Monthly Archives: November 2006

The Movie “Click”

One way to discourage bias is via social disapproval of standard biases.   That is, if when A argues with B, A can show that B’s claim fits a standard bias scenario, then observers could believe A more and respect B less, encouraging B to avoid such claims.   For example if B claims that he is in the top 5% of drivers, and A points out that most people overestimate their driving ability,  observers might believe B less.

There are several problems with this approach.   One such problem is that scearnios widely accepted as identifying bias may do no such thing. 

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Quiz: Fox or Hedgehog?

I read a great book a few months ago that provides insight into the nature of bias and error.  It is Expert Political Judgement, by Philip E. Tetlock. One of Tetlock’s discoveries is that there is a significant correlation between expert prediction accuracy and a cognitive style measure introduced by Isaiah Berlin called "fox" vs "hedgehog". Below the fold I go into more detail on this distinction and present a quiz you can take to determine whether you are Fox or Hedgehog.

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Hide Sociobiology Like Sex?

Self-interest goes a very long way to explaining human behavior.  Yet when we educate our young, we prefer to bias them, focusing their attention on the virtues of undiscriminate altruism.  Why?

In Friday’s issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education David Barash accepted (temporarily un-gated version here) Nietzsche’s claim that “society encourages self-sacrifice because the unselfish sucker is an asset to others,” and Freud’s complaint that

[Education] does not prepare [children] for the aggressiveness of which they are destined to become the objects.  In sending the young into life with such a false psychological orientation, education is behaving as though one were to equip people starting on a Polar expedition with summer clothing and maps of the Italian Lakes.

Nevertheless, Barash prefers that we discuss self-interest as we do sex: too little too late:

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How To Join

How can we better believe what is true?  While it is of course useful to seek and study relevant information, our minds are full of natural tendencies to bias our beliefs via overconfidence, wishful thinking, and so on.  Worse, our minds seem to have a natural tendency to convince us that we are aware of and have adequately corrected for such biases, when we have done no such thing.

In this forum we discuss whether and how we might avoid this fate, by spending a bit less effort on each specific topic, and a bit more effort on the general topic of how to be less biased.  Here we discuss common patterns of bias and self-deception, statistical and other formal analysis tools, computational and data-gathering aids, and social institutions which may discourage bias and encourage its correction.  Other topics may be discussed to the extent they exemplify important biases and correction issues.

This forum is brought to you by the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, and consists of posts and comments on posts.  We allow open comments on most posts, but are selective about who can post, and moderate the posts.  To be considered as a poster, please send a link to your thoughtful essay on this topic (published elsewhere is fine) to rhanson@gmu.edu.  Comments should be polite, on topic, and not very long.

Added: See also Contributors: Be Half Accessible.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this forum are those of individuals only; they are not endorsed by the FHI or Oxford University.  Copyright is retained by each author.

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