Friday, April 27, 2007

Sibley's ABA workshop

David Sibley presented his "Psychology of Bird Identification" workshop at the ABA convention this week.

Here's a paragraph from an attendee:
The second lecture, on the psychology of bird identification, was given by David Sibley. In his opening remarks, he said he was always interested in the topic, but the recent debate over the rediscovery (or not) of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and its associated evidence, really has intrigued him. He provided lots of interesting observations on phenomenon and human behaviors that prevent us from being entirely objective. In general, as our experience in bird watching grows, we evolve from a step-wise form of identification to a holistic one. This evolution allows us to make very educated shortcut guesses as identification, that tend to be correct (out of experience) but can also be risky (because the process skips the stepwise approach). There are other factors as well that I will not delve into. All in all it was a very interesting lecture that hit home with me several times. In many ways, the process of identifying a bird with limited information is very similar to the process of figuring out a software problem with limited information. In both cases it is not uncommon for what I would call "conspiracy theories" to form and grow. Human tendency is to note evidence that supports the theory instead of evidence that contradicts the theory. It requires a purposely objective approach to consider the alternatives and reach root cause (or identity).
A bit more on this workship is here.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fishcrow is back again. Now he has a video worse than his original one. He also has an audio that has absolutely nothing on it. Quite amazing that he claims to hear "horn" sounds when there is literally nothing on the audio (at least what I can hear with my volume turned as high as possible). This guy is just loads of daily entertainment!

curunir said...

No, the new video is definitely but marginally better than his other. It is definitely a bird in the video. As for the rest, the wing looks a little more convincing, but it's not necessarily a woodpecker. He's still probably the favored individual to get the undisputed image.

Anonymous said...

Depends on which "other video." His very first video in some ways was the best "IBWO" vid so far. At least that bird was indisputably a crested woodpecker, whch is more than can be said of the others!

Anonymous said...

When I said original video, I meant the one that shows a pileated woodpecker (presumbably)making a short flight from one tree to another.
The current video posted on 5/27 could be anything. All you can say is that it has wings!

Regardless, it will be great fun to watch fishcrow get all pissed off when nobody believes him again.

Anonymous said...

"Human tendency is to note evidence that supports the theory instead of evidence that contradicts the theory."

I hope Sibley and everyone else involved appreciates that this statement applies to all people of all opinions, including him. It is also human tendency to assume that those who disagree with you are doing this, while you yourself are immune to it.

Anonymous said...

I hear the sounds on the audio. They are just after the mid-point, three notes that sound like a piano, or perhaps a string played pizzicato. The second note is about a third higher than the first, the final note is fainter and similar to the first in pitch. Sounds more like someone tuning their cello than a woodpecker. Maybe someone was listening to some tunes and had his iPod volume turned up a bit too high. Or possibly someone opened a car door with the keys still in the ignition.

Anonymous said...

I hope Sibley and everyone else involved appreciates that this statement applies to all people of all opinions, including him.

I would say that Sibley's delicate handling of the recorded sounds would tend to show that he grasps this more than most players in the IBWO saga. He could have trashed the sounds out of hand, but he allowed for analysis to occur.

The fact that nobody can get a sound that fully matches the only known recordings of IBWO doesn't mean that the sounds aren't from an IBWO. It means that the source is still unknown. I think the fact that he has not attacked the sound evidence shows that he understands this possibility quite clearly. Even Bevier, when noting the mismatch on the Florida recordings, didn't say the recordings were not IBWO. He just said they didn't match known IBWO.

And yet some say that a Hicks sighting is "confirmed" by "sound evidence" as heard by two people nearby, each of whom have just 150 birds on their list. Apparently their vast experience means that they're more reliable than sonograms.

Anonymous said...

"It is also human tendency to assume that those who disagree with you are doing this, while you yourself are immune to it."

Yes it is. But most skeptics wanted to, and did, "believe" when the news came out. Despite wanting to believe, the unfolding facts made us change our minds. That makes the skeptical point of view the more rational point of view, and it also makes the Believers more likely to be the ones who are "believing what they want to believe" rather than letting the evidence lead to rational conclusions.

Anonymous said...

If a photo or video ever does come through you have to hope that Fishcrow is the one that gets it.

He is the closest thing to a renegade in all of this. Gallagher and Harrison have sold themselves well down the river (and they will find money and awards but not IBWO up and down that river). Anyone from CLO/TNC et al. and their International House of Woodpeckers would just jump into the "institutional gain" strategy they did for the first rediscovery.

Fishcrow's updates have been entertaining while Hillcrow's have been depressing since they show how low Auburn can sink now that Cornell has reduced the standards in both research and proof.

Anonymous said...

If I had to guess at the fishcrow video, I would say that it is an owl.

Anonymous said...

Oh I think plenty of skeptics now have their reputations riding on this and are no longer able to honestly cheer for the truth no matter what it may be.

Anonymous said...

One of the other anons posted, "Oh I think plenty of skeptics now have their reputations riding on this and are no longer able to honestly cheer for the truth no matter what it may be."
Anon misunderstands what a skeptic is! The proof will be found ... in the proof. We've simply not seen it.

Anonymous said...

I'm a skeptic and I'm cheering for the truth. The truth, unfortunately and quite obviously at this point, is that the Ivory-bill is extinct and all the fuzzy photos and videos (and all the deinterlacing and enhancing thereof,) and all the books and blogs and calculations and debating points and newspaper articles and NPR reports and searches and grants and presentations and posts and glimpses and wishful thinking in the world aren't going to bring it back to life.

I'm not going to pretend to seriously study each subsequent useless piece of evidence pretending to objectively evaluate it. Show me a clear photo or video, and I will.

I'm not holding my breath.

curunir said...

There are all kinds of skeptics.

Anonymous said...

The faint tones in the Fishcrow audio are the first two notes from the alien signature tune in Close Encounters of the Third Kind!

Anonymous said...

Or maybe the last two notes!

Anonymous said...

I'm a Skeptic. And I know the IBWO is extinct. There...I said it.

Anonymous said...

Kneep....kneep....