Cognitive Bias. That’s what it’s called when people see things in the dark. Let me illustrate it with an example.
My wallet is on a desk right in front of me and in a moment, it’s going to be stolen. I think I hear someone behind the door. The next thing the lights go out, I feel a slight brush and a thud, and when I turn the light on and open the door, my wallet’s gone and so is whoever took it.
The cognitive bias here is through the non-neutral word “stolen”, and that there is a someone, and that that someone came into the room when I couldn’t see and stole the wallet in the dark, and then disappeared.
The bias is there because the wallet’s disappearance is connected with the idea of someone in the dark before you’re lead into that scenario. So you start to fill in the blanks ahead of time.
Here’s the same thing without cognitive bias.
My wallet is on a desk right in front of me. I hear a noise and turn towards it. The lights go out. I feel something and hear a thud. When I turn on the light the wallet is gone.
It turns out the wallet is on floor. It never left the room. When I turned in my seat, and was momentarily blinded by the power going off, I happened to knock it off myself. When I turned the light on and didn’t see it, I first assumed [through cognitive bias] that someone took it.
The missing key to unraveling this micro-mystery is the sound and light of the door opening and closing behind the imputed thief. There is no sound and there is no opening and closing of the door. But we don’t think that far because we’re trying to connect the wallet to the imagined someone.
Not let’s apply this to the shadows moving and coming to life on the Watts driveway.
Cognitive Bias on the Watts Driveway
I’m certain law enforcement were made aware of the hysteria over shadows and mark my words, they probably asked Watts about it. Perhaps they showed him pictures of the shadows as well and asked him to explain when he was loading who, where, and when. This was them offering Watts essentially the somewhat plausible possibility that his children were still alive, just as they once offered him the possibility that Shan’ann did something.
True to form he took that baton [I suspect] and ran with it this time as well.
The first time I heard about the surveillance footage I assumed it was from the dashcam of a car directly opposite the Watts home, and I assumed it was essentially “smoking gun” evidence. In other words, I assumed the footage clearly showed Watts backing up his truck, loading three bodies and driving off. As it turns out, the backing up is fairly clear and the driving off is clear. The middle part with dead bodies isn’t.
The second reference to the surveillance footage came from Frank Rzucek on November 19th at the sentencing hearing.
“You take them out like trash” is a clear reference to Frank imagining not only dead bodies, but dead bodies in garbage bags or bins. Frank’s description seems authentic because I don’t believe he saw anything, he simply assumed from what he did see and what he’d been told that dead bodies were loaded into the truck, and trash bags were recovered at the dumping site.
The third reference came from District Attorney Michael Rourke a few minutes later.
Rourke described Watts going back into the house and to the truck “three times”. I remember this very clearly, and the message was very clear. Three trips to the truck equals three bodies.
At 04:54 Rourke describes that moment in the clip below.
ROURKE: The defendant then methodologically and calmly loaded their bodies into his work truck. Not in a hasty, or disorganized way. He was seen from the neighbor’s doorbell camera backing his truck into the driveway, going back and forth into the house and back out to the truck three different times. One time for each of their bodies.
And that sketched a particular picture as well. Quite a clear picture, one should say.
When the surveillance video was released, I was shocked by not only the poor quality of it, but also that it was so difficult to make out anything. It was also abundantly clear that at no time could you distinctly or even indistinctly see anything being loaded besides – in one instance – a red gas can. What I was suffering from, when I saw this disappointingly bad footage, is known in psychology as cognitive dissonance.
It’s similar to watching an incredible movie trailer only to find all the best scenes are in the trailer, or being led to believe some product is fabulous, but then it turns out to be a mediocre con job.
It should be noted that Rourke’s statement was factually incorrect in several respects.
1. It wasn’t the neighbor’s doorbell camera that made the recording [although there is a doorbell camera and recording in this story]. After an incredible amount of searching I eventually located a decent shot of the Trinastich camera. It’s a kind of motion detecting camera positioned just under the eave of the porch, and directed towards and over his own driveway [and coincidentally, towards Watts’ driveway].
2. Watts didn’t go three times to the truck, each time carrying a different body. It’s difficult to say how many times Watts did go back and forth, but one thing is clear, he sometimes approached the truck with nothing in his hands, and on one occasion he loaded a red gas can on the neighbor’s side.
In the strict interpretation of Rourke’s words, if Watts went back and forth three times, each time to load a body, then it means each time Watts came out of the garage he had to have been carrying/loading a body, right?
But that’s not what happens.
3. In Rourke’s description it seems pretty cut and dried. Watts came out, methodically loaded bodies, made three trips, then drove off. In fact it was a lot more disorganized than that.
After backing up his truck Watts later moved the truck forward in the driveway [behind the tree] and then made another trip back and forth, again with nothing in his hands.
Although Rourke’s point is mostly accurate that Watts was fairly methodical in how he executed the crime and disposal, it wasn’t quite as seamless and neat as this impression suggests.
So, what all these scenarios did to most of us was sketch an idea in our imaginations, while at the same time indirectly muddying it and leaving some room for error and interpretation. And so that’s what we did – we interpreted.
When the surveillance video came out it was virtually useless, but that didn’t stop many out there – because one could see whatever one wanted to, and that’s cognitive bias.
A cognitive bias is a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment. Individuals create their own “subjective social reality” from their perception of the input.
Now I want to deal with the public’s response to the video, especially in light of the second confession, and then I’ll deal [briefly] with the lights and shadows themselves.
Public Perception and Cognitive Bias
Yesterday I received this tweet.
For a split second I assumed what this meant was that new video surveillance had just been released proving/showing the girls were alive. One possibility I considered was that Watts went through a drive-through or something similar on the way to work, and CCTV footage showed his daughters sitting next to him.
In fact this is precisely what happened in the Patrick Frazee case, except the CCTV footage in that case proved [or strongly suggested] Kelsey Berreth was dead [and inside the black tote].
I’m not the first person to assume…was there some additional surveillance footage floating around about the Watts case? Is there a second video?
When someone says “video evidence proving” it sounds pretty solid, doesn’t it? So when I asked to see this new evidence, it turned out to be [surprise, surprise] the very same Trinastich footage, this time with social media’s spin on it. Now a shadow is a child running around, or a shadow is a dead body being dragged or loaded etc. etc.
This is the dictionary definition of evidence.
Evidence means something is irrefutably, definitely true. Evidence is not “I believe this very strongly, it looks accurate and also thousands agree with me…”
Evidence is absolutely clear and demonstrably, self-evidently, scientifically authentic and accurate. It’s fact versus fiction.
But that’s cognitive bias for you. The world today feels like a war between what’s real and what’s not. Today enough people campaigning for something that’s not real seems to make it real, and that’s good enough for them.
Cognitive bias blown up by legions of social media dullards all echoing the same mindless fucking nonsense is a force to be reckoned with.
I’ve been fairly strident in the past to say TCRS doesn’t entertain or discuss conspiracy theories, especially not moronic conspiracies unless it’s too debunk them.
Unfortunately, because of the import of the Second Confession, it becomes unavoidable to actually acknowledge this “kids were alive in the driveway” theory. And by acknowledging it it gains credibility it really doesn’t deserve.
TCRS cannot disprove the ghosts in the driveway conspiracy, but…
The bad news is TSRS can’t disprove the theory of bodies rising from the dead and running around the driveway leaving behind a shadow here and there. What we can do is what any good defense team does in a difficult, and frankly untenable situation, as regards an imputed reality: raise reasonable doubt.
So let’s get practical and go to the driveway at night, and make the case not for why the conspiracy is objectively false, but why other reasonable possibilities exist. We will then argue that these other possibilities are more reasonable than the conspiracy. Worth playing for?
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, in the image above we see the Watts driveway at night. I believe this photo was taken on Tuesday night [August 14th], when the house was vacant. Watts was interrogated by the FBI and then spent the night with the Thayers. The following day his father arrived, and he was interrogated again, he failed a polygraph and was later arrested. Hours after his arrest the body pf his wife was exhumed at a well site.
Now, in the nocturnal image of the driveway [below] note the three primary light sources on the pillars of the garage. For our purposes, the most important light sources are the two in the middle and on the right respectively.
When looking through the Trinastich camera only the light source on the far left, on the wall on the outside of the Watts’ garage is visible. But this light source isn’t the operative light source for the shadows, because the truck itself is blocking the left-hand hand light source.
It’s also not the small light on the ground on the other neighbor’s side that’s flaring directly into the Trinastich camera.
What we can say with certainty is that at least two bright, elevated light sources are the primary illuminating agents. Both shine towards Watts and the truck from different angles. Is that a fair statement? I think it is.
Now, as soon as there are two light sources and different angles, then an object moving between them will cast two sets of shadows. Depending on the movement and the angle vis-a-vis each light source, these respective shadows will naturally vary. Is that a fair statement?
So, for example if one approaches a light source directly from the front, then the shadow will be thrown directly behind the object, and this angle will remain directly behind as long as the trajectory to the light source remains the same. Is that a fair statement? But if the angle to one light source is consistent, and the object is moving, it means the angle to the other is not only different but also changing at the same time.
We don’t need to refer to hypothetical examples, however, because we see these same distortions in ordinary photos of the Watts driveway at night.
We also see these double light distortions when Shan’ann approaches the doorbell camera. When she’s almost right in front of the camera her shadow strengthens then swoops around her as she passes the light source on her left. [You can watch that here].
In photos of Watts on the driveway there are some in which there appear to be no shadows at all. This is a combination of the shadows being diluted by multiple light sources.
It’s also very easy to reproduce the effect. Simply visit the property, turn on the lights, and study the impact, effects and distortions and how they are represented on camera.
In conclusion, it’s not necessary to prove that the shadows weren’t children, or whether they were alive, because no proof exists that the shadows were children, or that they weren’t dead. In effect, reasonable doubt exists as to what the shadows are either way, or to put it even more plainly:
Reasonable Doubt Exists.
I hope this will be the last word on this nonsense, but if this case has proved anything, it’s that saner heads have not prevailed. Given the enormous numbers of views [and support] for the conspiracies [Armchair Detective’s “Shadow” videos have been viewed 200 000 times, far more than his other content], it’s clear that people prefer to believe what they want to believe, whatever titillates them, as opposed to thinking for themselves.
Before signing off on this area of analysis, there’s a final aspect to address in terms of the notion that the children were in the cabin of the truth with Watts, and Bella supposedly had her seat belt on. This is what the interior of Watts work truck looks like – the front seat.
In a scenario where they’re “taking Mommy to the hospital”, one’s cognitive bias sketches the family sitting together in the front, or at least Mommy is in the front where Daddy can keep an eye on her. But there’s virtually no room for anyone, especially not on the floor of the front passenger seat.
Then there’s the issue of car seats. If the children were alive and going to hospital, or anywhere else and their safety was a concern, where are the car seats?
If Watts didn’t intend to go to the well site with the children, and sort of made it up as he went along [it wasn’t premeditated] then why did he put three people [dead or alive] in his work truck, and go to the effort to back up his truck, rather than go in the Lexus which had the car seats? Had Watts ever driven with his entire family to a work site [or anywhere else] before this date?
Why would Watts need to make several trips back to load living people if at least one of his children was running out to him?
And why would he need extra tough garbage bags?
Why were two garbage bags found on the well site?
“You took them out like garbage” is exactly right.
One of the impressions and cognitive bias I’ve tried to emphasize over the course of six book covers, is no matter how the text, colors or distracting mosaics surrounding the central character of Watts changes or distort, the central image – of a TWO FACE – remains.
This central pillar premise is thus a lot like two light sources shining on an object, throwing up different, deception shadows. The message of the TWO FACE series is this: We are fools if we look to the trick of the shadows for answers, rather than the man responsible for throwing them. Look to the man to find out why, when, how and why.
The TWO FACE 6-part series is available exclusively on Amazon Kindle at this link.