History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

“The Actor-Observer Effect” in Unfixed Timelines 2

I work alongside archaeologists and anthropologists in my day job, so it’s no surprise that some of their terminology infects my brain, and thus my writing. I’ve also become keenly aware over the years about just how flawed a lot of early anthropological work was, with the practitioners inflicting their own understanding of how the world works on their subjects, thus skewing their results.

These things combined to create “The Actor-Observer Effect” in Unfixed Timelines 2. The title is a reference to “actor-observer asymmetry” or “actor-observer bias,” which can plague anthropologists who are not cautious about their studies. In the case of my story, the nineteenth-century anthropologist in question goes into the field to study people about whom he’s already made up his mind. And things go downhill from there.

“The Actor-Observer Effect” is a bit of a psychological horror story, tracing a descent into delusion. It’s not for the faint of heart, involving gustatory cannibalism. But if you’re curious about early anthropology, actor-observer fallacies, and a bit of horror, you can check out the essay I wrote (mostly on early anthropology) and “The Actor-Observer Effect” exclusively (for now) in Unfixed Timelines 2!


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