidly  via a new communications method  called   "the internet".    One  email,  from a  respected-pilot-gossip  [an ex- airline pilot],     was  quickly  relayed  around the world.   The discussion of that RUMOR  (about a missile),   then the  spreading GOSSIP,  was then  regarded  as more than mere rumor -- because it had been published there on  "the internet".


Some of those  investigators  working  the TWA800- investigation,  in the summer of 1996,   had   suffered  through  a similar  destructive-rumor,  as their major distraction  during the INVESTIGATION   of the "mysterious" case of  TWA841  in  1979.   


Two decades before that,  there was the  rumor-driven  investigation of   Captain Spong  aboard  the fatal CFIT   of the  Martin-404 against Sandia Peak (TWA260 / 19Feb55),   with  investigator-errs  resulting in three revisions of the CAB's official AAR. 

Murder-Suicide,  and sabotage,   have been recurring themes circulated as  post-mishap  gossip.  The Crash Axe rumor, popular after UA585 at COS, has been a recurring distraction,  similar to more unpleasant gossip circulated after earlier "mysterious" inflight upsets:   attributed to a  purportedly homosexual-suicidal-pilot.


  Often these myths  began  at the airline, perhaps as the usual crew-room gossip.  During and after  an investigation in the  western world, such rumors were routinely discarded, not mentioned in the official accident report (conforming to ICAO rules stating that "rumor has no place" in accident investigation report).   This history of suppressing these historic  rehashed-rumors (not mentioned in the official AAR)  has resulted in the  now  limited  accounts of  historic post-mishap gossip and rumor -- a now  shallow history of the role of rumor  afflicting working-investigators (employed by the  manufacturer and  employed by the investigating-authority).  [See videos on the SilkAir case, where NTSB employees openly acted as advocates, advancing the Boeing-rumors after that mysterious airliner upset-breakup.]


The role of   post-mythap    rumor  and gossip,  explosive-assumptions,    affecting the  investigators' course of inquiry,   has not been  well studied.  The NTSB  employees,  Board Members,   IIC's ,  and   Human Factors Specialists,  sometimes  contributed  to a popular myth,  and  sometimes spread misinformation.​​​

 April 1979  Mysterious airliner upset   ==>   perception:  each pilot  an  "ideal hero" :       Investigators   Uncertain of cause.

 CVR's magnetic-tape arrived at NTSB-Lab  ==>   mag' tape examined == >   voice recorder's  mag'   tape had been degaussed. 

 NTSB-staff contributed their human inference :   an assumption   :    a pilot had "bulk ERASED" the mishap- CVR. 

Perception  :   a pilot wrong-doer   :    CORE  DISGUST   :    each pilot  suddenly transformed into an   anti-hero.

       Summer '79  C/B- Rumor :   Pilots deploy Flaps during CRZ    :    as a first-explanation  

   ==>     Boeing-NTSB   Disgust  Manipulation.

   A  second   explosive-assumption,   another layer   of Core Disgust :

More Outrage  ==>    Investigators'  certainty  :       NTSB- staff's over-confidence  :       less  staff-effort.


NTSB  managers'     Procedural Non-Compliance    (PNC  or  "pink")   as their  most  convenient   investigation alternative.


Manufacturer's  post-accident    "simulation"     &     "flight test"  ==>   favorable  data-dredging  :  

selection bias  :   voodoo correlations  of   manufacturer's  test-data  with  mishap-FDR-data      

Response  to

Disgust:


Outrage,

Certainty,

Less Effort

Board member declares  

the RUMOR  instead   a "FACT":