Analysis Is Far Skeptical

People famously tend to disagree more about politics, religion, and romance, Which makes sense – I’ve argued that disagreement is due to by a near-far bias, and that politics, religion, and love are far topics. It should be especially clear that religion is a far topic, dealing with fundamental values and big grand things like Gods over vast space and time scales.

Since creative metaphor is far, and analysis is near, it shouldn’t be surprising to hear that inducing an analytical frame of mind tends to induce “religious disbelief”, i.e., disbelief in gods, devils, and angels:

Individual differences in the tendency to analytically override initially flawed intuitions in reasoning were associated with increased religious disbelief. Four additional experiments provided evidence of causation, as subtle manipulations known to trigger analytic processing also encouraged religious disbelief. (more)

You could point to this as evidence against religious beliefs, but the same analysis primes probably also induce more skepticism on common political and romantic beliefs. They might even induce more skepticism on the mulitverse, string theory, or the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, all of which have big grand aspects.

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  • http://www.gwern.net gwern

    They might even induce more skepticism on the mulitverse, string theory, or the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, all of which have big grand aspects.

    That seems unlikely, as those ideas are profoundly Far and analytic merely to think of or discuss in the first place!

    • Adrian Ratnapala

      Relatively recently, I was a physicist, and it seems to me that most physicists are very near mode about these issues.

      They might even induce more skepticism on the :

      * mulitverse,

      Which kind? I suspect most physicists not working close to the field say “Meh”.

      * string theory,

      In my experience, most physicists (not working in closely related fields) are actually antagonistic to string theory. The calmer ones say “Meh”.

      * string theory,

      Very many physicists are indeed interested in interpretations of quantum mechanics, but most avoid thinking about it. Near mode thinkers are in a bind here, Quantum Many Worlds tells us to just take the equations literally so it is the most pedestrian interpretation. Yet the idea of many worlds is so big and grand that they would rather not think about it.

  • mjgeddes

    Far mode thinking abilities aren’t neccesery correlated to near-mode thinking abilities either. A person could be a fantastic near-mode thinker but fall flat on their face when thinking about far-mode topics and vice versa.

    That’s what happened with most of you high-IQ (high ‘g’ folks) here and on ‘Less Wrong’ actually. You mistakenly believe your very strong analytical skills are giving you insight into far mode topics, when in fact most you are falling flat on your faces. I put it to you that your far-mode thinking skills aren’t actually that much better than average.

    This suggests a 2-d model of intelligence, with ‘rational intelligence’ corresponding to near-mode analytic skill, and ‘creative intelligence’ corresponding to far-mode ‘big picture’ categorization abilities. Of course, one would prefer to be clever in both dimensions, but given the choice, I’ll take far-mode.

    • Faul_Sname

      You mistakenly believe your very strong analytical skills are giving you insight into far mode topics, when in fact most you are falling flat on your faces. I put it to you that your far-mode thinking skills aren’t actually that much better than average.

      I put in that you have a distinct lack of any supporting evidence for that claim. What makes you think that is the case?

      • mjgeddes

        I put in that you have a distinct lack of any supporting evidence for that claim. What makes you think that is the case?

        All the “smart” people believing weird things? ;)

    • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

      I agree with MJ.

      I put the two dimensions as “theory of mind” and “theory of reality”, being able to emulate other people’s ways of thinking so as to understand and manipulate them better and being able to understand reality so as to understand it and make and use better tools.

      Rationality only applies to systems that are rational, i.e. reality. Humans are (mostly) not rational so being rational isn’t much help in communicating with humans.

    • http://omicron-theta.blogspot.com/ Ari

      Robin may have some bizarre beliefs (and LW sure does, which I don’t follow), but the fact that we tend to be stupidly idealistic about far mode topics is pretty solid observation. As soon as people get to talk about some far-topics such as politics or religion, they start saying all these things they would not if they actually got a rationality boost (like betting). This is why I don’t like to portray my amateur opinions as final truths as you do.

      Are you saying witch doctors and shamans who – at least for the argument – lack analytical skills (as opposed to say physicists), are much better at far-mode topics like religion as opposed to people who excel analysis? Physicists are generally highly skeptical of religion which should be typical of example of Robin’s point here.

      I’m quite sure there’re lots of people with strong analytical skills, high IQ and modest views on everything. At least I’ve observed understanding of mathematics highly correlates of how much useful things a person has to say.

  • Mark M

    Agreed. An analytical mindset makes you skeptical, which is good for analysis but bad for belief systems, especially belief systems that contradict themselves, which is common in religion and politics, or belief systems that are downright irrational, which is common in romance.

  • http://eradica.wordpress.com Firepower

    As in all disciplines, the well-balanced person accepting a rational variety of beliefs is the most virtuous.

  • http://hertzlinger.blogspot.com Joseph Hertzlinger

    If religious disbelief can be induced by viewing Rodin’s Thinker, the religion could not have been a deep-seated faith.

    Maybe viewing Rodin’s Thinker served as a cue for what the professor would consider a “right” answer. This research was done on college students, who are used to emitting right answers whether or not they believe them.

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