Friday, April 13, 2012

Pondering Confirmation Bias

Defeating confirmation bias is straightforward. At first, I needed a little acting skill, but I found it generally useful to be able to choose beliefs rather than have them forced on me. I can choose the rational choice if I want to be rational, but I don't have to.

There's a reflex response to having a belief, and it is rationalizing it. A key point is that the rationalization process is generally honest, it doesn't just invent fantasy reasons. But, since it is for justifying decisions rhetorically, not rationally, it doesn't bother with the other side, which is useless for its purposes. (If you can think of a way to be more convincing by presenting evidence against the desired conclusion, please let me know. I'm the only one I can safely say is impressed by such acts.)

But nothing prevents using the reflex on two opposing beliefs. Or three, for that matter. By pretending to honestly adopt the opposing view, I get the best opposing rationalizations I can muster, and then I can compare them.

The fact I don't have to adopt either belief makes this even easier. My subconscious fears convincing me of things it thinks are wrong, and will balk at providing rationalizations it thinks are dangerous. Changing my belief-adoption process made almost none of them dangerous. (They still come tagged as suspicious, though.)

The method doesn't have to stop at simply defeating confirmation bias, however. It can be used to fully explore another perspective - to go beyond the objections presented, and possibly learn something.

I suppose for my next trick I need to learn to hold two perspectives in mind at once. As of now, to fully explore multiple perspectives on an article, I'd have to read it multiple times.

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