I Wore the Juice

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One of the comments to another TPV post sent PG on a romp.

From Medium:

At five foot six and 270 pounds, the bank robber was impossible to miss. On April 19, 1995, he hit two Pittsburgh banks in broad daylight. Security cameras picked up good images of his face — he wore no mask — and showed him holding a gun to the teller. Police made sure the footage was broadcast on the local eleven o’clock news. A tip came in within minutes, and just after midnight, the police were knocking on the suspect’s door in McKeesport. Identified as McArthur Wheeler, he was incredulous. “But I wore the juice,” he said.

Wheeler told police he rubbed lemon juice on his face to make it invisible to security cameras. Detectives concluded he was not delusional, not on drugs — just incredibly mistaken.

Wheeler knew that lemon juice is used as an invisible ink. Logically, then, lemon juice would make his face invisible to cameras. He tested this out before the heists, putting juice on his face and snapping a selfie with a Polaroid camera. There was no face in the photo! (Police never figured that out. Most likely Wheeler was no more competent as a photographer than he was as a bank robber.) Wheeler reported one problem with his scheme. The lemon juice stung his eyes so badly that he could barely see.

Wheeler went to jail and into the annals of the world’s dumbest criminals. It was such a feature, in the 1996 World Almanac, that brought Wheeler’s story to the attention of David Dunning, a Cornell psychology professor. He saw in this tale of dim-witted woe something universal. Those most lacking in knowledge and skills are least able to appreciate that lack. This observation would eventually become known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Dunning and a graduate student, Justin Kruger, embarked on a series of experiments testing this premise. They quizzed undergraduate psychology students on grammar, logic, and jokes, then asked the students to estimate their scores and also estimate how well they did relative to others (on a percentile basis). The students who scored lowest had greatly exaggerated notions of how well they did. Dunning had expected that, but not the magnitude of the effect. His first reaction to the results was “Wow.” Those who scored near the bottom estimated that their skills were superior to two-thirds of the other students.

Those who scored higher had, as might be expected, more accurate perceptions of their abilities. But (are you ready for this?) the group that scored highest slightly underestimated their performance relative to others.

As the researchers observed, the only way to know how well you did on a grammar quiz is to know grammar. Those lacking that knowledge were also least able to gauge their knowledge. They were oblivious to their own ignorance.

Link to the rest at Medium

7 thoughts on “I Wore the Juice”

  1. And yet…

    The oh-so-smart author and/or his publisher (Hachette) doesn’t know enough not to insult the political views of a substantial part of his potential audience by the examples picked for his book description:

    “… Head in the Cloud asks why we’re okay with spelling errors on menus but not on resumes; why Fox News viewers don’t know which party controls Congress;… ”

    Now, no institution is above criticism, but it’s unwise to use Fox News (more particularly, the entire class of its viewers) as a go-to example in a brief book description. I’d call that an unforced error that will cost him sales.

    If it had been only in the meat of the book, I’d shrug and shake my head at the usual inability of the author to sufficiently mask his personal political preferences. But to put it in the book description is a special sort of (Dunning-Kruger?) mistake.

    Why is this sort of thing such a reflex status point? Politically-focused books take sides, and everyone expects that. But only people from one particular side can unconsciously assume that no one that matters will be insulted by a throwaway slur about the other side (being deplorables), in a book that is not actually about politics. “No Fox News viewers on the author’s/publisher’s side of the desk”, is the obvious assumption.

    Well, probably no “Fox News viewers” on my side of the cash register, either, if that’s what they want.

    Stupid. Should’ve used the juice on the book description…

    • I would bet actual money that the Venn diagram of “Fox News viewers” (as distinct from “all conservatives” or even “all Republicans”) and “people potentially interested in a book about the science behind distinguishing facts from misinformation” has a very minuscule (if not nonexistent) overlap.

      IOW, that admittedly snarky comment by the author is not going to be the thing that stops anyone from buying his book who otherwise would have. In fact, even if it did stop a few, the potential audience of people who will smirk in agreement at said comment is so much larger, it’s more likely to nudge a greater number of them *toward* buying it.

      Maximizing sales isn’t always about appealing to the lowest common denominator by offending the smallest number of people; it’s about knowing your target audience, and appealing maximally to them, even if you risk offending people outside that audience.

      • What do the people watch who are also potentially interested in a book about the science behind distinguishing facts from misinformation?

      • I would bet actual money that the Venn diagram of “Fox News viewers” (as distinct from “all conservatives” or even “all Republicans”) and “people potentially interested in a book about the science behind distinguishing facts from misinformation” has a very minuscule (if not nonexistent) overlap.

        You lose. Now how much was that bet again?

      • 1) Fox News is one of the typical sources of news for conservatives/republicans — being the least-left-tainted of the conventional news channels. Your attempt to distinguish Fox News viewers as “lesser” compared to real conservatives/republicans thus fails. We have many news sources, but Fox News is certainly one of them, warts and all.

        2) I might have bought the book (I have a low threshold) but won’t now. There are (perhaps many) others like me.

        3) I remember when it was bad form (and sincerely frowned upon by respectable adults) to put a group of people into a snark box so that one could smirk at them and feel smug about it. This included people of a different race, religion, class, or political opinion. Some of them, after all, might be your neighbors. Of course, this was when we still had civic virtues and respect for others.

        4) It’s a psychology book, not ostensibly a political book. Attempts to nudge one political group to buy it by shitting on another therefore implies:

        A) It really is a politically biased book and you can expect more inside
        B) The author (of the book description) really doesn’t think anyone with a different political view is worthy of consideration
        C) Both of the above.

        In any of those cases, he reveals himself as arrogant, biased, and ill-mannered. Why would anyone therefore care to listen to him?

        Now, there may be plenty who are pleased by this — pornography has its audience, too — but I wouldn’t call it respectable.

  2. He tested this out before the heists, putting juice on his face and snapping a selfie with a Polaroid camera. There was no face in the photo! (Police never figured that out…)

    Oh, that is such a joy. I can use that. Thanks…

    – Wheeler probably borrowed the camera to test the invisibility, and did not know how the Polaroid process worked.

    That will make a great story, where the Reader sees the Polaroid picture sitting beside the camera, fully developed. The Reader will go, “Oh, no!” and understand the inevitable, watching each robbery.

    In the TV series, Night Court, Bull Shannon would take pictures using a Polaroid camera, see that the picture was blank, and throw the undeveloped picture away. They had to point out to him that it takes minutes for the picture to develop. Once Bull Shannon saw that, he was happily taking pictures.

    – The funny part was not him not understanding the process, but that he spent years using the camera despite never getting a developed picture.

    The following is a long commentary. Feel free to skip it.

    Keep this image in mind as you read through my post:


    Plus, here is the John Cleese video about Dunning-Kruger:

    John Cleese on Stupidity

    It seems that he knows Dunning personally. BTW, he is clearly making a comedic point about Fox News, yet so many people will take offense, which is the point of the joke.

    Today got interesting when I went to Sam’s Club after lunch to get my usual 12 inch apple pie. That pie has the best balance of apple filling and crust. The smaller apple pie has too much crust, too little filling, but I digress. They were out of the 12 inch apple pie for some reason, so I got the big cheese cake — with all the different flavors — instead.

    I was focused on getting in and out and barely noticed the crowds of people with filled carts. It was only when I was standing in line for the self-checkout that I heard people talking about the coronavirus, and I realized that I was witnessing a run on Sams.

    – I just stood there smiling with my cheese cake in hand, saying that this was the only “essential” that I needed.

    You see, I’ve been busy the past couple of weeks discovering vast amounts of information and Story insights about Globular clusters and Open clusters. The concept I saw has unlocked vast numbers of stories, and shown that many of the series that I’m working on are connected, so I have not been paying attention to the shrill news. I only watched a bit of the PBS Newshour Monday night because my friend commented at lunch.

    – That’s when I said, “Oh, that’s what’s going on.”

    Years ago, I asked the simple question:

    – Why are smart people so stupid?

    I did not know the answer. I’ve spent my whole life puzzled by people’s behavior, but In over 60 years I had never explicitly asked the question in that way.

    I usually do know the answers to questions that I ask. The fact that I did not know the answer was surprising, but I digress.

    I am curios and I pay attention, so I spent the last few years with the question in mind, watching and waiting for clues to appear. As time passed I started peeling away the onion revealing more and more. Each answer along the way was not “the” answer, but I knew that each would help, over time.

    In April 2017, I came across a NYTimes book review that covers basically the same material as Poundstone.

    People Have Limited Knowledge. What’s the Remedy? Nobody Knows

    If you only read the book review you will have a major insight. In reading the actual book, I came across unintentional examples of what they were saying.

    – That despite their care, they were perpetuating their own “limited knowledge”.

    This part from the book review is the telling point:

    According to Sloman (a professor at Brown and editor of the journal Cognition) and Fernbach (a professor at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business), providing people with more and better information is unlikely to improve matters. Scientists hope to dispel antiscience prejudices by better science education, and pundits hope to sway public opinion on issues like Obamacare or global warming by presenting the public with accurate facts and expert reports. Such hopes are grounded in a misunderstanding of how humans actually think. Most of our views are shaped by communal groupthink rather than individual rationality, and we cling to these views because of group loyalty. Bombarding people with facts and exposing their individual ignorance is likely to backfire. Most people don’t like too many facts, and they certainly don’t like to feel stupid. If you think that you can convince Donald Trump of the truth of global warming by presenting him with the relevant facts — think again.

    In May 2018, I posted about Hans Rosling, but the comment system here on TPV was glitching at the time, so I ended up with multiple posts. The key information is there so I won’t bother reposting it here. HA!

    “Whose Dystopia Is It Anyway?” – comments

    Rosling discovered, that despite his best efforts, talking to educated, trained professionals in the field, he could not make them change their preconceptions that they developed while at University. They could not admit, at any level, that they were “wrong”.

    – With the Rosling, I knew that I was getting closer to “an answer” if not “the answer”.

    Then I stumbled across Donald Hoffman and his TED talk, and I knew that I had found the “ground state” and didn’t have to dig deeper.

    Donald Hoffman has a book out, The Case Against Reality, that shows we are not evolved to see reality. So when people talk about “seeing the real world” sorry that doesn’t happen.


    – consciousness is fundamental and physical reality is not fundamental

    I first stumbled across Hoffman’s work with his book review and TED talk. It’s been falling down the rabbit hole ever since as I watched all of the videos and read his stuff.

    Review of the book:

    The case against reality

    The scientific method has been spectacular in terms of helping us to see where we’re wrong. And that’s the key. That’s my attitude about science. Be precise so we can find precisely where we’re wrong. We need to learn what ideas are useful and which are wrong so we can evolve on all fronts.

    Start with his TED talk. Notice at the end the head of TED is deeply upset by the talk.

    Do we see reality as it is? | Donald Hoffman

    A clip from Through the Wormhole:

    Can We Handle The Truth?

    This is his website:

    Donald D. Hoffman

    Read this paper once you have watched all of the videos:

    Conscious Realism and the Mind-Body Problem

    Watch all of the videos first, it really does help understand the book.

    Closer to the Truth series:

    The host, Robert Lawrence Kuhn, is having real trouble with what Hoffman is saying, that consciousness is fundamental and physical reality is not fundamental.

    Donald Hoffman – Does Consciousness Cause the Cosmos?

    Donald Hoffman – Can Religion Survive Science?

    Donald Hoffman – Does Human Consciousness Have Special Purpose?

    Donald Hoffman – Does Evolutionary Psychology Explain Mind?

    Donald Hoffman – Computational Theory of Mind

    Science and Nonduality lectures:

    Reality is a User Interface: Donald Hoffman

    The Mystery of Free Will: Donald Hoffman

    The Death of SpaceTime & Birth of Conscious Agents, Donald Hoffman

    Entangling Conscious Agents, Donald Hoffman

    Conscious Agents A Theory of Consciousness, Donald Hoffman

    Consciousness and The Interface Theory of Perception, Donald Hoffman

    Notice, Chopra has problems dealing with the conversation. It’s almost too far out even for him.

    Deepak Chopra and Donald Hoffman: Reality is Eye Candy

    To those people who read to this point, I’ll end this post with one of my favorite quotes:

    The border between the Real and the Unreal is not fixed, but just marks the last place where rival gangs of shamans fought each other to a standstill.

    — Robert Anton Wilson

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