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Diego Gambetta seems to have gotten a positive reception writing about things like criminals getting facial tattoos to credibly signal that they will never get a "straight" job.

"Yes, but unless you're a complete simpleton, you probably also understand, as high-stakes market research confirms, that some people can indeed discern absurdly nuanced gradations in the character and quality of wine, and with astonishing accuracy."
I guess that makes me a simpleton, since I only recall reading about how supposed "experts" are still fooled in blind tests. Perhaps that's just because there's a big market in the mass media for stories taking down experts. I recall in "Thinking: Fast and Slow" Daniel Kahneman wrote about his "adversarial collaboration" with Gary Klein, who tends to put more stock in expert intuition, to reconcile their two bodies of research and determine when experts really have expertise. I'd been reading bits of Kahneman for years before then, but I don't think I'd heard of Klein before (maybe because that's a more common surname).

"Does such an acuity correlate with other traits? General intelligence?"
My recollection is that the ability to recognize faces is one of the few abilities which is not correlated with IQ, and one would think that would be related to making judgements based on appearances.

Speaking of "debunked" sciences, I am reminded that the first time I ever read about eugenics, it was when Michael Crichton was criticizing the scientific basis of global warming and he compared it to that. But he never discussed when someone scientifically debunked any of those theories, readers were simply supposed to recognize that it was bad and associate it with people warning of global warming.


Thanks for continuing to check in and comment.

The literature on supertasters and their role in the food & beverage industry isn't hard to look up. I attended a seminar about this years ago, hosted by a Portland brewery. The had data on the degree of difference the average person could discern in comparison to top 10% representing the elite tasters they blind-tested and employed to detect changes in batch consistency. It's market-driven science. My wife was blind tested for wine tasting as part of a class. She scored in the top tier and this result is consistent with simple blind tests that I've devised for kicks over the years. Yes, I think the studies that get traction are based on general population samples that don't look further, probably because it's more fun to pop the balloon. I could be wrong to suspect that a similar tail effect is at work underneath the disparate strands of research that provide weak to moderate support for physiognomy, but my betting hunch is informed by the generally observed distribution of human abilities across domains.

A general module for facial recognition might turn out to be very different from the interpretive ability at issue. As perfunctory evidence, I my recollection is that the "reading the mind through the eyes" tests that Baron-Cohen devised to differentiate "sytemizers" from "empathizers" turned out to be g-loaded (I looked this up years ago). Another comparable task might be forward digit recall, which is only weakly correlated with intelligence; whereas backward digit recall is highly g-loaded.

The claim that eugenics has been debunked -- or, more vaguely, "discredited" -- is just one of those things you get to say as groundwork in an essay before moving on to whatever you want to discuss. It's like saying, "trust me." No one asks for detailed evidence because that's not how the game is played. This is a feature of many arguments that might or might not have achieved the stature of an informal fallacy. I'd be very curious to know if anyone has studied its history.

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