This post was inspired by a very interesting private conversation, in turn originated by this post.
The intriguing question that emerged in that conversation - and that I think might be of interest for other people, too - is this:
Is it possible that, along with the other very legitimate dynamics that are probably at play, Donovan might be genuinely worried that Sherlock could be dangerous, especially given the propensity for serial killers to watch or even try to participate in police investigations of their crimes?
Well, folks, this is REALLY a complex question, which involves very complicate cognitive dynamics I can only try to unravel, here.
Let’s start with a summary of my answer: yes, it’s perfectly possible that Sally’s concerns are genuine, and at the same time they could also be biased by her prejudices.
Let’s try to summarize what - according to me - affected Donovan’s judgment about Sherlock in general, and Sherlock’s involvement in the kidnapping, in tRF, in particular (about which, I’d suggest you to previously read this specific post).
I wrote that I’m persuaded that her evaluations about Sherlock are biased, but her errors were made in good faith, and are mainly due to prejudices she is not aware of - better: she is of course aware of her bad opinion about Sherlock, but she is probably not consciously aware of the very subjective elements which foster it, and which could be so summarized:
- A - very understandable - annoyance at Sherlock’s bad manners and lack of any form of tact in his interactions with her and, more generally, all the police officers.
- A - also understandable, and quite common, on the workplace - feeling of being in some way threatened and diminished, in her professional capacity, by Sherlock.
- The effect on her of that “esprit de corps” which any group or team experiences, and according to which any member of a group distrusts and dislikes any outsider who tries and meddles with the group’s businesses.
- The further irritation generated whenever this outsider, which has access to police investigations he shouldn’t have access to, takes the liberty of refusing a request of help which her direct superior lowered himself to bid him (thus further humiliating all of them).
After all, the literal meaning of pre-judice is just “to judge in advance” - that is, as canonical Holmes said, disapprovigly (WIST), to put your theories in front of your data (which you generally do by selecting some partial data, upon which you build a theory which, should ever be confronted with the entirety of the available data, could never hold).
But, on this little truth, an illogical reasoning is built.
Because, if it’s true that some (but not all) “psycopaths” enjoy following, and even taking part into, police investigations of their crimes, it’s TOTALLY FALSE that any person who enjoy following or taking part into police investigations is a psychopath (actually, the very vast majority is NOT).
Because she unconsciously framed Sherlock as such. She took a little, real data (Sherlock “gets off” on weird police cases) and combined it with another little data (some mentally disturbed criminals get off on police investigations about their crimes) into a fallacy - a paralogismus - according to which “every person who gets off on a crime investigation is a psychopath”. It’s like saying that, because all chickens have two legs, and Socrates has two legs, Socrates is a chicken… Of course Donovan is clever enough to spot the fallacy in the case of the “Socrates and chickens” paralogismus; but when it comes to Sherlock, she is blinded by her prejudices against him: her concerns, albeit superficially founded, on a closer and more careful review appear totally devoid of logic and grounding. But, TO HER, they remain GENUINE, sincere.
Here is the devilish trap of prejudice, which can catch even clever and well-intentioned people. Which, I think, Donovan on the whole is.