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NEWS | April 22, 2014

SAPR Down-Day is Bull?

By Lt. Col. Raymond Clydesdale Lt. Col. Raymond Clydesdale

Sir Francis Galton was a smart guy. He figured out a few useful things like fingerprints in crime investigation, weather maps in newspapers, and statistical concepts like correlation and regression toward the mean. His work in statistics ushered in the idea of "The Wisdom of the Masses." So how did he come up with this idea, when most people think that everyone else is kind of stupid? Nobody likes "group think."

In 1906, Galton went to a cattle and poultry exhibition in rural England. This exhibition had a weight-judging competition where participants would pay a small fee to hazard a guess at the weight of a dead bull. The closer the guess was to the correct weight of the bull, the larger the prize. Approximately 800 participants competed.

The true weight of the dead bull was 1,198 pounds. The most common guess (also known as the Median or Vox Populi) was 1,207 pounds which was only 0.8 percent off the mark. Amazingly, the average (also known as the Mean) of all the guesses was 1,197 pounds. Only one pound off the mark! How could it be that the masses were so close when individual guesses were found to be all over the place with several guess over more than 100 pounds off the mark?

The concept of "The Wisdom of the Masses" has been proved repeatedly throughout the years. You may have even participated in one of these experiments in school when guessing how many jellybeans were in a jar. The concept has proven so successful that the National Security Agency is utilizing average citizens to guess on the probability of certain world events using normal unclassified news reports. Remarkably, the accuracy of the top "guessers" is up to 30 percent more accurate than the intelligence estimates of the officers at the NSA who have access to actual classified materials.

That's fascinating ... but how does it relate to SAPR-Down Day ? Let's talk about the average of our (the Air Force's) attitude toward tolerance of sexually inappropriate behaviors. This overall average is also defined as our culture. We are being told that our culture (our average) is too permissive. We are being told to change our culture (our average). There's a new bull, and it's less tolerant ... our average needs to be closer to the new bull. SAPR-Down Day is part of an effort to move the average (our culture). Now, I want to remind you that we're talking about an average, and that some individuals' opinions may be far outside the average. You're not going to be able to change every opinion to make them identical, but you can move the average.

Let's talk about one particular issue that seems to be confusing to most: Risk reduction (victim) versus prevention (offender). To be clear, the Air Force is not abandoning risk reduction strategies. The problem with focusing almost exclusively on risk reduction strategies in the past led many to the conclusion that the victim was partially to blame because they did not adhere to all or some of the risk reduction strategies. The focus was on the victim's perceived failures. To be clear, the victim is NEVER at fault. We need to change our focus.
Prevention is designed to focus on stopping the offender/perpetrator. We need to be good Wingman! We do our best to prevent DUI's by surrounding those potential perpetrators with opportunities to succeed. We need to embrace those same principles and efforts to prevent our colleagues/friends from committing sexual assault/sexual harassment and instead, give them opportunities to succeed. SAPR-Down Days are designed to give us the tools to succeed by prevention, to move our average/our culture ... and that's why SAPR-Down Days are no bull.