Sunday, October 20, 2013

Recurring Themes Recur for a Reason

One of the recurring themes here at the Spew is that of confirmation bias--that people pay attention to that which they want/expect to hear/see and ignore that which does not fit their pre-existing bias.  I am self-aware enough of this to understand that confirmation bias is probably a key reason why I like this NYT op-ed on .... confirmation bias.

Of course, this is a far more nuanced and specific take on the issue than my rambling, so don't listen to me.  I am not an expert on any dimension of psychology especially the fields that I tend to cite but not read--cognitive and social.  But then again, according to this piece, it is best not to listen to the most confident doctors but those who have doubts--they tend to be more reliable.

If that is the case, then perhaps you should listen to me about the things with which I feel the least confident.  This would include:
  • International political economy
  • Hockey
  • Women/girls and the pursuit thereof
  • Advanced quantitative methods
  • Discretion.  That is being discreet.  On the other hand, the forthcoming book focuses on why folks give their underlines more or less discretion, so I can fake confidence there.
  • Defense on the ultimate field.  I am very confident about throwing, but defending?  Not so much.  
  • Jumping.  I have never been confident in my vertical ability and wildly overconfident in my horizontal efforts (diving).
  • Duration of civil war.  I think I have a decent to good grasp on the causes of internal conflict but not so much on what causes them to endure or not.
  • Running discussions in small classes.  I am far more confident, however unjustly so, about my ability to lecture.
  • Cakes.  I am probably too confident about making pies and cookies, but not so much cakes.  Good thing is that I do know someone who is a cupcake magician.
  • Judicial politics.  I don't study Congress (well, not until the next project) or Parliament, but I probably think too much of my ability to understand such stuff, but I am entirely unsure of how/why various Supreme Courts decide/operate.
  • Dancing.  I can neither dance nor judge it.  Nor sing.  Nor do anything in the creative arts with the possible exception of acting.  
  • Serious fiction.  I don't read the stuff that wins Nobel Prizes in Literature. 
Anyhow, the key lesson of the NYT piece is that one must think for themselves--do not turn off one's brain when listening to experts especially those telling you want you want to hear.  Of course, this means that you should probably ignore this post.

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