Do humans really think this way? (in Debates)


QBsutekh137 March 20 2012 10:45 AM EDT

A couple of the other Debate threads got me thinking way back to a class I took my freshmen year in college. The title was something hand-wavy and lame (because it was some sort of "honors" course), but at least it covered some class requirement. I believe the class was simply called "Stereotyping."

It turned out to be a foray into a lot of difference psychological areas, probably not going nearly deep enough into any specific topic, but it did provide a nice, broad summary of how people think, actively. So, for the word "think" in the subject, I mean the actual process of thinking.

My conclusion (and certainly one of the debatable points), is that humans really DO think this way: using biases that are hard to overcome, schema-based thought processes that control everything from front-end perception to back-end attribution, and we all really can't deny how simple things like "us" versus "them" affect everyone.

Some fun links:

Basic cognitive bias summary, and a list (stuff is fascinating):
Cognitive Bias (List)

An interesting PDF that re-summarizes several points (pretty dense):
PDF article

One of my favorite biases:
Attribution Theory

The classic "in" group vs. "out" group study:
The Stanford Prison Experiment

Shocking revelation:
The Man Who Shocked the World

So I'd say the answer to a question posed by another debate thread is, "Yes! Liberals do indeed think this way!" As do conservatives, women, men, blacks, whites, heterosexuals, homosexuals, old people, rich people, poor people, smart people, dumb people, Communists, Neo-Nazis, and members of Amnesty International.

Sort of comforting and demoralizing, all at the same time.

So, what is there to debate? I'm not completely sure. But there's plenty to discuss, and I'm sure not everyone believes the same things in regard to heuristics and biases in the first place. Some questions that do come to mind, though, mainly for their potential insight value:

How do you personally recognize cognitive biases in yourself? In others?

Once recognized, what do you do in order to combat the effects of cognitive bias?

Do you think biases are based more on genetics (nature) or environment (nurture)? (I assume there are studies on this, I just didn't find any right off...)

Knowing that biases exist in your own head and in everyone else's, where do you go for news (Print? Web? TV? Radio?)


Sound off!

AdminQBGentlemanLoser [{END}] March 20 2012 10:55 AM EDT

Nurture.

This reminds me of studies discussed ages ago about universal truths and children being raised in various extreme situations to observe development. I'm sure there was at least one study made on this.

I was bought up in a very open minded family, to dislike and distrust bias and intollerence. To veiw situations from varied viewpoints, and this was something reinforced by my History classes at school.

I still steroetype people, women are worse parkers than men, for example. But steroetypes usually have some basis they are formed from, even if it's a biased source.

And if you recognise a source as being biases, it doesn't devalue the srouce, as long as you account for the bias.

If that makes sense.

Not sure if this is applicable to the topic at hand, I'll eagerly read through those links when I get the time.

But my starting platform would be nuture.

If I had been raised in a more usual, biased, family group for my area, I would have grown up less likely and I feel sure less able to seperate my thoughts and ideas from any ingrained bias by upbringing would have fostered upon me.

Genetics be damned. ;)

QBsutekh137 March 20 2012 11:02 AM EDT

Not sure this really gets fully into nature/nurture, but it does mention babies as young as six months:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2009/09/04/see-baby-discriminate.html

I'm still reading it, but I already like the discussion of basic "discriminating" as in, the ability to simply tell differences. Some parents in the study dropped out because they simply didn't even want to point out differences at all.

God, I hate crap like that. Probably because I never even got the CHANCE to notice differences until I went to college. Pretty sad how samey things were in my area in terms of race, class, and even religion...

Rubberduck[T] [Hell Blenders] March 20 2012 11:03 AM EDT

I'm reading Daniel Kahneman, thinking fast and slow atm, lots of interesting stuff about how we make decisions, I recommend it.

QBsutekh137 March 20 2012 11:12 AM EDT

I saw his name come up on sidebars here and there, wasn't sure if his work was serious stuff or some sort of self-help guru stuff, but your recommendation definitely clears that up. *smile*

Thanks!

Xenogard [Chaotic Serenity] March 20 2012 11:13 AM EDT

I really have nothing more to add to this thread at this time other then one of my favorite quotes of all time.

"The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently."

AdminQBGentlemanLoser [{END}] March 20 2012 11:21 AM EDT

Pretty sad how samey things were in my area in terms of race, class, and even religion...

I feel privilidged to have lived and grown up in one of the, if not the most diverse places in the world. It has helped shape me.

Even if discussions have turned these days to there feeling something slightly, wrong, when you notice that not only are you the only white person in the train carriage your on, but you're the only person speaking English. Or that a single white female (lolz) who wants to leave home due to personal reasons cannot not even put a deposit donw, but buy outright, a flat in the new housing block, as these have been made for 'ethnic minorities' only, when you live in one of the most diverse areas, and are in essence the minority anyway.

Times like this, I'm always reminded of the closing lyrics of a song I forget the band of, that goes something like;

The slave always starts desiring justice, but ends wanting to wear the crown. ;)

Let's see if this helps the discussion kick off any. ;)

QBsutekh137 March 20 2012 11:31 AM EDT

"The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently."

Not a bad summation, Xeno!

That article I mentioned most recently above even goes a step further than that: How do we instruct our children at all, and when is silence actually worse than actual discussion (and what form should that discussion take)? Because your quote is exceedingly accurate -- if we could only figure out how to best implement said non-instruction!

QBsutekh137 March 20 2012 11:35 AM EDT

The slave always starts desiring justice, but ends wanting to wear the crown. ;)

Very true!

So, GL, living in a diverse area, did your folks actively talk about race or did they play the "silence" card, thinking it better to just let the environment mold you? I ask because that is the main thrust of the article I linked above...

AdminQBGentlemanLoser [{END}] March 20 2012 11:40 AM EDT

Heck no! Never *any* silence. Education was the key. The first moment I asked about reproduction, I was sat down and it was discussed in detail.

Nothing witheld, no prudishness. All part of my education.

I'm sure there were the little 'lies to children' (as Terry Pratchet named them), but as I grew older, and more understanding, so did the explainations and my education.

AdminQBGentlemanLoser [{END}] March 20 2012 11:43 AM EDT

Missed the point about environment.

If I was left to the environment, I would be totally different to today. In a worse way. Close minded, biggoted.

One of the better things about parental envolvement is saftey.

My grandparents used to be publicans. I grew up aorund alcohol. It wasn't a taboo, or withheld. I was educated about it, and given alcohol in moderation to experience in the saftey of my family.

Rather than sitting on a street corner with a bottle of Super T. Not that I didn't do that anyway, but that was out of an educated choice. ;)

Hmmm, not sure I'm getting this over well.

QBsutekh137 March 20 2012 11:57 AM EDT

No, you're getting the point across fine -- active discussion as opposed to vague platitude like "everyone is equal" or basic silence, thinking the best "color blindness" is to never talk about it (even though babies as young as six months are already noticing differences and will gladly work out what is going on in a vacuum...)

A funny bit from the article:

============
To be effective, researchers have found, conversations about race have to be explicit, in unmistakable terms that children understand. A friend of mine repeatedly told her 5-year-old son, "Remember, everybody's equal." She thought she was getting the message across. Finally, after seven months of this, her boy asked, "Mommy, what's 'equal' mean?"
============

I found it funny, anyway, I guess it really isn't all that comedic...

QBRanger March 20 2012 12:10 PM EDT

I would love to debate this but when someone calls you racist, it is impossible to have a fruitful discussion. Yes, Sut, you never ever called me racist, but the person who did likely will chime in when I post with other outlandish accusations and comments.

Therefore silence from me will be the best.

However, if you really wish to debate this or get my answers, PM would be best.

QBsutekh137 March 20 2012 12:27 PM EDT

Ranger,

Not even sure what you are referring to in terms of the racism stuff (and I don't know who you are talking about), but I appreciate the PM you sent me -- good stuff! I'd love for you to go ahead and post here, but am totally cool it you do not wish to.

I am going to go check out that news web site you mentioned in the PM. I don't generally go for any sort of aggregator like that, but I think this is a case where I need to make an exception!

QBRanger March 20 2012 12:30 PM EDT

FawkesNoose March 18 1:32 AM EDT post in the Do Liberals think this way thread.

There is your racism card played.

Xenogard [Chaotic Serenity] March 20 2012 12:33 PM EDT

That article I mentioned most recently above even goes a step further than that: How do we instruct our children at all, and when is silence actually worse than actual discussion (and what form should that discussion take)? Because your quote is exceedingly accurate -- if we could only figure out how to best implement said non-instruction!

Oh boy, that's a multi-part question that I honestly feel has no real answer, as there are too many factors involved to give one concise answer to begin with.

If you are asking my personal opinion, from a parents perspective (not actually being a parent myself), I'd hopefully teach them to be like myself and better in many ways. Teach them to be open minded, to thirst for knowledge, to see things from all angles, to ask questions and seek answers.

I honestly couldn't tell you any more then that because I don't even know how I got this way really, I'm a far shot from my parents. They are both very religious people (whom I disagree with quite often) but they taught me to be a good person and to treat others how I would like to be treated. That stuck with me for my life and helped shape me into who I am today, because I see it not in a religious sense, but as common sense. I can only hope my kids and further generations would feel the same.

Or maybe I'm just being more hopeful today, rather then my typical cynical sarcastic self.

QBRanger March 20 2012 12:34 PM EDT

I will not post what I sent to Sut, however the website I mentioned that has both liberal and conservative and neutral articles is:

www.realclearpolitics.com

QBsutekh137 March 20 2012 12:42 PM EDT

Xeno, my folks are also quite religious (Catholic), and while the ship of our differences has long since sailed, we still disagree on a lot of things. I did learn the things you mention, though, from them, parochial school, and life on the farm: consistency, respect, critical thinking, logic...

It's funny, at this point I've ended up being more tolerant than them, telling me what a large role religion has to play in things. Take, for example, gay marriage. I know my folks are against it due to their religion. How do I know? Because overall they taught me that everyone should be able to do what they want -- independence. Yet when it comes to the word "marriage", they trumpet the Biblical horn as opposed to just following the example they set out for me on most everything else.

In summary, I am liking your idea of: teach the kids as oneself, but better. I tell my wife that I think our daughter is going to turn out fine as long as we just be ourselves, especially if we can quell some of our nastier bits. That also highlights one of the teaching methods I have always believed in: teaching/leading by example.

Rubberduck[T] [Hell Blenders] March 20 2012 1:38 PM EDT

I am almost painfully aware of the limits of my perspective(s) and ever try to improve its validity. (maybe not the impression given when you read some of my posts ;))

Dunno how I recognize cognitive bias in myself really, once you accept their existence it kind of becomes obvious. In others this is more difficult depending on how well you know them.

Don't have any 5 step plan for combatting them, knowing that whatever you think is wrong, there is always a more valid perspective helps.

nurture

I mostly read books/watch documentaries, if you wish to way up the bias therein it can be difficult you need to research the writer/filmaker then look at any criticism available then you need to research the critic's bias etc etc.

AdminQBGentlemanLoser [{END}] March 20 2012 1:49 PM EDT

I've used, and will use silence as part of Emma's education.

But it's a tool, and should be used when, well, it should be used. ;)

Silence is a method of allowing your child to stand on thier own two feet, and make thier own choices.

For example (a quite basic one!), when Emma first started bringing homework books home to read, we would read a sentence first, then emma would follow.

Now, we're silent, and Emma reads them on her own. We chime in only when she's in difficulty, and do things like sound the letters out to see if she can form the word herself.

Silence is a useful tool. But just a tool.

Back to myself, I went to university in the gay capital of England (Brighton) and loved it! Never selfconcious, never judgemental. I got propositioned a couple of times (which was an ego boost!) but as long as they were aware it wasn't my thing, and left it at that, it was all good. ;)

Emma's already talking about babies (she has two kittens in her tummy) and marriage, and I've let her know it's fine for her to marry a boy (boys at her age luckily don't interest her, apart from a cloe friend she has, that want's to marry her in turn!) or for her to marry a girl. Or not get married at all.

And the choice will be hers.

I'll try to read those articles tonight, and hopefully hunt out that experiement I was thinking about above.

AdminQBGentlemanLoser [{END}] March 20 2012 1:52 PM EDT

That also highlights one of the teaching methods I have always believed in: teaching/leading by example.

My dad was religous about "Do as I say, not as I do". Now, I think he realised he couldn't fix his flaws, and tried to not let us fall into the same pattern.

We probably have though. ;)

I'm a lot more, humble, than my Dad is (was?), and don't present myself as an omniscient, perfect god to my children.

Which I think is a good thing. ;)

QBsutekh137 March 20 2012 1:54 PM EDT

this thread is rapidly becoming much more essential reading than the articles, at least if I assume one already knows the basics of cognitive bias.

I also assume most everyone (at least the folks so far on this thread) know full well about the Stanford Prison Experiment. If not, I'd suggest starting there!

Rubberduck[T] [Hell Blenders] March 20 2012 2:04 PM EDT

One thing I have always struggled with is conveying the correct degree of irony in my statements (in conversation).

Eg I might have competing perspectives on something and mean what I say maybe 70% and mean the opposite (or something like opposite) 30%.
Murky stuff :)

QBsutekh137 March 20 2012 2:05 PM EDT

Oh man, great! Bring linguistics and communication into the whole perception arena. We're screwed. *smile*

AdminQBGentlemanLoser [{END}] March 20 2012 2:07 PM EDT

Uh oh, not sure if I suffer from a Bias blind spot now. ;)

I do not suffer from;

Normalcy bias ヨ the refusal to plan for, or react to, a disaster which has never happened before.

I've planned for a Zombie Apocalypse! ;)

Another thing I think I should add is that I feel my childhood as an actor, and my ongoing love of role playing games, has allowed me vast opportuinty to not only think about how someone else would feel, but to act it out, by placing myself in thier shoes.

If you can empahise with/understand someone else to such an extent you can portray them accurately (even for people you have created), your ability to view situations from viewpoints other than your own is honed.

To be honest, I tihnk we all suffer from some/most of the cognative biases one time or another.

Is there anyone who can say they've *never* suffered buyer remores, or fallen foul to

Post-purchase rationalization ヨ the tendency to persuade oneself through rational argument that a purchase was a good value.

;)

DERPA [Red Permanent Assurance] March 21 2012 2:11 AM EDT

/me huggles sut

Wise March 21 2012 7:02 AM EDT

I believe bias is nothing more than a defense mechanism. We use it to rapidly make decisions based on past experience or information.

For instance, if I'm walking down the street at night with my wife and a group of men approach not dressed in suits or otherwise don't look high class, then I take action to avoid them.

I have made several snap decisions based on bias. First, I judge them because they are men and I happen to be a male myself so I know a thing or two about how they think. Secondly, I judge them by their clothes because I've never been mugged by men in suits and I have been mugged by men dressed casually. I also work in the legal field and see how dangerous people tend to dress. Further, I've read and seen enough news to believe that the less classy somebody dresses, the more likely they are to be dangerous.

Now those men have done nothing and might not do anything, but I have already judged them and acted on that judgment - solely based on my bias.

I see a place for bias when we need to make quick decisions.

The more insidious and less clear area for use of bias is when we don't need to make quick decisions, but do not want to spend the time to make a more informed decision. In that case, it's more about opportunity cost. Do we want to spend the time making a more informed decision or spend that time another way? It's simply easier to have a bias then to examine each situation in detail. Actually, I believe it's necessary because we simply don't have the time to constantly analyze each decision we make. Plus, it's inefficient.

It boils down to the fact that life is unfair and we have to deal with it.

QBsutekh137 March 21 2012 9:29 AM EDT

While I don't necessarily agree with the final-line redux, Wise (I don't think "fairness" has anything to do with how our organic brains work...), I think your thoughts on bias are dead-on.

Schemas and discrimination (by that I mean the simple ability to tell the differences between things), automatically lead to worn paths in the mind -- biases. There is too much world to take in and too much that needs to be done to survive for animals (including humans) NOT to have developed such pathways. To tell poisonous plants from food, to read the skies for weather signs, to know where enemies are -- as Wise puts it: to recognize dangers.

I really like your point about speed versus slower deliberation. That's where we got to in our stereotyping class, too; realizing the need to slow down in some situations (non-dangerous ones) in order to a) recognize biases, b) decide whether the biases were necessary to process the issue (as opposed to letting it play out situationally), and c) proceed.

There's a big difference between between being wary of a shifty-eyes character on the street vs. disregarding a black applicant for a job out of hand, in other words.

DERPA [Red Permanent Assurance] March 21 2012 9:42 AM EDT

I believe bias is nothing more than a defense mechanism.
Forgot the nearby alley and Old Navy hoodie. That's all well and good for hoodlum fear. Can't blame you if conditions call for caution. Advocating general bias with one over used standby can't sit well so here we go with the bigger problem. Once we hold a bias we often teach that to someone such as a child. Stereotyping makes for narrow minded routines that serve no greater purpose than convenience and separation. Say you unknowingly taught your kid to fear anyone in an Old Navy hoodie, good for you, but what happens when presented the conflict of a close friend in a hoodie? The child would detest hoodie friend wouldn't he as it's a defense mechanism. After a brief fit might drop the habit, but fairly unlikely, as it's been part of his value system for years. Boy bands wear hoodies. You hate boy bands. Then your kid hates boy bands with hoodies, excellent parenting, but it's not cool to hate a group based on appearances. We're still trying to overcome some historical bias. Looking at you Queer Eye. Doesn't help that one bias leads to another much like potato chips. One could say we as Americans have become more isolated and depressed because of fear. Eg. credit theft, swine flu scares, downtown, and boy bands. Fear from certain places follows. Kid now fears malls, schools, big city living, all joyous groups of men, and information technology. Fear so often develops to hate. Now your kid is 40, fat, eating chips in a wifebeater, hating the world, and snarling at his teenage son for wearing a hoodie. With a pocket of stolen credit cards and eyeliner.
Funhouse premise aside. If a bias was good, parents would teach so without guilt, and hopefully not use that one in a million dark alley. That one is turning stranger danger. As unfair as life is there isn't a good point to be made limiting our decision making abilities if they in fact limit us collectively. Personal and otherwise. The evils of street nomads gets a pass for now. :P Be well.

AdminQBGentlemanLoser [{END}] March 21 2012 9:43 AM EDT

Schemas and discrimination (by that I mean the simple ability to tell the differences between things), automatically lead to worn paths in the mind -- biases

Biases, or memory?

Is there a difference?

;)

AdminQBGentlemanLoser [{END}] March 21 2012 9:46 AM EDT

Boy bands wear hoodies. You hate boy bands. Then your kid hates boy bands with hoodies

I'm not sure it's that clear cut.

As long as you allow your child room to breath and develop on thier own.

I like scrambled eggs, therefore Emma should like scrambled eggs. She doesn't.

Claire doens't like putting her face underwater while swimming, therefore Emma shouldn't like it either, but she's now diving to the bottom of the pool and acting like she lives underwater.

DERPA [Red Permanent Assurance] March 21 2012 9:53 AM EDT

That long rant was basically nurtured hate satire. Don't read that far into things when boy bands are involved. ;)

AdminQBGentlemanLoser [{END}] March 21 2012 9:58 AM EDT

Is there a boy band hatred bias? ;)

AdminTitan March 21 2012 10:00 AM EDT

Is there a boy band hatred bias?

Yes, I'm currently suffering from this illness.

QBsutekh137 March 21 2012 10:01 AM EDT

I think straight memory and biases are two different things, yes. A raw memory is just that, a memory (though I am certain the biases are already intertwined as the memory is "saved", unlike, say, a computer memory), while the biases are the heuristics that surrounded the memory as it was originally perceived, how it is saved, and what attributions go with it (that appear when the memory is read back).

For example, a raw memory, as a computer would store and recall it, could be a portrait of little Billy as he sees the C- on his penmanship test. The memory would see the teacher's comments about how he needs to be less sloppy. As Billy stores this memory, however, let's say he attaches a "not important anyway" attribute to it. As he recalls this memory, then, he might not feel negative about the bad grade, because, hey, as he recalls it, penmanship is no big deal, so *shrug*.

Then, after a series of C- penmanship grades, Billy does try a little harder, practices more, and gets a B on the next test. The raw memory is similar, just replace the C- with a B. BUT, how will Billy attribute this upward grade tick? Will he remember that it was hard work that got him the B? Will he think he was just lucky? Will he still think it doesn't matter, so what?

I think that is why attribution theory intrigues me and gives me shivers at the same time, because it is a construct where the biases meet the mental storage (I guess that is true of all cognitive biases, I suppose). And that is where very long-term habits, definitely the "old dog" variety come from -- where memory and bias become one.

AdminQBGentlemanLoser [{END}] March 21 2012 10:07 AM EDT

Brilliant assessment Sute! :D

Now, can you go back and rewrite/update old memories with different biases? ;)

QBsutekh137 March 21 2012 10:20 AM EDT

Now, can you go back and rewrite/update old memories with different biases? ;)

I believe yes, and I think there HAVE been studies on that with fairly empirical results (though I'm not sure how practical the results are, since testing such real-world, long-term things is damn hard.)

In any case, it would take a long time, and the new biases would have to be very strong. That's why things like stress and trauma can make certain things more vivid. Don't forget how difficult it is to change biases -- they are self-defending. Again, back to attribution theory. If I am a die-hard bigot, but through some sort of dramatic event (think "Defiant Ones" in terms of scale) I become close friends with a black man, I'm STILL going to get screwed by my biases when my brain takes that new relationships and stores it away with the tag "well, he just must be one of the good ones."

I like movies and books that really get into how hard it is to break molds, not going for the cheesy happy ending where everyone overcomes decades of biases in a 90-minute film. I don't mind a happy ending, I like to feel good as much as the next guy, but when turnarounds are that silly it is worse than the silent void we talked about earlier, giving people the wrong impression of how difficult things are (and why).

DERPA [Red Permanent Assurance] March 21 2012 10:36 AM EDT

You covered what I missed with the hoodie friend! Thanks.
Will give a big yes as a bias can crumble and reinstated quite casually. False memories, new matrix, didn't age well. The Kelley Model linked could help understand this I guess.

AdminQBGentlemanLoser [{END}] March 21 2012 10:57 AM EDT

I like movies and books that really get into how hard it is to break molds, not going for the cheesy happy ending where everyone overcomes decades of biases in a 90-minute film. I don't mind a happy ending, I like to feel good as much as the next guy, but when turnarounds are that silly it is worse than the silent void we talked about earlier, giving people the wrong impression of how difficult things are (and why).

Have you seen Jackie Chans 'Little Big Soldier'? If not, it's worth a watch!

QBsutekh137 March 21 2012 11:48 AM EDT

really? A Jackie Chan movie tackling onerous bits of social messiness? I'll DEFINITELY have to take a look!

Lord Bob March 21 2012 1:07 PM EDT

Is there a boy band hatred bias?
Yes, I'm currently suffering from this illness.
Same.

I did not read the whole thread, since I've been very short on time over the last few days. I'll talk about what I know about my biases though.

When it comes to the debates we have here, I fully admit I'm as biased as can be. I never claimed to be anything else. I'm a liberal atheist, and my posts are written from that point of view. I believe one side is correct, and the other side is wrong, generally speaking (on a few issues I switch sides, or defy the left/right axis). I do not hide behind a false shield of neutrality.

However, I actively look for signs that my bias may have an influence on the way I read an article, or look for information, and take steps to correct that. I also try my best to look at issues from both perspectives before taking a stand. For example, a few weeks ago I requested a conservative view point on an issue related to health care. I had the liberal perspective, but didn't want to just blindly accept that without knowing both sides of the issue and making an informed opinion. Unfortunately I never got a proper conservative response.

And while I find most conservative commentators revolting because they prefer liberal bashing to serious debate, when an intelligent, respectful conservative does offer a good argument I enjoy listening.

QBsutekh137 March 21 2012 1:21 PM EDT

Thanks for weighing in, LB!

I'd like to point out, though, that there is a difference between cognitive bias and simply having a strong opinion (and unabashedly fighting for it).

Strong conviction does NOT necessarily indicate a strong surrender to bias or subsequently-related behaviors. Just as an outwardly neutral tone does NOT indicate lack of cognitive bias. That's what often makes such forced "please no conflict!" neutrality so irritating to me (and you, I imagine...)

AdminTitan March 21 2012 1:22 PM EDT

A question just came to mind. Do you think it's able to have no subconscious biases?

Lord Bob March 21 2012 1:26 PM EDT

I'd like to point out, though, that there is a difference between cognitive bias and simply having a strong opinion
Well, I did say I didn't read the thread. *grin*

I'm not even sure if I was on topic or not. I saw the word "bias" and thought I'd talk about that and how it pertains to me for a bit.

QBsutekh137 March 21 2012 1:40 PM EDT

LB, it's definitely about discourse, so anything you felt like sharing is great, and was thought-provoking. Can't read every article or post, to be sure.

Titan wrote:
A question just came to mind. Do you think it's able to have no subconscious biases?

I think a word fell out here, but do you mean can a person act without bias affecting him/her? You'll need to define "subconscious", I think.

If by "subconscious" you mean are there things happening we might not be aware of without (sometimes strenuous) self analysis? Without question (well, at least in my opinion). Biases/heuristics are how we think, how we segment problems, how we act fast (see Wise's post further up). So they run "animal" deep.

If, however, you mean subconscious as "reflexive", in that no matter what we do or how hard we look inside ourselves we cannot change the outcome of our behavior, I don't think so. In fact, I would say that is what this whole thread is discussing: how do we recognize biases so that our behavior is NOT merely reflexive. In essence, you've brought up an intriguing addition to the equation: responsibility. Because if we recognize bias only to the point of saying, "Welp, there it is, that's why we act the way we do, nothing can be done. We're all just in one big Stanford Prison Experiment," we not only let biases "win" the outcome, we let them win the whole war by not even taking responsibility for our actions.

Not saying you meant the question to mean one thing or the other, both, or neither, it just got some thoughts rolling. *smile*

AdminTitan March 21 2012 1:58 PM EDT

I mean, like, some people are racist, without really knowing they're racist. Others towards certain religions, and other groups. Some people have these biases yet are conscious of them. They are full aware they think a certain way about a certain group, and choose to do so for some set of reasons. I was asking if you thought that it was possible to have no biases that are without reason, or unaware to the person with the bias.

QBsutekh137 March 21 2012 2:12 PM EDT

I mean, like, some people are racist, without really knowing they're racist. Others towards certain religions, and other groups. Some people have these biases yet are conscious of them. They are full aware they think a certain way about a certain group, and choose to do so for some set of reasons. I was asking if you thought that it was possible to have no biases that are without reason, or unaware to the person with the bias.

Being fully aware of not liking someone, or a group, would not necessarily be a bias, in my opinion. That's a full on decision/thought/behavior. If someone punches me and I don't like that person, I know why, and it isn't based on a bias. If I hate a black man I have never met and has never done anything to me, then I must have been taught that hate (so yeah, biases enter into that). I am not sure what levels of "awareness" you are referring to. I might know HOW I am a bigot (like, say, because my father was a bigot), but that doesn't really explain the WHY reasoning behind the hate (because there isn't any _real_ reason).

More on "reason"... it doesn't always take a source reason to have a bias other than the super-basic "in-group" concept. That's where we started in our stereotyping class. Just being part of a group will create inherent biases, foundational one upon which many other biases propagate. For example, even something like "post-purchase" bias, where one convinces oneself got good value goes back to "in-group" thinking. Sure, the "in" group only has one person, yourself, but that is why you think you got a good deal -- because YOU made the purpose for your own group, so it must be good.

Not sure I have mentioned anything relevant -- I'm still not fully sure I'm understanding what you are referring to... *smile*

QBBast [Hidden Agenda] March 21 2012 8:34 PM EDT

Find the study with the fabulously-fun, full color, real time brain scans, wherein people shown faces of a like race recognize them as "faces" of "people", while people shown faces of another race see "objects". This is a cognitive bias of which people are likely unaware. How easy is it to objectify/dehumanize the Other? That easy.


Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon? Way more fun than simple pattern prejudice. (Now that the RAF has worked into this thread we're halfway home!)

QBsutekh137 March 21 2012 10:29 PM EDT

If we got Bast to post, wow. Bast is a big part of my knowledge and meta-knowledge (how I've learned), and won't be forgotten for that...

What is the RAF, in this case? Post links! *smile*

QBBast [Hidden Agenda] March 22 2012 3:24 AM EDT

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Army_Faction

So, for the word "think" in the subject, I mean the actual process of thinking.

Thinking as in ruminating? Problem solving? Decision making ... Before or after the Blink?

QBsutekh137 March 22 2012 9:04 AM EDT

Aren't all those types of "thinking" the same (in process)? I guess I mean all of them, and biases do affect everything from making a decision, to working through a problem, to simply day-dreaming. There's no way around them -- in that sense they ARE thought and memory. Process is that closely linked to result. That's my opinion, anyway.

Gotta go check out that link!

QBBast [Hidden Agenda] March 22 2012 9:26 AM EDT


Know your motivation!

While ruminating one can choose to "account for" one's known biases. Did I dislike the movie because I have a weird antipathy for blondes and it featured two? Hmm ... no, I think even if it had been George instead of Brad, it still would have sucked. So, it's not just my bias against blondes informing my opinion. I'm satisfied by my mental investigation of my own fairness.

While making the 399,485 decisions o' the day? Nope. I may consciously get over my bias against verticality and, therefore, get out of bed. But which sock to put on first? Right bias wins. I'm not putting in the mental analysis on that one and making an effort to be fair by doing the left first on T, Th, Sat.

Deciding which of two candidates to hire? I have to be careful about being "equal opportunity". Fine. But I just flat out like working with men better. Do I have to be all "fair" about that? It's not a bias against women. I have no opinion about any particular difficulty that "all women" have with being professional. But still ... men are more fun. Is this a bias I have to "account for" by making sure at least one out of every three hires is a woman? Booooooo.

Is it true that my brain is hardwired to give preference to "my group"? What's the definition of "my group"? Same gender? Same race? Same height? Same affinity for going commando? Am I obligated to account for all my known biases? And overcome them? When it affects others! Okay, so my jingoism-influenced preference for "buying American" negatively impacts international trade. Should I overcome my bias and try to buy imports at least 50% of the time? Or should I go with "anything costing more than $40 should be American but I will buy meaningless cheap stuff from the Laotians"?

Can I give that up in the face of the insurmountable unknown bias? Well, can't cure it all so why bother?

AdminQBGentlemanLoser [{END}] March 22 2012 10:12 AM EDT

But which sock to put on first? Right bias wins.

O_O

I have that... Didn't even realise it was a cognative bias...

Same affinity for going commando?

I am equally excited, and embarrassed, by this bias. ;)

QBsutekh137 March 22 2012 10:25 AM EDT

Certainly it is important to know your motivation, I suppose. But how does anything on your list really differ from anything else? They are all thought processes, with results, and they all involve biases.

So I'm still confused as to why a discussion of cognitive bias cares, fundamentally, whether that cognition refers to hiring someone or deciding how many stars to give a movie. Indeed, the results of those two scenarios are vastly different, but the thinking is still thinking.

AdminQBGentlemanLoser [{END}] March 22 2012 11:28 AM EDT

I think I'm slightly less interested by the discussion of bias in general, once we accept that everything we store, or every decision we make, is influenced by our bias in some fashion.

Even if it's just to re-evaluate whether we're applying a bias or not.

This event is being stored/this decision is being made with bias 'a' applied. This one has no bias. This one has bias b.

OK.

The discussion surrounding nature/nurture is more interesting to me. ;)

Actually identifing specific biases is quite interesting as well. ;) But I feel this will also petre off as well, as it seems the list of potential biases is non exahustive, and we can consider just about any influence on us a basis for cognative bias.

But, this ties in nicely with an old discussion I had aobut free will, and you can never really express free will unless your actions are totally random, due to outside influence (or now cognative bias). But then if *all* your actions are totally random, that's just another influence working agianst your 'free will'. ;)

QBsutekh137 March 22 2012 12:33 PM EDT

Then go start your own thread. :P

QBBast [Hidden Agenda] March 22 2012 9:04 PM EDT

Huffily: Do you _always_ know why you do things?
Nonplussed: Doesn't everyone?
My, how we've grown!

Aren't all those types of "thinking" the same (in process)?

In process, as in they all happen in the parts of the brain that came last. But not in effect.

And that's the point of my question. Let's assume that researching and naming biases isn't done merely "to satisfy human curiosity" but instead that we (humans) are supposed to do something with the knowledge.

e.g. Someone figured out something about gender bias and it became a thing and then we decided as a society (apologies in advance to all those who still think their women should stay at home, as well as to those who wish they lived with someone who still thinks so) that gender bias was all nonsense and that women, given the opportunity, could do manwork. And we had to make rules to combat gender bias and people had to follow them and ... voila ... now I don't get to fill my days with shopping and baking and yoga and pedicures.

So all this bias knowledge tends to come with obligation. The obligation inherent in the question:

Once recognized, what do you do in order to combat the effects of cognitive bias?

I start by distinguishing between types of thought. (I know lots and lots and lots of them, so I am seriously overburdened by this obligation.) Ruminating, yes. Deliberate, conscious decision making, yes. Pre-Blink decisions, no.

Then on to further effect. Will my ruminating lead to a decision or action with what degree of negative impact on how many? Now I have to account for Me Bias: ... with what degree of negative impact to me, then to mine, then to others, then to quantity of others. And my Values Biases regarding the definition of "negative impact". And I have to consider whether some viable options in my decision making were struck "thoughtlessly" from the list by my bias toward efficiency (will x action take what other people think is a moderate amount of time or effort, but to me is a waste?), my bias against verticality (if I can't do it from bed, it's already facing a 75% negative evaluation on my Cost-Benefit Analysis), my bias against blondes (will x action require a trip to Sweden?).

Next step is We All Thinking, otherwise boringly referred to as public policy. Now that We All Think y, We All Act z. So, once we all agree that those people espousing (constantly, with vigor and vitriol) their short-sighted, self-centered, personally aggrandizing nonsensical biases make bad parents, can we take his kids away? Since most of us have an unwarranted bias toward "our" Democracy, but most don't know what that means, do we or don't we? Some people operate under the delusion that our Democracy is based on the Majority Vote Wins Principle. So, yes! But this is where my bias against stupid people means I have to stand with the arrogantly self-righteous and let them keep their children. So, no.

You see I am obligated to a lot mental combativeness by all this bias knowledge.

But but but. If I have overcome my Me Bias and can truly decide the above based on "best outcome for my whole society, maybe the whole human race", then maybe I vote to take his kids. It would be better for all of us if future members of my society didn't grow up in that environment. And we arrive at Nurture.

But that assumes I have conquered my baser biases. Like those people who selflessly set themselves alight so that their societies can focus on some negative thing that needs addressing. Or those who have so expanded their definition of "We" that they don't eat any living thing because it would be wrong, and instead subsist on sand and naturally dead water.

But I haven't because I'm unwilling. Takes too much thought.

So I'm stuck with letting raving Republicans keep their offspring. And it gives me a headache.

Perhaps it would be better for us all to remain ignorant of bias, and our biases. But then We All would still think slavery was a-okay. And I'd have an excuse to wear corsets and panniers for everydaywear.

Nature vs. nurture? Poo to you, GL. It gets fun when you conclude that any/some/all are natural. Because ... what then? Carte blanche with the "It's not my fault, that's how my brain was built!"? If they're inherent, are we still obligated to combat their effects? Have we done all this work determining and labeling each and every bias only to conclude that it doesn't matter and we wasted a few hundred years? We can go back to slavery because human ideals are silly in the face of good solid neurobiology?

I am equally excited, and embarrassed, by this bias. ;)

Yes, well. Very difficult to build a team based on this. Requires a lot of accidentally dropping hankies on the way in to and out of interviews.

QBBast [Hidden Agenda] March 22 2012 9:22 PM EDT

I have that... Didn't even realise it was a cognative bias...

I'm playing loose with the definition. To be fair:

Is "handedness" a bias built into your brain? Or learned function that effectively becomes a cognitive bias?

Surely you don't start with the right every day out of muscle memory? Too complex. And not enough repetition.

So, is it habit? How did it become a habit? When does a habit become a bias?

Is it something you do "unconsciously"? Your brain did the 30 or so calculations necessary to arrive at "Nope, doin' it the same way again today!" Now that you know, are you obligated to mentally interrogate every one of them every morning?

No? Why no? Because it's "unimportant"? Man up! Join the combat!

QBsutekh137 March 22 2012 11:49 PM EDT

You had me at:

Or those who have so expanded their definition of "We" that they don't eat any living thing because it would be wrong, and instead subsist on sand and naturally dead water.

*smile*

(you really must start free-lance writing, if you haven't already...)

I'm not sure about half of what you said, but I think I get it. I understand the layers. They're just layers. It's a complicated equation, to be sure, and it doesn't take much complication to be non-rote solvable. The "three-body problem" is still something that can't be elegantly hard-copied onto a Physics 101 chalkboard but can be trivially conquered via numerical (iterative) computer analysis. Computers don't get...caught up.

That iterative analysis, though, is the bit-cah. And I appreciate the near stream-of-consciousness attention you've paid it, Bast. *smile*

Yes, there are degrees to which we decide:

-- how much the biases could affect the decision.
-- the magnitude of those effects.
-- who the effects affect
-- how then to proceed

It's still the same process though, and it still results in cause-->effect. It's still:

f(x) = y

even if it is:

f(a,b,c,......z) = godknowswhat.

Does it become so complicated and headache-inducing so as to be not even worth the endeavor of discussing the meta concepts involved? I suppose. But you did post. Five times.

That's got to be worth something. *smile*
This thread is closed to new posts. However, you are welcome to reference it from a new thread; link this with the html <a href="/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=003HnD">Do humans really think this way?</a>