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Assumptions from a small sample and homogeneity

September 24th, 2011

As I drive throughout the country, I can’t help but wonder how my perceptions of each state and province are being skewed by the small areas of my visits.

For example, I know how beautiful northern Minnesota can be, what with its many lakes, dense pine forests, and rugged terrain.  However, if one’s sole exposure to Minnesota were to be running I-90 across the southern part of the state, one would conclude that it’s just one big farm field.

As a corollary, it’s amazing how similar many of the states and provinces look, at least when the sample size is limited.

Here’s a quiz: which state/province was the following photo taken in:

  1. Wisconsin
  2. Tennessee
  3. British Columbia
  4. Saskatchewan

Hard to tell, right? (Answers at the end.)

It isn’t just the plains.  Mountains look similar, too.  Match the following three photos to their respective states/provinces:

  1. British Columbia
  2. Wyoming
  3. Alaska

Photo 1:

Photo 2:

Photo 3:

Perhaps it’s simpler to notice the similarities than the differences.  Perhaps I just have “mountain fatigue” or “plains fatigue” from seeing so much of each landscape.  It all starts to blend together after a while.

For that reason, I’m looking forward to the changing of the seasons.  The colors of the leaves, the crispness of the air, and the coming of the holidays will add a nice jolt of variety to the trip.

(Here are the answers: the first photo shows rural Saskatchewan, and the last three photos are shown in the order that the options are listed: the Alaska Highway near Muncho Lake in British Columia, Jackson Hole in Wyoming, and a glacier along the Glenn Highway in Alaska.)

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