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Sex testing and the Olympics: myths, rumours and confirmation bias

in UNITED STATES, 12/08/2012

What we believe about 'gender fraud' at the Olympics may be more to do with prejudice than fact.

Confirmation bias is an interesting psychological trick the human brain plays on us, making sure that we are more likely to notice evidence that supports our beliefs than evidence that contradicts them. Oddly, some sort of confirmation bias seems to be going on in the stories and articles written about sex testing and gender fraud in sports.

Sex and gender identities are deeply personal, private matters, and are hard to investigate. When it comes to sex testing, writers tend not to study original sources or dig around in archives, but rely on existing, recently published material. This isn't an unusual way to write, but if no one is double-checking with the original material, mistakes can "go viral" and are repeated until they are accepted as facts.

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