The New York Times’s false equivalency problem, in one paragraph

“Bias incidents on both sides have been reported. A student walking near campus was threatened with being lit on fire because she wore a hijab. Other students were accused of being racist for supporting Mr. Trump, according to a campuswide message from Mark Schlissel, the university’s president.”

“Why facts don’t matter to Trump’s supporters” and “Why Bernie Sanders is Actually Winning”

Though it’s easy to pick on Donald Trump and his supporters, this cognitive bias is evident in humans in general and we see it in various situations. Below is one article and below that is an amusing video mocking Bernie Sanders supporters.

“Graves’s article examined the puzzle of why nearly one-third of U.S. parents believe that childhood vaccines cause autism, despite overwhelming medical evidence that there’s no such link. In such cases, he noted, “arguing the facts doesn’t help — in fact, it makes the situation worse.” The reason is that people tend to accept arguments that confirm their views and discount facts that challenge what they believe.”

You Can’t Trust What You Read About Nutrition

“We found a link between cabbage and innie bellybuttons, but that doesn’t mean it’s real.”

“Our foray into nutrition science demonstrated that studies examining how foods influence health are inherently fraught. To show you why, we’re going to take you behind the scenes to see how these studies are done. The first thing you need to know is that nutrition researchers are studying an incredibly difficult problem, because, short of locking people in a room and carefully measuring out all their meals, it’s hard to know exactly what people eat. So nearly all nutrition studies rely on measures of food consumption that require people to remember and report what they ate. The most common of these are food diaries, recall surveys and the food frequency questionnaire, or FFQ.”

Coffee Tied to Lower Risk of Dying Prematurely

This is a pretty standard science article in a mainstream newspaper in which a “science” journalist reports on a study and tries to interpret the science jargon and put things in terms that “regular folks” can understand. In the process the journalist misinterprets or misrepresents what was actually true based on the research. Below are some comments from the comments section of the article that point out some of the mistakes. Article linked below that.

“Blurs distinctions distinction between correlation with causation, as dietary science (and bad science reporting) often do. Are there other aspects of a coffee-drinker’s life and habits (income, nutritional habits, lifestyle choices) that may contribute to a longer life? Coffee reduces suicide? Really? At least the scientist himself admits it’s hard to know if the positive effect is causal or not. Since we can pretty much cherry pick nutrition science “data” to fit our whims these days I’ll go on drinking my coffee (for the placebo effect if nothing else) and my beer, and eating a high cholesterol diet to boot. Maybe pure pleasure is the best medicine of all.”

Gamblers, Scientists and the Mysterious Hot Hand

“The opposite of that is the hot-hand fallacy — the belief that winning streaks, whether in basketball or coin tossing, have a tendency to continue, as if propelled by their own momentum. Both misconceptions are reflections of the brain’s wired-in rejection of the power that randomness holds over our lives. Look deep enough, we instinctively believe, and we may uncover a hidden order.”

What is wrong with the way we think?

“A Q&A with social psychologist Richard Nisbett, who researches the processes of reasoning and decision-making.”

Today, the notion of “smart-thinking” is ubiquitous. This huge publishing field was prefigured by the work of social psychologist Richard Nisbett who in 1977 published an empirically researched article that showed that many of our choices and preferences are influenced by factors outside our conscious awareness. This was ground-breaking and it became one of the most cited articles of the decade. Nisbett, who is Theodore M. Newcomb Distinguished Professor of social psychology and co-director of the Culture and Cognition programme at the University of Michigan, has published numerous books over his long career. The latest is Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinking. Here, he discusses some of his ideas.

List of Logical Fallacies or Fallacies in Argumentation

“There are different kinds of logical fallacies that people make in presenting their positions. Below is a list of some of the major fallacies.  It is a good idea to be familiar with them, so you can point them out in a discussion, thereby focusing the issues where they belong while exposing error.

“It is true that during a debate on an issue if you simply point out to your “opponent” a logical fallacy that he/she has just made, it generally gives you the upper hand. But then, merely having the upper hand is not the goal: truth is. Nevertheless, logical fallacies hide the truth, so pointing them out is very useful.”