Thinking

Serial and the Myth of Objectivity

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“Do you think he did it?”

It’s a question I’ve heard more times than I can count in the weeks that Serial has dominated water-cooler chit chat in my office and dinner party debates with my friends.

The answers are fascinating, not for what they reveal about the fifteen-year-old murder trial of Adnan Syed, but for what they reveal about the speaker. They reveal that there are those who want to believe Adnan is innocent and are determined to disarm every piece of damning evidence, weaving it into a story of tragically bad luck. Likewise, there are those who want to believe that Adnan is guilty and are determined reinterpret every piece of exculpatory evidence, appropriating it into a story of a premeditated murder.

Confirmation bias. We believe what we already believe and reject what we already reject. If your temperament, life experience, and beliefs lead you to view Adnan as trustworthy or untrustworthy from Episode 1, your subconscious likely filtered the facts that followed accordingly. You already had your narrative. And new facts alone were unlikely to shift your position.

Serial is interesting precisely because it recognizes this reality.

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