64 thoughts on “Why facts don’t change our minds

  1. It’s a good enough article, but it doesn’t really get very far on the strength of the resistance to facts in a number of quarters. The following seems to fit the more ordinary bias that we have toward thinking we know what’s going on:

    If we—or our friends or the pundits on CNN—spent less time pontificating and more trying to work through the implications of policy proposals, we’d realize how clueless we are and moderate our views. This, they write, “may be the only form of thinking that will shatter the illusion of explanatory depth and change people’s attitudes.”

    Yes, but that’s not going to happen with your typical anti-vaxxer or creationist, since they know how bad your thinking is vs. their own. Moreover, they don’t begin to think things through in order to make things work out according to actual fact, but in order to make things work out according to their own prior beliefs.

    Still, one thing a person has to realize is that we’re all doing the latter, for that’s how knowledge builds, we first accept reliable knowledge from reliable people, then we work out and apply that knowledge. The trouble is in getting people to realize when their “reliable people” actually do not get the facts right, in part because accepting that can ruin their whole manner of understanding, not to mention their reliance on their social group.

    If the costs were obvious, things would be different. There weren’t anti-vaxxers of this sort when polio was crippling children. When they can rely on herd immunity they can afford to oppose vaccinations. Creationists/IDists rarely see the problem of undermining science because they mostly don’t get it (very well, at least) in the first place, and because there are no clear consequences from not understanding it, then there’s the added issue that religion promises rewards for believing in something else. Why upset their world with something they never liked in the first place?

    Glen Davidson

  2. I don’t know if I’d call these “limitations” of reason, since that really makes sense only in light of some antecedent picture of what reasoning is supposed to be. But that’s a minor quibble. I’ve read a long paper by Mercier and Sperber but I only learned yesterday that they have a book coming out. I ordered it along with Dennett’s new book. I like their general approach very much.

    One problem I’d like to understand better can be put like this: how is it possible for us to understand that we are often not reasoning correctly? If systematic errors in reasoning (such as confirmation bias) are widespread and indeed adaptive, then what happens in the course of cultural evolution for logicians, statisticians, and psychologists to be in the epistemic position of being able to test and exposure these errors? Why aren’t we all completely blind to our epistemic constraints? (Think of this as a sort of species-wide Dunning-Kruger effect.)

    I’ve been worrying about that problem for a long time — ever since I started reading cognitive science in grad school — and I still don’t have a nice solution to it.

  3. I see this as flawed research.

    The research described should really be seen as a reductio ad absurdum on “knowledge is justified true belief”. We do not learn facts. We learn behaviors. And these researchers taught their subjects some bad behaviors. That ought to be an ethical issue.

    I learned to swim and to ride a bicycle when I was still a pre-teen child. I cannot unlearn those behaviors. That’s our nature. We learn new behaviors, perhaps even new behaviors that seem to interfere with existing behaviors. But we cannot unlearn behaviors.

    The research seems consistent with knowledge being behavioral. It only seems paradoxical because the researchers have flawed ideas about knowledge and learning.

  4. Or you can read the blog of Scott Adams (creator of the Dilbert comic strip) http://blog.dilbert.com/post/145668188291/trump-man-of-science

    Yeah, it’s science […] People are irrational and their decisions are based on emotion, influence, and random variables. Reason is mostly an illusion.

    Which of the many candidates for president this season is familiar with the SCIENCE of persuasion? Only Trump, until recently. He saved time and money by ignoring the stuff that doesn’t matter (facts) while putting all of his energy into the stuff that does. And it is working.

    Summary: Science sez people can be duped. Therefore it’s okay when Trump dupes people.

    Yes, he is pro-Trump. If you care about facts, accept the information.

  5. Why facts don’t change our minds

    Why don’t you answer this question yourself?
    You might find it educational…maybe even life changing…

  6. Certain chemical facts change my mind. Perhaps these simply aren’t the right kind of facts.

  7. KN,

    One problem I’d like to understand better can be put like this: how is it possible for us to understand that we are often not reasoning correctly? If systematic errors in reasoning (such as confirmation bias) are widespread and indeed adaptive, then what happens in the course of cultural evolution for logicians, statisticians, and psychologists to be in the epistemic position of being able to test and exposure these errors? Why aren’t we all completely blind to our epistemic constraints? (Think of this as a sort of species-wide Dunning-Kruger effect.)

    I’ve been worrying about that problem for a long time — ever since I started reading cognitive science in grad school — and I still don’t have a nice solution to it.

    I think it’s pretty simple, actually. We take different perspectives and apply different approaches to the same problem to see if we get the same answers. If we don’t, then we know we’ve made at least one mistake somewhere and can work toward figuring out where the mistake most likely lies.

    For example, even though confirmation bias is widespread, that hasn’t prevented us from detecting it or from understanding that it can lead to fallacious reasoning. You can design an experiment to detect confirmation bias even if everyone is susceptible to it.

    The danger would be if there were some kind of universal error that couldn’t be tested for and couldn’t be argued against on probabilistic grounds. Then you’d be hosed, and it would motivate the cognitive equivalent of my Cartesian skepticism regarding perception.

  8. J-Mac:

    Why facts don’t change our minds

    Why don’t you answer this question yourself?
    You might find it educational…maybe even life changing…

    Facts (and reason) have changed my mind. That’s how I became an ex-Christian.

  9. Its all a misunderstanding of intelligent mankind.
    We draw conclusions based on a history of information which includes facts.
    so when introduced to a new fact its not enough to change the conclusion. The conclusion was based on a host of facts. So any new fact is simply set aside on the belief it can be answered somehow.
    Mankind does respect and react to facts.
    However a FACT sudden;y intropduced doesn’t trump the facts heap behind our conclusions.
    Everyone then gets frustrated with the slowness to change conclusions.
    Evangelism is founded on the point that conclusions can be changed . Ask Billy Graham.

    by the way. prove the fact beiore its a fact. obviously.

  10. Kantian Naturalist: Why aren’t we all completely blind to our epistemic constraints?

    Not as glib a response as it seems: culture is not a person.

    Keiths has made much of the fact that, as a computer engineer (with an impressive list of patents, I’ll add), he admits to errors in logic when his designs are checked independently. However, he’s actually playing a well defined role in a highly evolved culture of engineering. Engineers and scientists commonly think they know much more about other people’s fields — especially computer science — than they actually do. Keiths, quite obviously to everyone but himself, fails time and again to recognize the bounds of his competence.

  11. GlenDavidson: Creationists/IDists rarely see the problem of undermining science because they mostly don’t get it (very well, at least) in the first place, and because there are no clear consequences from not understanding it, then there’s the added issue that religion promises rewards for believing in something else. Why upset their world with something they never liked in the first place?

    I think the greatest mistake I have ever made (and I made it many times) was to argue with people about science. In retrospect, it’s clear to me that I was teaching them that the arguments of laypeople matter — which is precisely what the organized opposition to science wants them to believe. I have worked hard and haplessly in service of the cause of “intelligent design” creationism. (I think I stopped in 2010, but it may have been 2011. Joe Felsenstein has told me that my intuitions into evolutionary biology are pretty good. But I’ve never addressed him as though they were any good at all. And I’ve realized that I should not address anyone differently than I do him. I go to great lengths now to ensure that the limited remarks I make about evolution agree with what biologists are saying. That means, as a practical matter, that I say very little.)

  12. keiths: If systematic errors in reasoning (such as confirmation bias) are widespread and indeed adaptive, then what happens in the course of cultural evolution for logicians, statisticians, and psychologists to be in the epistemic position of being able to test and exposure these errors? Why aren’t we all completely blind to our epistemic constraints? (Think of this as a sort of species-wide Dunning-Kruger effect.)

    But aren’t we fairly blind to our epistemic constraints?

    The point of psychologists and logicians being able to uncover confirmation bias and other errors is not that they’re above it, but that they can see these well enough in others, and just as importantly, can come up with tests for them. For others, that is. We’re not necessarily bad at recognizing bullshit in others, just in ourselves. That’s one reason for shared knowledge, because others are often pretty good at finding faults in others’ works, even if not in their own work.

    Of course knowing these things and just plain knowing more about the world will presumably make it more likely that we can see our own shortcomings to a degree. As the article noted, actually dealing with policy issues tends to moderate people, so that they begin to see what the other side sees. So of course, we’re not hopelessly and irremediably biased, we’re just biased with various capacities for recognizing and dealing with our own biases. And the less we know of things and people, the more likely we are to be biased about them.

    There’s something to be said for trying to keep an open mind. Nevertheless, criticizing others is always going to be important (no matter how much it is disparaged), because even if that can be highly biased as well, in a reasonably free and fair discussion the criticisms that matter will tend to win out and the BS flak will tend to drop out.

    Glen Davidson

  13. If it’s any solace to keiths, I’ll add that Vincent Torley is much worse. Torley is a parody of a philosopher, evidently believing that he’s trained to think straight, and that he enlightens the world by sharing his straight thinking on whatever comes to mind — the more words, the better.

  14. Tom English: I think the greatest mistake I have ever made (and I made it many times) was to argue with people about science. In retrospect, it’s clear to me that I was teaching them that the arguments of laypeople matter — which is precisely what the organized opposition to science wants them to believe. I have worked hard and haplessly in service of the cause of “intelligent design” creationism. (I think I stopped in 2010, but it may have been 2011. Joe Felsenstein has told me that my intuitions into evolutionary biology are pretty good. But I’ve never addressed him as though they were any good at all. And I’ve realized that I should not address anyone differently than I do him. I go to great lengths now to ensure that the limited remarks I make about evolution agree with what biologists are saying. That means, as a practical matter, that I say very little.)

    Yes, I think that especially dealing with them on the bases that they want to claim is a rather grave error. Ken Miller’s a good guy, I think, but it seems to me that he’s argued quite poorly by suggesting that Behe’s mousetrap has intermediates and suggesting that it might be able to evolve. The intermediates are suspect, and a mousetrap is exactly the kind of designed object (using rational “leaps”) that evolution is poorly equipped to produce (it’s so simple I wouldn’t want to say it couldn’t evolve, just that it’s not the sort of thing expected from evolution and likely not easily evolved, to say the least).

    He let Behe set the basis for discussion, then tended to reinforce what Behe said about the mousetrap being impossible to evolve, when that’s actually the point, that at least it’s not a very likely product of evolution from even a casual glance (it’s quite obviously the product of mind, not breeding). Then that reinforces the IC “argument,” which really is a poor argument since IC is relatively easy to evolve. Above all, it ignores the fact that one can readily infer that the mousetrap was designed because of its rational structure, apparent purposefulness, lack of reproduction, etc., while nothing about the flagellum can rightly be thought of as purposeful and there’s nothing that gives away a rational process behind its production either (immediately or in the distant past). It can look quite mechanical, true, but it has intermediates (not necessarily transitional forms, but at least parts that work with only part of the whole), it has to be functional and at least fairly efficient (hence a compact rotary form that may look “mechanical”), and it differs substantially from the archaean flagellum while doing the same thing (inheritance determining structure, rather than need determining structure).

    One should always demand telling evidence for design, not playing the creationist/IDist game of arguing on their specious grounds. That’s exactly what they want, because while science/scientists won’t fall for it, a lot of the public very well may.

    Glen Davidson

  15. Neil Rickert: But we cannot unlearn behaviors.

    Resistance to extinction of a learned behavior was one of the measures in my honors-thesis research (experimental psych). Googling, it seems that students are still taught what I was taught. There is such a thing as extinction of behaviors.

    Less esoterically, everyone loses motor skills when they stop playing musical instruments. Sometimes you forget what to play. More often, you remember what to play, but forget how to play it. Those are straightforward observations, not folk psychology.

    If I don’t practice one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it. — Jascha Heifetz

  16. Tom English:

    Keiths has made much of the fact that, as a computer engineer (with an impressive list of patents, I’ll add)…

    In case people are wondering: yes, Tom knows my full name. He has apparently done some Googling, since I have never mentioned my patents here at TSZ nor to him directly.

    …he admits to errors in logic when his designs are checked independently. However, he’s actually playing a well defined role in a highly evolved culture of engineering. Engineers and scientists commonly think they know much more about other people’s fields — especially computer science — than they actually do. Keiths, quite obviously to everyone but himself, fails time and again to recognize the bounds of his competence.

    Heh. He’s also evidently feeling a bit defensive.

    Tom, feel free to point out any comments in which you see me making errors in computer science or any other field. I welcome the feedback.

  17. Glen,

    I didn’t know that it had been attributed to you. I must have gotten it from your response to KN.

    Yeah, it’s most likely because you clicked on “Quote in reply” while reading my response to him.

  18. GlenDavidson:
    It’s a good enough article, but it doesn’t really get very far on the strength of the resistance to facts in a number of quarters.The following seems to fit the more ordinary bias that we have toward thinking we know what’s going on:

    Yes, but that’s not going to happen with your typical anti-vaxxer or creationist, since they know how bad your thinking is vs. their own.Moreover, they don’t begin to think things through in order to make things work out according to actual fact, but in order to make things work out according to their own prior beliefs.

    Still, one thing a person has to realize is that we’re all doing the latter, for that’s how knowledge builds, we first accept reliable knowledge from reliable people, then we work out and apply that knowledge.The trouble is in getting people to realize when their “reliable people” actually do not get the facts right, in part because accepting that can ruin their whole manner of understanding, not to mention their reliance on their social group.

    If the costs were obvious, things would be different.There weren’t anti-vaxxers of this sort when polio was crippling children.When they can rely on herd immunity they can afford to oppose vaccinations.Creationists/IDists rarely see the problem of undermining science because they mostly don’t get it (very well, at least) in the first place, and because there are no clear consequences from not understanding it, then there’s the added issue that religion promises rewards for believing in something else.Why upset their world with something they never liked in the first place?

    Glen Davidson

    I regularly get into arguments with folks I know concerning the AMAZING MEDICINAL PROPERTIES OF SEA SALT and THE AMAZING HYDRATION AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF ALKALINE WATER! Those sorts of beliefs intrigue me because they really don’t seem to have any particular tie to social, religious, or cultural communities. I just can’t see what props them up other than gullible people needing to find some arbitrary dietary scapegoat for why they feel sluggish, or stuffy, or achy, or whatever.

    And I’ve hammered the people I know who’ve bought into such…bizarre notions…with facts and…nothing. No amount of actual information fazes them. They just hold onto that security blanket because…well…I don’t know.

    ETA: a funny little nugget I came across when researching the sea salt thing. As most people are aware, “regular” old table salt is fine and can be poured nicely out of a shaker. Morton’s even touts this fact with the drawing of the little girl spilling salt in the rain (and the great slogan, “When it rains, it pours”). Few people nowadays know the reason that the picture was chosen and why it was so incredible when it was first used: when you used to get salt, it was chunky and clumpy! That’s because nearly all naturally occurring salt has magnesium in it that acts as a caking agent. Morton (and nearly all early salt producers) came up with a way to remove the magnesium so that the salt could be used in foods more easily. Now the whacky sea salt and Himalayan salt nuts pay extra to have it left in. Go figure.

    Oh…and another bit of trivia: Himalayan salt, a fairly pricey “artisanal” salt, isn’t actually mined in the Himalayas. It comes from Pakistan and…wait for it…it’s actually mined from one of the largest salt supplies on Earth.

  19. Robin: I regularly get into arguments with folks I know concerning the AMAZING MEDICINAL PROPERTIES OF SEA SALT and THE AMAZING HYDRATION AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF ALKALINE WATER! Those sorts of beliefs intrigue me because they really don’t seem to have any particular tie to social, religious, or cultural communities. I just can’t see what props them up other than gullible people needing to find some arbitrary dietary scapegoat for why they feel sluggish, or stuffy, or achy, or whatever.

    And I’ve hammered the people I know who’ve bought into such…bizarre notions…with facts and…nothing. No amount of actual information fazes them. They just hold onto that security blanket because…well…I don’t know.

    They’ll only work if they’re gluten-free, though.

    I don’t know, I think that telling people how to eat does strike close enough to the personal to suggest that there are some ill-defined attempts to get some power over others. Then there’s always the ego issue, that one “knows” something that others don’t (understanding of a conspiracy is always good). It’s always good to be expert at something, so why not the latest dietary fad?

    You can certainly see creationists/IDists who are quite proud of what they “know” (most of those at UD).

    Glen Davidson

  20. GlenDavidson: Yes, I think that especially dealing with them on the bases that they want to claim is a rather grave error.

    That’s a hugely important point. Addressing the evolutionary informatics of Marks, Dembski and Ewert (publication of their book has been postponed again), I have emphasized that the subject is engineering analysis, not science. Getting that one fact across is more important than dealing with the particulars. I’ve recently been mired in particulars. You’ve just prompted me to get my priorities straight.

  21. Tom English: Less esoterically, everyone loses motor skills when they stop playing musical instruments.

    This is probably true of any learned behavior. Our coordination tends to get out of tune with disuse. And the longer the disuse, the more difficult it becomes to perform that behavior.

    But facts are different. We can use facts, and then discard them. I’m sure that I read or heard a number of facts in the news yesterday, that I could not come up with today with consulting a news source.

  22. keiths: He has apparently done some Googling, since I have never mentioned my patents here at TSZ nor to him directly.

    If you’d rather I treat you as a FAKE PERSON, as others should, let me know.

    keiths: Tom, feel free to point out any comments in which you see me making errors in computer science or any other field.

    Burden tennis, anyone?

  23. Neil Rickert: But facts are different. We can use facts, and then discard them. I’m sure that I read or heard a number of facts in the news yesterday, that I could not come up with today with consulting a news source.

    I was actually interested in the notion that we learn behaviors, not facts. I meant only to say that we do unlearn learned behaviors. An objection to that might be that we relearn behaviors faster than we learned them in the first place.

  24. Tom:

    Engineers and scientists commonly think they know much more about other people’s fields — especially computer science — than they actually do. Keiths, quite obviously to everyone but himself, fails time and again to recognize the bounds of his competence.

    keiths:

    Heh. He’s also evidently feeling a bit defensive.

    Tom, feel free to point out any comments in which you see me making errors in computer science or any other field. I welcome the feedback.

    Tom:

    Burden tennis, anyone?

    It’s so onerous to back up one’s claims, isn’t it, Tom?

  25. Tom:

    If you’d rather I treat you as a FAKE PERSON, as others should, let me know.

    I don’t mind that you Googled me. But do tell why others should treat me as a FAKE PERSON, in all caps. 🙂

  26. Tom English: I think the greatest mistake I have ever made (and I made it many times) was to argue with people about science. In retrospect, it’s clear to me that I was teaching them that the arguments of laypeople matter — which is precisely what the organized opposition to science wants them to believe. I have worked hard and haplessly in service of the cause of “intelligent design” creationism. (I think I stopped in 2010, but it may have been 2011. Joe Felsenstein has told me that my intuitions into evolutionary biology are pretty good. But I’ve never addressed him as though they were any good at all. And I’ve realized that I should not address anyone differently than I do him. I go to great lengths now to ensure that the limited remarks I make about evolution agree with what biologists are saying. That means, as a practical matter, that I say very little.)

    I doubt you have done any noticeable damage by being a layperson (in biological terms) and making arguments about evolutionary biology. Laypeople’s arguments can matter, particularly if they are in areas of theory, where logic can be weightier than accumulated understanding of empirical information.

    When laypeople make theoretical arguments they have a right to be taken seriously, and I have tried to treat their arguments as such. Often they were wrong, but not always. Tom, as someone with modest experience modeling biology but a lot of experience in computer algorithmics, including evolutionary algorithms, is one of those who are only nominally naïve.

  27. Joe:

    Laypeople’s arguments can matter, particularly if they are in areas of theory, where logic can be weightier than accumulated understanding of empirical information.

    When laypeople make theoretical arguments they have a right to be taken seriously, and I have tried to treat their arguments as such.

    Amen.

    And they have a right to be taken seriously when making empirical arguments as well, provided that they have done their homework.

    To argue otherwise is simple misguided credentialism. The correctness of an argument is determined by its content, not by its provenance.

  28. keiths,

    1. You’re always putting your ego on the line. And you’re projecting that onto me.

    2. Trump writes, “FAKE NEWS.” The book review strengthens my suspicion that FAKE PEOPLE are a huge problem. You seem to think of it as a source of insight into ourselves. I think immediately of what political consultants like Frank Luntz make of the research, and of the related research they have done, to increase their effectiveness in manipulating public opinion. I see immediately the general structure of a political chatbot, adaptable to various environments. It’s so obvious to me that I have to believe they’re in development. I know there are already some chatbots on Twitter. Imagine emulating Joe G.

  29. keiths: It’s so onerous to back up one’s claims, isn’t it, Tom?

    So that’s why you refuse to clarify the nature of your arguments!

    Given that there is nothing “factive” you could possibly know about the real world it’s no wonder you never change your mind.

  30. Joe Felsenstein,

    I’ve learned a lot more from you than you’ll ever learn from me. I’ve begun studying theoretical biology. I have a huge advantage over the green student in grasping it, and the green student has a huge advantage over me in retaining it. My hope is that having an existing conceptual framework on which to hang the material will help. For now, my attitude in addressing laypeople is “first, do no harm.”

    (Speaking of memory, I’ve been dreading the restart on you-know-what. But I’m restarting this evening.)

  31. The answer to the question Why facts don’t change our minds could be explained by the fenomenon that most people simply do not want to accept the truth.

    Here is one of my favourite quotes that illustrates this bizarre fact.

    The quote is taken from the movie The International. Eleanor and Loe are trying to expose a Luxembourg Bank that is doing dirty business by, among other, selling weapons to 3rd World Countries to initiate conflicts and wars that create debt the bank later controls. New York D.A.-Eleanor and Loe’ boss is under pressure from his superiors to stop the investigation and keep the truth concealed. Eleanor can’t comprehend why.

    Here is their exchange:

    “New York D.A. What are you trying to do?

    Eleanor Whitman: We are just trying to get to the truth!

    New York D.A.: I get it! But what you need to remember is that there’s what people want to hear, there’s what people want to believe, there’s everything else, THEN there’s the truth!

    Eleanor Whitman: And since when it’s that OK? I can’t even believe you are saying this to me! The truth means responsibility, Arnie!

    New York D.A.: Exactly! Which is why everyone dreads it!”

    So… most people don’t change their mind because they don’t want to accept the truth. Why? Because the truth means responsibility which most don’t want to face…
    So in order to avoid the inconvenient truth people demand to be told what the want to hear, then what they want to believe, then whatever other reasons could be for them not wanting to be told the truth and then, in the very end, is the truth.

    Because of this phenomenon almost any idea can find its fans as long as it is not the truth…

    I remember one old wise man once told me that in today’s world even the stupidest ideas will find its supporters…

    Unfortunately, we don’t have to look far to find proof for his statement…

  32. Tom:

    1. You’re always putting your ego on the line.

    Everyone puts their ego on the line when writing substantive comments or OPs here. For some that’s a safer bet than for others.

    And you’re projecting that onto me.

    Um, no. Your defensiveness has been on prominent display today, no projection required.

    2. Trump writes, “FAKE NEWS.” The book review strengthens my suspicion that FAKE PEOPLE are a huge problem. You seem to think of it as a source of insight into ourselves. I think immediately of what political consultants like Frank Luntz make of the research, and of the related research they have done, to increase their effectiveness in manipulating public opinion. I see immediately the general structure of a political chatbot, adaptable to various environments. It’s so obvious to me that I have to believe they’re in development. I know there are already some chatbots on Twitter. Imagine emulating Joe G.

    You didn’t answer my question, which was:

    Tom:

    If you’d rather I treat you as a FAKE PERSON, as others should, let me know.

    keiths:

    I don’t mind that you Googled me. But do tell why others should treat me as a FAKE PERSON, in all caps. 🙂

  33. J-Mac: The quote is taken from the movie The International.

    From a review from The New Yorker

    “Yet two virtuous people, an Interpol agent (Clive Owen) and a Manhattan assistant district attorney (Naomi Watts), refuse to be intimidated, and chase the bad guys all over the world. Killer banks may be new to the movies, but there’s nothing else original in this if-it’s-Tuesday-this-must-be-Istanbul thriller, with its portentous globe-hopping and racing through colorful street bazaars. And there’s a big hole in the middle of the movie: the director, Tom Tykwer, and the screenwriter, Eric Warren Singer, forgot to make their two crusaders human beings. Clive Owen, unshaven and foul-tempered, stares and stares in outraged frustration, but not even this excellent actor and his beautiful dark eyes can create a role entirely out of wrath.”

  34. keiths: Everyone puts their ego on the line when writing substantive comments or OPs here. For some that’s a safer bet than for others.

    Various participants in the forum recognize the pathology of the “keiths” construct. Most of them, including me, hope that the operator of “keiths” is quite unlike “keiths.”

    ETA: Although I can identify the operator of “keiths,” I have no idea what he is like. People often present quite differently online than they do in face-to-face interactions.

  35. Tom,

    I’m still awaiting an answer:

    Tom:

    If you’d rather I treat you as a FAKE PERSON, as others should, let me know.

    keiths:

    I don’t mind that you Googled me. But do tell why others should treat me as a FAKE PERSON, in all caps. 🙂

  36. The only things I accept as facts are those things which I personally experience. Facts I experience have often changed my mind – quite dramatically, in some cases.

    However, I don’t consider information coming from 2nd or 3rd party sources facts, but rather simply information. As a pragmatist I’m under no moral or epistemological obligation to accept any such information as a “fact”. Given the post-modern and politically weaponized nature of information these days (coming from virtually any source), I’m highly skeptical of all such information claiming to be “facts”. I sort and use such information as I see fit in ways that practically serve my interests.

  37. I’m not sure if it’s the reviewer or the book authors, but I think the conclusion here may be a little off–even if the evolutionary origin pointed to is correct:

    In step three, participants were shown one of the same problems, along with their answer and the answer of another participant, who’d come to a different conclusion. Once again, they were given the chance to change their responses. But a trick had been played: the answers presented to them as someone else’s were actually their own, and vice versa. About half the participants realized what was going on. Among the other half, suddenly people became a lot more critical. Nearly sixty per cent now rejected the responses that they’d earlier been satisfied with.
    This lopsidedness, according to Mercier and Sperber, reflects the task that reason evolved to perform, which is to prevent us from getting screwed by the other members of our group. Living in small bands of hunter-gatherers, our ancestors were primarily concerned with their social standing, and with making sure that they weren’t the ones risking their lives on the hunt while others loafed around in the cave. There was little advantage in reasoning clearly, while much was to be gained from winning arguments.

    I have the sense that even if there were always “nothing to be gained from winning arguments” there would still be this incredible reluctance to admitting errors. I think there’s as much Freud as Darwin here. The ego-defense issue seems to me a much bigger deal than has been noticed (at least in this brief review).

    Once one has decided, e.g., that Trump or Clinton (or the third party candidate) is the best alternative, because all the others are reprehensible, there’s too much investment/resentment/etc. to allow for changes of heart. That’s why the smartest thing Trump said on the campaign trail was that he could shoot someone in broad daylight on Fifth Ave and not lose very many supporters. The “pussy video” was instructive on that point. Similarly, saying, in the same breath at his recent press conference that he had the biggest margin since Reagan, and that the media ought to be abhorred for spouting “fake facts” and not falling from grace in the slightest with his supporters is great info on this front.

    Note that I don’t mean to suggest here that the Clinton or 3rd party voters are different/better on this front. Once they have made their choice, a change means THEY WERE WRONG. Just participating in sites like this for a couple months ought to show that such admissions are nearly impossible to come by. keiths has done two (I think) OPs on this, and certainly recognizes its force……except of course in his own case. Because almost nobody is immune to that ego-defense.

    So again, I’m not sold that the explanations–based on the review–are quite right.

    ETA: I just read an account of Trump’s speech to the conservatives, according to which (a) he wants to “protect” American workers by eliminating regulations; and (b) Obama left him with a mess.

    I mean the more, audacious and contemptuous regarding truth he is–the louder his supporters cheer.

  38. walto,

    But how is “Freudian” ego-defense separate from the evolution of the concern for social standing and winning arguments within the group? I’m not saying ego-defense is only about those matters, but that it seems to me that ego-defense does have a lot to do with what Mercier and Sperber were discussing, they just didn’t use that term.

    Of course I’m not saying that they covered all of the causal factors, but it seems to me that it’s not a bad attempt to explain the primary factors involved in how humans are reasoning in such situations. Ego-defense is something that had to evolve as well, and it may be the case that ego-defense in human culture evolved to utilize reason as it does in part for the reasons that they identify. Clearly more may be going on than their interpretation suggests, but I don’t think that they ignored ego-defense, rather that they possibly have explained one of the ways that ego-defense has evolved in humans.

    Glen Davidson

  39. GlenDavidson:
    walto,

    But how is “Freudian” ego-defense separate from the evolution of the concern for social standing and winning arguments within the group?I’m not saying ego-defense is only about those matters, but that it seems to me that ego-defense does have a lot to do with what Mercier and Sperber were discussing, they just didn’t use that term.

    Of course I’m not saying that they covered all of the causal factors, but it seems to me that it’s not a bad attempt to explain the primary factors involved in how humans are reasoning in such situations.Ego-defense is something that had to evolve as well, and it may be the case that ego-defense in human culture evolved to utilize reason as it does in part for the reasons that they identify.Clearly more may be going on than their interpretation suggests, but I don’t think that they ignored ego-defense, rather that they possibly have explained one of the ways that ego-defense has evolved in humans.

    Glen Davidson

    You may be right–I haven’t read them. (Again, based only on the review) I just have the sense that even if winning arguments DIDN’T do much for survival one way or the other, we simply hate to be wrong. But maybe the authors get into that in their book–I have no idea.

  40. keiths: I’m still awaiting an answer:

    Tom:

    If you’d rather I treat you as a FAKE PERSON, as others should, let me know.

    keiths:

    I don’t mind that you Googled me. But do tell why others should treat me as a FAKE PERSON, in all caps. 🙂

    No character references.

  41. Huh?

    You’re arguing that everyone here who hasn’t presented “character references” is a “FAKE PERSON”?

  42. William J. Murray: The only things I accept as facts are those things which I personally experience. Facts I experience have often changed my mind – quite dramatically, in some cases.

    However, I don’t consider information coming from 2nd or 3rd party sources facts, but rather simply information. As a pragmatist I’m under no moral or epistemological obligation to accept any such information as a “fact”. Given the post-modern and politically weaponized nature of information these days (coming from virtually any source), I’m highly skeptical of all such information claiming to be “facts”. I sort and use such information as I see fit in ways that practically serve my interests.

    [Emphasis added.]

    To the operator of “William J. Murray”: I got some belly-laughs out of this one. Keep ’em coming.

    1. “William J. Murray” is just a self-referential stream of words, and its attribution of personal experience to itself is hilarious.
    2. Of course, the pragmatic use of linguistic data by “William J. Murray” is in service of interests that are objectively moral — no subject needed.

  43. keiths:
    Huh?

    You’re arguing that everyone here who hasn’t presented “character references” is a “FAKE PERSON”?

    Clear-cut evidence that “keiths” is a FAKE PERSON.

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