Sunday, April 24, 2011

Reasoning & Rationalising, Dis/Confirmation Bias, Denial

via Ritter Phirrup who was reading about the Miami Heat (his basketball team) on the Miami Herald, and the piece linked to this article on dis/confirmation bias, relating to the most recent conversation (on the usual subject) of why we believe ourselves to be better than others, or why we delude ourselves into certain ways of thinking and why it's so hard to change ways of thinking.

"The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science" — By Chris Mooney
Mon Apr. 18, 2011 3:00 AM PDT

"... when we think we're reasoning, we may instead be rationalizing. Or to use an analogy offered by University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt: We may think we're being scientists, but we're actually being lawyers (PDF). Our "reasoning" is a means to a predetermined end—winning our "case"—and is shot through with biases. They include "confirmation bias," in which we give greater heed to evidence and arguments that bolster our beliefs, and "disconfirmation bias," in which we expend disproportionate energy trying to debunk or refute views and arguments that we find uncongenial.

That's a lot of jargon, but we all understand these mechanisms when it comes to interpersonal relationships. If I don't want to believe that my spouse is being unfaithful, or that my child is a bully, I can go to great lengths to explain away behavior that seems obvious to everybody else—everybody who isn't too emotionally invested to accept it, anyway. That's not to suggest that we aren't also motivated to perceive the world accurately—we are. Or that we never change our minds—we do. It's just that we have other important goals besides accuracy—including identity affirmation and protecting one's sense of self—and often those make us highly resistant to changing our beliefs when the facts say we should."

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