Knowledge Question: What are the limitations of our abilities to reason?
What causes what? The human brain is programmed to answer this question constantly, and using a very basic method. This is how we survive. What made that noise? A bear made that noise. What caused my hand to hurt? Fire caused my hand to hurt.
But sometimes, we use these simple tools to solve complex problems. And so we get things wrong. I wore my lucky hat to the game. My team won. Therefore, my lucky hat caused my team to win.
Interesting if not controversial piece about the science behind concussion research and professional football. This raises interesting questions about the extent to which “good science” is even possible in a situation like this when brains can only be examined posthumously. There is definitely a selection bias here because people only want to have their brains examined if they believe they suffer from the condition.
When we dug into the methodology, we were floored. The study was so badly flawed that it was nearly worthless. But that’s not what had been reported in practically every major media outlet in the world. Thanks to the barrage of sensationalist coverage, the “110 out of 111 brains” story had turned into a wildfire, and we were standing around with a couple of garden hoses, telling everybody to calm down.
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.
“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.”
“Oxford mathematician Peter Donnelly reveals the common mistakes humans make in interpreting statistics — and the devastating impact these errors can have on the outcome of criminal trials.”