Is Home-Country Bias Inevitable for Figure-Skating Judges?

In response to allegations of vote-trading and home-country bias among figure-skating judges at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake, the International Skating Union changed judging procedures. Scores are now reported anonymously, and not all the scores are used in the final tally. Unfortunately, as Ray Fisman writes in Slate, the reforms have been less than effective: the Dartmouth economist Eric Zitzewitz finds that anonymity actually results in a higher home-country bias, as it allows judges to hide from a “scrutinizing press.” (HT: Daniel Lippman)[%comments]

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  1. Tariq says:

    By what bizarre logic did they come to the conclusion that giving judges accused of home bias anonymity would somehow reduce that bias? Obviously it would either keep things the same or make them only worse – the only thing it would achieve is to make it impossible for us to concretely and legitimately measure it or levy accusations.

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  2. Richard, UK says:

    I cannot see how this system would impact upon home-country bias in anyway other than negatively. However, it is a sensible system for dealing with vote-trading. My reducing the transparency of voting, the ability to make sustainable agreements with other judges is diminished, since there is no longer an outcome to view and punish for non compliance. The ‘if I give you 10, you give me 10′ world is a much smaller threat.

    Knowing nothing about this sport the solution seems obvious, publish the vote displayed for each judge’s home country and an average for all their other votes. This should give at least some incentive to not be overly biased whilst not allowing cartel agreements to flourish.

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  3. Eric M. Jones says:

    Why should a judge not recuse himself?

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  4. Andy says:

    Why do we even count the home country judge’s score? If scores are anonymous you can’t “trade” so ignoring the home country score should solve this problem.

    Or am I missing something?

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  5. tumblewind says:

    Those Russians getting bronze should have been disqualified for the incredible bad taste their “aboriginal” program showed. But – no – judges have always had a tricky way to keep their Russians on top even with changes in scoring.

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  6. Rich Wilson says:

    It’s a lot worse than home country bias. Say the Russians and the Americans are fighting for Gold/Silver and the French and Italian are fighting for Bronze. So the Italian votes for the Russian over the American and in return the Italian votes for the Russian over the American.

    Although it can get a lot more complex than even that.

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  7. Rich Wilson says:

    er, in return the Russian votes for the Italian over the French…

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  8. Anonymous Coward says:

    I’m pretty sure that there have been studies showing that many major officiated sports (football, football, baseball, basketball) suffer from home-field referee bias. I’d guess that there are many fewer people who understand the figure-skating codes than who understand the rules of these other sports, making it way harder to screen for psychological biases.

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