Nov 06 2014

Lessons from Dunning-Kruger

In 1999 psychologist David Dunning and his graduate student Justin Kruger published a paper in which they describe what has come to be known (appropriately) as the Dunning-Kruger effect.  In a recent article discussing his now famous paper, Dunning summarizes the effect as:

“…incompetent people do not recognize—scratch that, cannot recognize—just how incompetent they are,”

He further explains:

“What’s curious is that, in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.”

As you can see in the chart above, the most competent individuals tend to underestimate their relative ability a little, but for most people (the bottom 75%) they increasingly overestimate their ability, and everyone thinks they are above average. I sometimes hear the effect incorrectly described as, “the more incompetent you are, the more knowledgeable you think you are.” As you can see, self-estimates do decrease with decreasing knowledge, but the gap between performance and self-assessment increase as you decrease in performance.

The Dunning-Kruger effect has now been documented in many studies involving many areas. There are several possible causes of the effect. One is simple ego – no one wants to think of themselves as below average, so they inflate their self-assessment. People also have an easier time recognizing ignorance in others than in themselves, and this will create the illusion that they are above average, even when they are in the single digits of percentile.

The core of the effect, however, seems to be what Dunning describes – ignorance carries with it the inability to accurately assess one’s own ignorance. Dunning also points out something that rings true to this veteran skeptic:

An ignorant mind is precisely not a spotless, empty vessel, but one that’s filled with the clutter of irrelevant or misleading life experiences, theories, facts, intuitions, strategies, algorithms, heuristics, metaphors, and hunches that regrettably have the look and feel of useful and accurate knowledge. 

This accurately describes  the people I confront daily with unscientific or unsupported beliefs. Just read the comments on the SGU’s Facebook page and you will quickly be subject to the full force of Dunning-Kruger.

What I think Dunning is describing above, a conclusion with which I completely agree, are the various components of confirmation bias. As we try to make sense of the world we work with our existing knowledge and paradigms, we formulate ideas and then systematically seek out information that confirms those ideas. We dismiss contrary information as exceptions. We interpret ambiguous experiences in line with our theories. We remember and then our memories tweak any experience that seems to confirm what we believe.

In the end we are left with a powerful sense of knowledge – false knowledge. Confirmation bias leads to a high level of confidence, we feel we are right in our gut. And when confronted with someone saying we are wrong, or promoting an alternate view, some people become hostile.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is not just a curiosity of psychology, it touches on a critical aspect of the default mode of human thought, and a major flaw in our thinking. It also applies to everyone – we are all at various places on that curve with respect to different areas of knowledge. You may be an expert in some things, and competent in others, but will also be toward the bottom of the curve in some areas of knowledge.

Admit it – probably up to this point in this article you were imagining yourself in the upper half of that curve, and inwardly smirking at the poor rubes in the bottom half. But we are all in the bottom half some of the time. The Dunning-Kruger effect does not just apply to other people – it applies to everyone.

This pattern, however, is just the default-mode, it is not destiny. Part of skeptical philosophy, metacognition, and critical thinking is the recognition that we all suffer from powerful and subtle cognitive biases. We have to both recognize them and make a conscious effort to work against them, realizing that this is an endless process.

Part of the way to do this is to systematically doubt ourselves. We need to substitute a logical and scientific process for the one Dunning describes above. We need to cultivate what I call “neuropsychological humility.”

As an illuminating example, I am involved in medical student and resident education. The Dunning-Kruger effect is in clear view in this context as well, but with some interesting differences. At a recent review, for example, every new resident felt that they were below average for their class. Being thrown into a profession where your knowledge is constantly being tested and evaluated, partly because knowledge is being directly translated into specific decisions, appears to have a humbling effect (which is good). It also helps that your mentors have years or decades more experience than you – this can produce a rather stark mirror.

Still, we see Dunning-Kruger in effect. The gap between self-assessment and actual ability grows toward the lower end of the ability scale.

However, medical education is a special case because self-assessment is a skill we specifically teach and assess. It is critically important for physicians to have a fairly clear understanding of their own knowledge and skills. We specifically try to give students an appreciation for what they do not know, and the seemingly bottomless pit of medical information is in constant display.

I remember as a resident seeing a two volume massive tome just on muscle disease and thinking, holy crap, that is how much I don’t know about muscle disease. There are also equal volumes on every other tiny aspect of medicine. It can be overwhelming.

As students and residents go through their training, we also keep moving that carrot forward. As they get more confident in their basic skills we have to make sure they don’t get cocky. I talk to my residents specifically about the difference between competence, expertise, and mastery.

One specific lesson I try to drive home as often as possible, both in the context of medical education and in general, is this: Think about some area in which you have a great deal of knowledge, in the expert to mastery level (or maybe just a special interest with above average knowledge). Now, think about how much the average person knows about your area of specialty. Not only do they know comparatively very little, they likely have no idea how little they know, and how much specialized knowledge even exists.

Here comes the critical part – now realize that you are as ignorant as the average person is every other area of knowledge in which you are not expert.

Conclusion

The Dunning-Kruger effect is not just about dumb people not realizing how dumb they are. It is about basic human psychology and cognitive biases. Dunning-Kruger applies to everyone.

The solution is critical thinking, applying a process of logic and empiricism, and humility – in other words, scientific skepticism.

In addition to the various aspects of critical thinking, self-assessment is a skill we can strive to specifically develop. But a good rule of thumb is to err on the side of humility. If you assume you know relatively less than you think you do, and that there is more knowledge than of what you are aware, you will usually be correct.

145 responses so far

145 Responses to “Lessons from Dunning-Kruger”

  1. mumadaddon 06 Nov 2014 at 8:45 am

    How ironic that this was posted so soon after Morgan’s latest screed…

  2. PeterEliason 06 Nov 2014 at 9:20 am

    Nice discussion, thanks.

    I teach/precept family practice residents in an outpatient setting. One of my consistent teaching techniques, after they have presented a patient with their diagnosis and treatment plan, is to ask what information they have either discarded or downgraded in importance in order to reach this conclusion. The second question is, what they will be looking for as evidence that their approach is wrong. The third is, what are several other possible approaches they need to keep on their list. My goal is to go beyond just an awareness of uncertainty, using it instead as a tool to improve flexibility and resilience in decision making. It generally takes them multiple conversations like this to begin to sound as if they have done this before I ask. On rare occasions, I come across a resident who seems to either do this intuitively or have learned this approach earlier.

  3. jsterritton 06 Nov 2014 at 10:55 am

    While it is very nice and diplomatic to talk about how we’re all ignorant of many things, it ignores the pernicious half of the DK effect: false confidence. A Dr Novella may have the remarkable ability (and humility!) to recognize the limits of their own knowledge on a subject, but what DK describes is precisely someone who cannot do this, someone who “cannot recognize just how incompetent they are.” Dunning and Kruger did not investigate their famous effect in matters of specialized or esoteric knowledge. They tested subjects on humor, grammar, and logic. They tested for and found quantifiable dummies who felt themselves to be socially and intellectually superior despite only evidence to the contrary.

    This may be the Dunning-Kruger talking, but I feel confident that this effect does indeed have its roots in confirmation bias. All medical knowledge (and before that most scientific knowledge) used to be arrived at this way — that is, subjectively, based on personal judgement and “expertise,” and entirely muddied by bias. Modern CAM and other denialist movements would have us all return to such prescientific methods, using false confidence, special pleading, and magical nonsense to fill in the gaps in understanding rather than falsifiability and science.

    I fear that Dunning and Kruger may have identified the growing effect that will lead to another dark age — an age where confident incompetents are prized above competence or humility.

  4. Bruceon 06 Nov 2014 at 11:04 am

    “Admit it – probably up to this point in this article you were imagining yourself in the upper half of that curve, and inwardly smirking at the poor rubes in the bottom half.”

    I was… but not because I think I am better than people at most things, but because I know there are things I am rubbish at but I really struggle to say the things I am REALLY very good at. So my own lack of self confidence in itself is an endorsement of my skill! (right?)

    (Actually… that is not true in every case… I still think I am a better than average singer and no amount of anecdotal evidence from those who have heard me will convince me otherwise!)

  5. arnieon 06 Nov 2014 at 11:26 am

    mumadadd

    “How ironic that this was posted so soon after Morgan’s latest screed…”

    I was thinking exactly the same thing and wondering if perhaps Steve’s post would imply that the least effective response to Morgan is to argue his content or ridicule (humiliate) his person-hood. Perhaps the kindest and even most effective response in such an apparently extreme example of D-K effect would be to simply ignore his comment.

  6. mindmeon 06 Nov 2014 at 12:38 pm

    That Dunning and Kruger, think they know soooooooooo much about human psychology. Hurmph.

  7. petrossaon 06 Nov 2014 at 1:38 pm

    What baffles me it took till 1991 to ‘discover’ something so self evident. Says something about the dismal state of the theory of psychology. A damaged brain can’t recognize its damage neither, so why would an abstract construct created by it do any better?

    I blame mostly religion. It gave primates the idea being ‘human’ is something extraordinary, godlike. Hubris doesn’t begin to describe this belief system.

  8. mindmeon 06 Nov 2014 at 2:20 pm

    I think there are a lot of things in science that were self evidence before someone got around to actually testing it. I think even medicine has a lot of cases like that, like the benefits of certain treatments, drugs, or therapies being self evidence but it took a long time for someone to actually test it. “Ulcers, it’s self evidence they’re caused by stress. I mean, duh!”

  9. RCon 06 Nov 2014 at 3:33 pm

    The counterpoint to that is that there were a lot of things that were self evident that after being subjected to the scientific method, weren’t actually true – which is why these sort of studies/experiments are important and have substantial value.

  10. banyanon 06 Nov 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Who is Morgan?

  11. Nickon 06 Nov 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Entire industries rely on this effect…

    “You can do it. We can help”

    Of course, there’s an entire industry of professionals happy to come in and charge extra to clean up the mess when you find out the hard way that something is hard…

  12. Bill Openthalton 06 Nov 2014 at 5:52 pm

    banyan —

    Who is Morgan?

    He’s a bat-shit crazy lawyer who thinks to have the answer to everything. He has a free book that contains a lot of sexual metaphors, and regularly appears on this blog to insult Steve while plugging his opus. Have a gander at this:

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-primeval-code/#comment-92323

  13. mark.hadfon 06 Nov 2014 at 7:07 pm

    I’m ever so humble

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

    Seriously, when I tell my homeopathy-loving friends that we humans find it very easy to fool ourselves and that we should be humble about our own ignorance, I must admit that even to my own ears my arguments for humility do sound rather…arrogant.

  14. karenkilbaneon 07 Nov 2014 at 3:24 am

    I wish I was as smart as a neuroscientist so I could grasp the full extent of how dumb I really am. It is a comfort to know, however, that the average neuroscientist has a firm grasp of his own ignorance. I wonder if Dunning or Kruger understood their ignorance with as much intelligence as your average neuroscientist. Maybe the Dunning-Kruger effect is much greater than we think because they didn’t understand the depth of what they don’t know. This worries me. It means they possibly underrepresented the depth of how over-confident low IQ people are about their intellectual competence. Maybe low IQ people are so astronomically over confident about their own intelligence and clueless about their ignorance that we don’t have a scale big enough to represent their over-confidence and cluelessness. I am guessing the cleaning crew at the mall is made up of men and women who are phenomenally ignorant about how stupid they truly are. They think they know things they really don’t know, and they will never know this because they aren’t smart enough to know the full scope of what they don’t know. Thank goodness for neuroscientists, the one group who knows with certainty that they don’t know a lot about a lot.

  15. mumadaddon 07 Nov 2014 at 4:19 am

    karenkilbane,

    IQ is mentioned nowhere in the OP – the tests conducted measured ‘competence’ for specific cognitive skills. You seem to be implying that Dr N. is setting himself up as some sort of paragon of humility, when he’s in fact pointing out that DK is universal, and doesn’t apply only to the obviously ‘dumb’.

  16. BillyJoe7on 07 Nov 2014 at 7:44 am

    Karen,

    I like the way you write and I enjoyed reading your post, but mumadadd is right, DK is more about knowledge and ignorance than low-high Q.

    (Sorry for the JT reference at the end there. I couldn’t resist)

  17. hardnoseon 07 Nov 2014 at 10:44 am

    This effect is probably mostly the result of illusions created by unnatural experiments. We really do know when we suck at something. We may not be so good, however, at ranking ourselves accurately compared to others.

    Children are constantly learning new things and progressing through stages, from totally incompetent to pretty good. They get lots of feedback from parents and teachers. The kid who failed English five times has no illusions about being good at English. If you ask him he will say “I suck at it.”

    Spend a minute thinking back at your school days and you will know this research is seriously defective. As is most of the “we are all self-deceiving idiots” cognitive research.

    This research is done by typical left-leaning academics who are struggling to understand why the majority of Americans believe in God and capitalism. It has been going on for decades, at some of the most prestigious universities. It is mostly hogwash and BS.

    So come on, if you want to call yourselves skeptics, by skeptical of everything.

  18. hardnoseon 07 Nov 2014 at 10:48 am

    ” I am guessing the cleaning crew at the mall is made up of men and women who are phenomenally ignorant about how stupid they truly are.”

    It is despicable and appalling to see how this BS research inspires this kind of arrogant nastiness.

  19. mumadaddon 07 Nov 2014 at 10:56 am

    HN,

    I read that comment as sarcastic. The research is either valid or not based on its own merits – that it inspires an undesirable reaction doesn’t undermine this.

  20. hardnoseon 07 Nov 2014 at 10:58 am

    The research is not valid, and it is appalling to see the arrogance its false conclusions can inspire.

  21. The Other John Mcon 07 Nov 2014 at 10:59 am

    hardnose, if you had read and also understood karenkilbane’s post, you would know that was a horrible, pointless, yet clearly sarcastic comment, meant to insult Dr. Novella I suppose. And someone already pointed out, this research is not really talking about intelligence or IQ or “stupidity”.

  22. hardnoseon 07 Nov 2014 at 11:03 am

    Here you go http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11831408

    Evidence that the Dunning-Kruger effect is probably a statistical artifact. That won’t stop leftist academics from believing it of course.

    “People who score low on a performance test overestimate their own performance relative to others, whereas high scorers slightly underestimate their own performance. J. Kruger and D. Dunning (1999) attributed these asymmetric errors to differences in metacognitive skill. A replication study showed no evidence for mediation effects for any of several candidate variables. Asymmetric errors were expected because of statistical regression and the general better-than-average (BTA) heuristic. Consistent with this parsimonious model, errors were no longer asymmetric when either regression or the BTA effect was statistically removed. In fact, high rather than low performers were more error prone in that they were more likely to neglect their own estimates of the performance of others when predicting how they themselves performed relative to the group.:

  23. karenkilbaneon 07 Nov 2014 at 12:00 pm

    “…incompetent people do not recognize—scratch that, cannot recognize—just how incompetent they are,”

    The core of the effect, however, seems to be what Dunning describes – ignorance carries with it the inability to accurately assess one’s own ignorance. Dunning also points out something that rings true to this veteran skeptic:

    An ignorant mind is precisely not a spotless, empty vessel, but one that’s filled with the clutter of irrelevant or misleading life experiences, theories, facts, intuitions, strategies, algorithms, heuristics, metaphors, and hunches that regrettably have the look and feel of useful and accurate knowledge.

    This accurately describes the people I confront daily with unscientific or unsupported beliefs. Just read the comments on the SGU’s Facebook page and you will quickly be subject to the full force of Dunning-Kruger.

    It’s a real bitch to have the ability to perceive the incompetence of others, particular when said people are totally unaware of it. Life is frustrating when one must bear witness to so many people who think they know things but really don’t. It would be practically insufferable, I’m sure. I am starting to hope I err on the side of being one of the incompetent ones so I can be blissfully ignorant of how much I don’t know and how much other people don’t know. It would be too big a burden for me to bear to be hyper aware of how much people think they know when they really don’t.

    As to my previous comment, I stand corrected. Dunning-Kruger does not discriminate against low IQ people. Sorry for my own ignorance on that matter. Oh damn, I just assessed my own ignorance. It looks like I am more competent than I thought I was. Maybe I will call that the Kilbane effect: competent people who think they are less competent than they really are.

    Well, if Dunning-Kruger can stand up as a bona-fide scientific principle of fact, then anybody should be able to apply it. A scientific theory is a scientific theory, and should be able to be practically applied in all situations. Let’s see, a racist leader could claim that all the Irish Catholics think they are so much smarter than they really are as measured by the Dunning-Kruger Effect and that they should be banned from all positions of authority. A religious person could easily use the Dunning-Kruger Effect to explain why so many intellectuals don’t ever come to know God. They could declare that intellectuals way overestimate their own competence about there not being a God, so the religious could really help them out in that department.

    Maybe there needs to be a list drawn up on exactly who is able to apply the Dunning-Kruger Effect competently because it could be dangerous in the hands of someone who is say, less competent than they think they are.

    I think maybe we should hurry and establish a standardized test that both measures a person’s incompetence and their over estimation of what their competence really is. Because otherwise, like I pointed out, any Tom, Dick, or Hitler could use the D-K Effect Theory to declare whomever they want to declare as being too incompetent and/or perceiving themselves as being smarter than they really are to have the same rights as everyone else.

    I am sure there must be a scientifically verified and verifiable definition of competence and incompetence somewhere in Dunning-Kruger’s work. It is hard to know what their definition of personality would have been, however. There are no mutually agreed upon or scientifically verified theories of personality being used in a uniform, mutually agreed upon manner as of yet. But this is a small detail. Psychology is the science of the human personality. Just because it has no verifiable or mutually agreed upon definition or theory of personality is no big deal because mostly competent people go into psychology, meaning they are competent about their incompetence.

    I think the most humble people, and I’m not just saying this because I am one of them, are the people who are more competent than they think they are. I would like a standardized test for this measurement as well. I have always wanted to really ace a standardized test. Maybe I can score the highest of anyone at underestimating my own competence.

  24. hardnoseon 07 Nov 2014 at 12:21 pm

    karenKilbane,

    You would score the highest on over-estimating your under-estimation of your competence.

  25. hardnoseon 07 Nov 2014 at 12:30 pm

    http://files.clps.brown.edu/jkrueger/journal_articles/krueger-2002-unskilled.pdf

  26. karenkilbaneon 07 Nov 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Maybe we could create a psychological Gestapo. The Dunning-Kruger test could be replicated by trained psychologists who are measurably aware of their own incompetence. They could go out into the world and create a list of those who are incompetent but “blessed with an inappropriate confidence.”

    We could blacklist those who test incompetent but are in fact “blessed with inappropriate confidence” and prevent them from receiving any jobs with positions of authority.

    Even better, we could use the Dunning-Kruger test of incompetence to identify the overconfident incompetent individuals so we can automatically invalidate any opinions they have about science, politics, religion, etc. without ever having to even listen to them.

    We will not blacklist those people who are incompetent but aware of their incompetence. We’ll keep them on a watch list in case they start thinking they know more than they really do. Being they are already incompetent, they are at risk for slipping into the danger zone.

  27. hardnoseon 07 Nov 2014 at 2:12 pm

    Well yes, I have to agree with you now karenkilbane, the psychological Gestapo idea is brilliant. In fact, now I see what those cognitive researchers have been aiming at all along. (Sorry I didn’t get that you were kidding before!)

  28. Bruceon 07 Nov 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Godwin and Strawman.

    Must try harder.

  29. steve12on 07 Nov 2014 at 2:49 pm

    “We really do know when we suck at something. We may not be so good, however, at ranking ourselves accurately compared to others.”

    Not even trying to make a joke, you are not very good at this. I’ve seen you talk about things in my area of expertise in a very authoritative manner and have it completely wrong.

    And I should have known that Hardnose is really a …wait for it….poltico.

    “Spend a minute thinking back at your school days and you will know this research is seriously defective. As is most of the “we are all self-deceiving idiots” cognitive research.”

    YOu say this, and then link that paper! That paper does not say what you think it says. YOu should read it.

  30. steve12on 07 Nov 2014 at 2:51 pm

    karenkilbane:

    “Well, if Dunning-Kruger can stand up as a bona-fide scientific principle of fact, then anybody should be able to apply it. A scientific theory is a scientific theory, and should be able to be practically applied in all situations. ”

    That’s not how it works. Almost all theories have boundary conditions, and this is almost assuredly true for most cognitive biases.

  31. jsterritton 07 Nov 2014 at 2:51 pm

    “Overestimation cannot be attributed to a mere statistical artifact, as suggested by Krueger & Mueller (2002), based on notions of statistical reliability and measurement error. We estimated the level of reliability our performance measures possessed in two different ways (test-retest reliability in Study 1 and internal consistency in Study 2). After correcting for imperfections in reliability in both studies, we found that the magnitude of misestimates by bottom and top performance were reduced slightly, but that the misestimates that each group provided were still left largely intact.”[1]

    [1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2702783/

  32. mumadaddon 07 Nov 2014 at 2:58 pm

    I’m actually a bit of a fan of karenkilblane’s posts here; they’re quite well written and satirical takedowns of the OP. I do think they’re pretty ‘uncharitable’ though, and mischaracterise Steve’s position. But if you had some reason to have Steve in your cross-hairs, you could do way worse than that. But why would you have Steve in your cross-hairs?

    https://medium.com/@karenmkilbane

    Medium.com?

    “My students with special needs have led me to develop a new theory of personality.”

    I do seem to recall a long-winded post on this blog some time ago with a similar sentiment, but the poster was actually a fan. Oh, now I remember, it was on the Brain is not a Receiver thread.

    The specific comment is here (but it probably won’t load properly).

    I am writing a book about the subject and would love to correspond with you. Your ideas are all in alignment with how I see the human personality in most ways.

    So who knows what happened since then. Maybe no response from Steve, maybe some back and forth and a disagreement. But whatever, now she’s pissed.

  33. mumadaddon 07 Nov 2014 at 3:00 pm

    Try again…

    I’m actually a bit of a fan of karenkilblane’s posts here; they’re quite well written and satirical takedowns of the OP. I do think they’re pretty ‘uncharitable’ though, and mischaracterise Steve’s position. But if you had some reason to have Steve in your cross-hairs, you could do way worse than that. But why would you have Steve in your cross-hairs?

    https://medium.com/@karenmkilbane

    Medium.com?

    “My students with special needs have led me to develop a new theory of personality.”

    I do seem to recall a long-winded post on this blog some time ago with a similar sentiment, but the poster was actually a fan. Oh, now I remember, it was on the Brain is not a Receiver thread.

    The specific comment is here (but it probably won’t load properly).

    I am writing a book about the subject and would love to correspond with you. Your ideas are all in alignment with how I see the human personality in most ways.

    So who knows what happened since then. Maybe no response from Steve, maybe some back and forth and a disagreement. But whatever, now she’s pissed.

  34. Steven Novellaon 07 Nov 2014 at 3:05 pm

    From Karen’s blog:

    “Psychologists have created many theories to explain why people who reach conclusions they do not agree with suffer from perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, and/or illogical interpretive abilities. Psychologists and scientist actually diagnose people as intellectually defective when they do not understand or agree with how those people reached their conclusions. They call those intellectual defects cognitive biases.”

    That puts it into perspective.

    Karen – if you read what I wrote with any care, or pretty much any of the psychological literature you dismiss, you will notice that cognitive biases are not limited to people “they do not agree with” nor does the possession of cognitive biases lead to a diagnosis of “intellectually defective,” but only being human.

    From my conclusion: “The Dunning-Kruger effect is not just about dumb people not realizing how dumb they are. It is about basic human psychology and cognitive biases. Dunning-Kruger applies to everyone.”

    Everyone. I’m sorry that what I wrote does not comply with the strawman against which you would prefer to rail.

  35. karenkilbaneon 07 Nov 2014 at 3:25 pm

    And my question, with no sarcasm at all, is what is basic human psychology? This is never addressed in with concrete specific terms that can be readily understood and applied. We have a nervous system that works for us. Why do we need to create a term that stands apart from our biological structures and functions to explain our human thoughts and behaviors? The best I can determine is that all our thoughts and all our biological processes and all our past experiences join together and the end result is our ‘psychology.’ To me this is a kind of magical thinking definition.

    If I could read just one thoroughly understandable definition of what human psychology actually is in which all the underlying premises were clearly defined and verifiable, I would be able to re-evaluate my mistrust of it. I am open to changing my opinions.

  36. daedalus2uon 07 Nov 2014 at 3:56 pm

    I was at the ISCS 2014

    http://www.iscs2014.org/

    And at one of the talks, the speaker was talking about how to translate different concepts between English and Tibetan. When they came to the term “cell”, the Tibetans asked did the scientists mean the body of the cell, or the mind of the cell (apparently Tibetans have different terms for these different concepts).

    The western scientists had difficulty with this concept, so they worked with the Tibetans to figure out some experiments as to what that actually meant.

    In thinking about that, the best “definition” I could come up with for “mind”, was:

    “The control transfer function that takes as input the physical state of the agent and the environment the agent is in, and then generates output; a change in state of the agent.”

    I think this definition encompasses all that is necessary and sufficient for a definition of a mind. It requires an “agent”, something which by dissipating energy controls itself in an environment.

    I think the problem that humans have is hyperactive agency detection, and the imputation of teleology, such that unexpected outcomes are termed pathological. I think this is not correct and that the correct way of understanding things is as processes. There can be no “normal outcomes”, there are only “normal processes”.

  37. karenkilbaneon 07 Nov 2014 at 5:25 pm

    daedalus2u…I agree with you. Our personalities are not a product but a process.

    Despite much ridicule, I am writing a book about a new biological theory of personality I have developed after teaching, caring for, and parenting for 30 years. I have observed hundreds and hundreds of children over this 30 year period in their natural environments. Most recently I taught adaptive P.E. to all the students in our district with special needs for 7 years. I had students ages 5 through 21 on a weekly basis, many of them I taught all 7 years.

    From them I realized our personalities are a process, not a product. There is no way to judge the product of a person’s cognitive assessments because cognitive assessments are always contextual and relative to the person doing the assessing.

    A child with poor depth perception and a slow processing speed will do everything he can to avoid playing a group sport that involves making quick decisions about how to interact with fast moving peers running in random patterns all around him. This child, according to existing behavioral theories, could be punished for refusing to participate.

    If we use an accurate definition of the human personality, we would assume there is a valid cognitive reason this child is refusing to participate. We would quickly ascertain his problems with depth perception and his slower processing speed. Currently, children who do not conform to do what they are asked to do are assumed to be defiant and oppositional a majority of the time. It takes many years to tease out the cognitive and physiological differences of our students because we understand them via their behaviors in relationship of our expectations of them.

    We do not understand that all human behaviors are a product of our cognitive processes. Our behaviors are integral to our ability to sense, think, and move in a way that makes sense for us. As such, we are extremely protective of our behaviors. Behavior management is an inhumane and abusive practice to children.

    We understand all of our non-compliant children in terms of how they affect our interpretation of a set of expectations. When children do not comply with our expectations, our psychological theories tell us these children are being oppositional and defiant. There is an actual psychological personality disorder called oppositional-defiant disorder.

    We require students to cognitively assess how we are interpreting classroom expectations so they can comply with our interpretations because we do not understand how enormously differently from one another we interpret information. Cognitively flexible children figure out how to think like the teacher in order to comply with her thinking. Less cognitively flexible children forced to interpret information in ways they cognitively cannot is where I believe the genesis of a mental illness lies.

    Our conclusions of any given event is how we orient ourselves in time and space. How much sense our conclusions make to an observer is irrelevant. Our conclusions are as vital to our orientation as our pain sensors are in our skin. People who do not have pain sensors suffer gruesome injuries because they don’t know how to orient themselves safely in space. The assessments and conclusions we make in our environment according to how we are able to think, sense, and move allow us to maintain control of ourselves in our environment. If we cannot maintain control of ourselves, we will manipulate the variables until we can.

    When we are forced to figure out how to exist in a space in terms of how an authority wants us to according to their orientation abilities, we become threatened. The less cognitively flexible we are, the more threatened we will be in the school setting.

    Psychology understand human beings from the point of view of an observer who is interpreting a psychological theory to understand that human being. We need to understand the human personality from the point of view of each individual brain.

    This isn’t hard to do. I believe with a biologically accurate definition of personality, we can figure out how to solve many of the relentlessly insolvable problems in our schools, and we could significantly reduce mental illness.

  38. daedalus2uon 07 Nov 2014 at 5:32 pm

    You might find my blog post interesting.

    http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/2010/03/physiology-behind-xenophobia.html

    The only way to understand someone is from their own perspective. If your brain can’t instantiate another person’s perspective, then you cannot understand them, and the Dunning Kruger effects makes people unaware they do not understand, and so they project.

  39. erik150xon 07 Nov 2014 at 5:33 pm

    I hardly see how this statement is justified “Here comes the critical part – now realize that you are as ignorant as the average person is every other area of knowledge in which you are not expert.”

    That implies that if your not an “expert”, your knowledge in some particular area is equal to everyone else who is not an expert. I suppose it depends on how you define expert, but even experts do not all have the same level of knowledge in a particular field. The assertion made is really quite naive to be frank.

  40. karenkilbaneon 07 Nov 2014 at 9:51 pm

    Thank you daedalus2u. I look forward to reading your blog. Overall I think Steven Novella and the Skeptics are the best thing since sliced bread. I am all for evidenced based conclusion making in all realms of life. But not even the Skeptics cannot adequately defend psychological research because the underlying premises of the made up term we call psychology are inaccurate and they are not evidence based. People get furious with me for saying this and tell me how ignorant I am. They tell me I am displaying the Dunning-Kruger Effect, ironically. In effect, there is no way to challenge the premises of psychology because of theories like the Dunning-Kruger effect. The person with the most authority has the power to invalidate anybody with less authority.

    Plus, so far nobody has given me nor have I read a completely verifiable explanation for what basic human psychology actually is. Most psychological definitions and concepts are vague, have more than one definition, are not mutually agreed upon and are often explained or applied in contradictory ways. The field of psychology uses terminology that is sloppy and imprecise. One theory never replaces an old outdated theory like in science. Every theory ever written is added to the pile of theories and psychologists cherry pick and choose from hundreds of theories that might suits their research purposes.

    Psychological researchers often formulate conclusions well beyond the scope of their study, but somehow we think they are all totally capable of reading into and analyzing the intentions of others, just like some people think psychics can.

    One principle of my new theory of personality is that our irritation, rage, anger, and withdrawal, aka fight or flight, is not some antiquated response left over from our distant past. Fight or flight, I believe, orients our understanding in the same way pain sensors organize how we orient our bodies in space. Any time there an occurrence arises that contradicts a conclusion our brain has formed, we go into fight or flight. We only have about 7 emotional cues. We are not very differentiated in how we receive emotional cues from our brain. Every single time there exists contradiction, we will be cued to fight or flight, whether somebody challenges our idea about psychology or a tiger crosses our path.

    We get out of the way of the tiger because our brain has formed a conclusion that tigers can kill us. A tiger in our path is contradictory to the conclusions we have formed about tigers. Observe other people and yourself. We get really angry and sometimes rage when our conclusions are contradicted.

    There is no evidence that our biological experience as a mammal swirls together in our brains somehow to form a psychological soup that equals a phenomenon called our basic human psychology.

    We interpret information in real time with a brain that can draw from stored memory as well as form new conclusions. With our interpretations we make predictions about what to do next. Any human problem we have has to lie in the intersection between interpretation/prediction/and a decision to act. The only active thing we do as a human is to make decisions for what to do next. Everything else is automatic or autonomic or instinctive. We don’t have a psychology that makes our decisions for us. And all our biological structures and functions and experiences do not swirl together and mysteriously form a ‘psychology.’ We have a brain. We make decisions. We act. Our psychology does not make our decision nor does it trigger our actions. Our brain does it all by itself.

  41. Steven Novellaon 08 Nov 2014 at 6:17 am

    Karen – You have a point, but I think you are overreacting.

    What you are describing is known as the fundamental attribution error – psychologists are already aware of it, and even have a term for it.

    In other words, ascribing to internal factors behavior that is being driven by external factors. In your example, a child refusing to participate not because of personality but because of poor depth perception.

    Sure, pop-psychology usually misses all the nuance. In my experience, many academic psychologists don’t. They spend as much time thinking about this as you do.

    What psychologists are often studying is statistical tendencies, not explanations for the specific behavior of an individual at one point in time, which absolutely requires context.

    Specifically, if you can alter one variable and that change results in a statistical change in behavior, that may be telling us something about human behavior in general. If the results are replicated in various ways, and in various cultures, it may be something fundamental about human behavior. Still, this does not mean you can automatically explain the behavior of one individual, because of all the noise of external factors and context.

    Bottom line, while you have a point, the point has already been made, and you are simply not being fair to academic psychology.

  42. Steven Novellaon 08 Nov 2014 at 6:18 am

    In other words – if you want to be taken seriously, you have to be fair to those you are criticizing, and not attack a straw man that reveals your own lack of understanding.

  43. Steven Novellaon 08 Nov 2014 at 6:21 am

    erik – obviously knowledge occurs on a spectrum and is not a dichotomy of expert or ignorant. The point is, if you have no special training in an area and you have an average amount of knowledge derived from the culture or secondary sources, then DK applies to you for that subject. Look at the graph, as I said elsewhere, we are all at various parts on that graph for different subjects.

  44. Pete Aon 08 Nov 2014 at 4:08 pm

    An advance driving instructor gave the class I was attending a profound piece of advice: If you truly want to become a safer driver then always assume that you are the worst driver on the planet and that you have many lessons yet to be learned.

  45. karenkilbaneon 08 Nov 2014 at 6:09 pm

    Steven Novella, thank you for your comments. I greatly appreciate the work you do. You make good points about existing psychological research. However, the underlying premises of psychology that are inaccurate, in my estimation, render most of its research studies un-replicable. Without a uniformly agreed upon theory of personality, research on the human personality cannot be conducted, interpreted, applied, or replicated reliably by any two psychologists.

    Here is an example of one of the many flaws that arise out of psychology, our science of the human personality that is built on top of 8 theories of personality, none of them scientifically verified or verifiable.

    We have a loosely accepted theory of personality that psychologists freely admit is not mutually agreed upon or scientifically verified as of yet. It says our personality traits cause our personality to be the way it is, as does our character, and our inborn and relatively fixed temperament. These terms are freely admitted to be not entirely understood at this point, unverified at this point, but used by default.

    Due to what I believe is an inaccurate default definition of the human personality we believe we can understand children via their behaviors. For example, children who have too many abnormal behaviors and too few normal ones are diagnosed with personality disorders like Aspergers, autism spectrum disorder, borderline personality disorder, or oppositional-defiant disorder.

    One behavior most of us know that children with autism do not do ‘enough’ is make eye contact. Too little eye contact is listed as one of the behaviors that can be used to diagnose children with autism. If you believe behaviors are a window into having either an ordered or a disordered personality, then this seems reasonable.

    If you observe children with autism, you realize many can only intellectually manage one stream of information from one sense organ at a time. If they are managing auditory information, say listening to a person speak, they have a hard time processing that auditory information with lots of extraneous visual information coming at them. They will look away to block out visual information so they can focus on the auditory information from the speaker.

    Furthermore, they don’t always use facial gestures to make sense of what other people say to them. If facial gestures hold no meaning to them, it doesn’t make sense that they would look at the face for information. They organize and make sense of information differently than the majority.

    Most psychologists, due to the nature of the work, are very verbal people who have a great facility with conceptual information. They are usually social as well. From the point of view of a verbal/conceptual and social thinker, not looking at someone’s face when they talk to you seems disordered. Not wanting to be social very often also seems disordered.

    Without a correct theory of personality psychologists have been unable to solve for their own personal perspectives in terms of how to interpret the behaviors of children who organize information and think extremely differently than they do.

    Without a correct theory of personality, we have been unable to put behaviors into perspective for how they integrate with human thinking. We have arbitrarily come up with lists of normal and abnormal behaviors from the point of view of psychologists who are mostly conceptual/verbal thinkers.

    We need a theory of personality that does not analyze the products of our thinking and behaving. We need a theory that explains the process of our thinking. As such we would not see people in terms of having ordered or disordered thinking. When we understand each human being as a reflection of how they are able to organize information and form conclusions, we realize no two humans will think or behave exactly alike.

    Framing our human personality as a refection of how our brain is able to synthesize all internal information from all of our organ systems along with external information from our environment gives us an entirely new way to interpret human behavior. We would interpret all behaviors to understand why they make sense for that individual and why they are crucial to that individual’s ability to assess and manage himself in his environment.

    My ability to help my students with special needs achieve their learning goals after I changed my definition of personality and came to understand them differently increased rapidly. Also, I understood what put me into fight or flight. Anytime they behaved counter to what my brain was expecting, I became agitated or angry. I was able to work with my own brain by no longer forming conclusions about how my students should behave. By applying my new understanding of personality my patience with my students went way, way, way up. I know how to manage my own brain so much more accurately now. I quit yoga, became an atheist, threw away ALL my Deepak Chopra books, and became a science loving skeptic. Consensus about our really important issues like climate change could possibly happen much more easily if we start applying an accurate definition of the human personality in our interactions with others. Thank you for providing this forum.

  46. BillyJoe7on 08 Nov 2014 at 7:48 pm

    Karen,

    I have already commented on the other thread, but I just like to add that you are a refreshing change from posters we usually see here with views that run counter to the consensus.
    Thank you for your interesting contribution to this forum and for making me think.
    It’s not a subject I have a lot of knowledge about, so I will leave it to others to respond specifically.

  47. karenkilbaneon 08 Nov 2014 at 11:19 pm

    BillyJoe7 I appreciate your comment. I believe you are not alone in feeling you don’t know a lot about psychology. I believe the necessary changes to psychology have not yet transpired because without a mutually agreed upon or verified definition or theory of personality, individual theorists over the last 130 odd years have differed greatly and are all over the map with their theoretical contributions. It is hard to follow how one concept connects to the next and how one theory connects to the next in order to find discernible patterns for how to understand all the knowledge psychology has compiled. It is like 100 fields of study under the umbrella term psychology. In effect, there is not a cohesive presentation of psychological knowledge for people to study.

    This is why if I went to 25 different psychologists for a problem, I would receive 25 pretty different assessments and treatment plans. Because they have no mutually agreed upon theory of personality, psychologists are free to cherry pick from existing theories, combine theories, or make up their own from which to base their practices. If you read a psychology text, it comes right out and says this.

    Many therapists will attend weekend workshops given by self help authors or alternative practitioners and then include what they learned at the weekend retreat in their practices. There is little oversight in this field because individual therapists have so much leeway from which to develop their own theories to apply in practice both from stockpiled psychological theories and from interesting ideas they research on their own.

    Entering the marketplace as a science, psychology should be subject to the same rules of all sciences. Not having a mutually agreed upon and uniformly applied definition of the human personality is not acceptable. Not having a mutually agreed upon theory of personality that is uniformly applied in all psychological practices is criminal malpractice.

    If there is one field of endeavor we should be getting right and going by the book it is the field that diagnoses problems with the behaviors of our children. Drugs are not inherently bad, quite the reverse. But if drugs are being prescribed to our children with developing brains due to inaccurate assessments of their behaviors, then it is criminal malpractice. We should expect better science from this field instead of defending it’s inadequacies due to loopholes we are willing to grant it.

    Psychology itself has framed our understanding of the human brain and personality as entities subject to thousands of psychological forces, too many to have yet teased them out into a cohesive theory. Some psychologists believe we have a consciousness that they haven’t figured out yet, further preventing them from developing a cohesive theory of personality.

    Well, the only active role we play in our existence is to assess information, form conclusions, and make predictions and decisions about what to do next. Our genes don’t make our decisions, our organ systems do not make our decisions, our stored memories do not make our decisions, our past experiences don’t make our decisions, and our alleged psychology does not make our decisions. Our brain assesses and synthesizes internal and external cues, forms conclusions, and then makes decisions for what to do next based upon how our brain can cognitively understand and sensorially and physically manage the outcomes of our decisions.

    If we observe human behavior looking for patterns that can illuminate why our human behaviors are making biological sense as mammals, we will find those patterns. If we observe human behavior for how our behaviors reflect a basic human psychology, already a vague term, and we describe our observations of behaviors in terms of how they are reflecting that psychology, we come up with vague descriptions.

    Due to my unique work and personal experiences I have had the opportunity to observe hundreds of children of all ages, abilities, and socioeconomic levels. I have observed children in 6 cities and 3 states, many over a period of many years. It is easy to find patterns of behavior among human children when you look for why their behaviors are making biological sense for how they think,sense, and move as mammals. When you try to discover their psychology, you don’t find patterns, so you have to make them up arbitrarily. Piaget is the sole child development theorist who actually based his theories of learning on his actual observations of how children learn at different ages over time. His observations still stand today because he let their behaviors dictate his theories. He did not do a top down study and define what he was looking for before he started looking for it, like many psychological theorists have done.

  48. BillyJoe7on 09 Nov 2014 at 12:17 am

    Karen,

    I understand what you are saying. You have a large number of anecdotes that have led you to form an hypothesis. But the next step is to try to prove your hypothesis wrong using the methods of science. This is especially important because you have formed this hypothesis based on a lifetime of observation and you would find it very difficult to accept that your hypothesis is wrong if that is how it turns out. Yet that is the approach you have to take. If not, someone else will do it for you, and the beginnings of that have already started on this thread. Of course, I don’t know if you are even in a position (financially and academically) to take this next step.

  49. grabulaon 09 Nov 2014 at 12:26 am

    all I see is karenkilbane trying to rewrite psychology on her own terms based on some anecdotal evidence. She seems to be struggling with some concepts such as reproducibility, how to test for competence versus perception, and that somehow getting a very specific definition of human psychology will make it more legitimate.

    I’m not as impressed as some of our other regular posters – her initial posts were snarky and missed some key points. To top it off she’s now having a discussion on a dunning-kruger related thread where she wants to rewrite the totality of psychology but doesn’t seem to be aware much of her own definition parallels some common understandings already. This is borderline crank stuff.

  50. karenkilbaneon 09 Nov 2014 at 1:44 am

    I am pretty attached to my hypothesis, but understand it has to withstand a tsunami of challenges. Where I am now is writing out my theory as concisely (clearly not my strong suit) and cleanly as possible. My current target audience is parents of children with special needs.

    My own daughter has Trisomy 21. She is a bright, happy girl. When a teacher or therapist charts her acceptable behaviors in order so she can win an award, her behaviors become erratic and unmanageable for her and the teacher.

    When children in schools who are not very cognitively flexible are made to feel threatened or wrong, even in the slightest ways, or they are expected to behave in ways delineated by a behavior plan, I have seen them rip apart entire classrooms, hold their breath until they pass out, and do violence to themselves and others. I have seen bright, happy capable boys sit in a dark detention rooms during almost all of their recess times for entire school years for ‘non-compliance.

    It is ridiculously easy to understand how not to threaten a child to the point of making him rage. Our psychological theories are templates for how to keep a child in a state of anxiety and/or rage almost every minute that he is in school. Many teachers figure out, on their own, how to teach without the psychological theories of behavior management we are taught and expected to use. But some don’t. And those children suffer.

    We can do better. I am hoping to convince scientists to question the foundational premises of psychology.

  51. karenkilbaneon 09 Nov 2014 at 1:53 am

    grabula, all you say is true. I have only anecdotal evidence. I am struggling with concepts I want to work out. I want to develop a specific definition of personality, not psychology though.

    And I would say, unless you have a clear definition of personality, or the brain, the two are interchangeable, you cannot conclusively and verifiably define terms like perception or competence.

    Psychology is the study of the human personality, the human brain. So I find it pretty important to get the definition of what is being studied correct.

    But the term psychology has confusing usage. Sometimes you read: psychology is the study of our basic human psychology. Sometimes you read: psychologists study the psychological factors that comprise our personalities. Do we have a personality or do we have a psychology? What is being studied by psychology, our personality or our psychology?

    We have come to accept the contradictions and sloppiness of psychological terminology because all of us from high school on up we were taught to accept the field of psychology as consisting of verified and verifiable information, no questions asked. It didn’t occur to me to question the validity of psychology until I had an intellectual aha moment. Whether or not I can translate my ideas into a valid theory remains to be seen and the odds are against me. I have to let my theory in its entirety get picked apart mercilessly to know if it can stand up, so this forum seems pretty perfect for that!

  52. grabulaon 09 Nov 2014 at 2:24 am

    @karenkilbane

    “And I would say, unless you have a clear definition of personality, or the brain, the two are interchangeable, you cannot conclusively and verifiably define terms like perception or competence. ”

    The trap, and we see it here from a few true believers, is getting too hung up on the definition of words. Our language is imprecise and a focus on the definitions of these words detracts from any sort of useful discourse. You can literally go around and around forever trying to define a word to the nth degree. You seemed to be focused on the idea that because the definition of these words doesn’t suit you, that it somehow makes your opinion of them legitimate and this is the wrong direction to go.

    Psychology deals with humanity, and we’re organic and dynamic. If you go back and read through some of the threads that involve discussions on dualism you’ll see that science understands for example that the brain appears to be a complex network that involves the whole and may not fit the traditional view where in the past we believed parts of the brain handled exclusively certain aspects of the mind. It’s as imprecise as the definitions you’re looking for but this doesn’t discount it as being wholly wrong, it just means the work goes on.

    It’s sloppy I think we can all agree but at the same time we’re not the kind of mystery that is unsolvable and we’re not all beautiful and unique snowflakes. The tools of psychologists can help with all sorts of things but like any kind of medicine, it’s not always going to work. That’s not indicative of a failure.

    At the very least I’d recommend you step away from trying focusing on the definitions of these words and move on to something more useful. You may have something, you may not. I suspect that your own biases are blinding you to avenues that would prove useful to anyone trying to understand the mind and that even should be on to something useful, you’ll soon paint yourself into a corner.

  53. karenkilbaneon 09 Nov 2014 at 3:15 am

    Perhaps lost in some of this is that I believe psychologists have been using inaccurate assumptions of personality upon which to base many of their theories. so there’s that. I believe psychological theories should be able to translate into practices that are effective, but more importantly do no harm. Harm is being done, and I believe relatively easy changes can be implemented that could alleviate much suffering we impose needlessly on our children. I am not of the ‘we are all special snowflakes people.’ In fact, I believe we humans are as tough as any other mammal out in the woods. We are built to experience and endure all manner of traumas. Psychology infantilizes us, keeping us in perpetual need of parenting by the all knowing therapist parent. Freud’s ideas are long invalidated, but his theory of the unconscious has stuck, another example of cherry picking random parts of invalidated theories without requiring scientific verification. We are told the unconscious lurks in the background like a ghost, making us do things we don’t really want to do, and making our animal instincts get out of control lest we seek help from a therapist parent to help us parent our own unconscious. I also believe the failures of psychology are so monumental that we should start scratching our heads a whole lot more than we are. Psychology has zero cures for mental illnesses which have been increasing steadily at alarming rates year after year.

  54. grabulaon 09 Nov 2014 at 4:12 am

    You make a lot of claims:

    “Harm is being done, and I believe relatively easy changes can be implemented that could alleviate much suffering we impose needlessly on our children.”

    “Freud’s ideas are long invalidated, but his theory of the unconscious has stuck, another example of cherry picking random parts of invalidated theories without requiring scientific verification.”

    ” I also believe the failures of psychology are so monumental that we should start scratching our heads a whole lot more than we are.”

    “Psychology has zero cures for mental illnesses which have been increasing steadily at alarming rates year after year.”

    What are your sources on these claims?

  55. mumadaddon 09 Nov 2014 at 5:55 am

    “Psychology has zero cures”

    I’m not a psychologist, but my girlfriend is, on the clinical side, so treating psychological disorders. Having read your posts, I do think you have a somewhat legitimate point about the lack of a universally agreed upon theory of personality, and I’ve had many conversations with my GF about how unscientific the whole endeavour is. However, ‘cure’ generally isn’t the goal or expectation with psychological interventions – it’s more about management and coping strategies. Clinical psychologists have various treatment models available, and it’s mostly about finding what works best for a specific individual.

  56. Steven Novellaon 09 Nov 2014 at 7:20 am

    Karen – Your position is not internally consistent. You write that it is inherently flawed to try to understand human behavior in the contest of cognitive biases. Then you write:
    “If your ideas do not sync up with mine I will try to manipulate your ideas to sync up with mine because this is what my brain biologically has to do and will always do.”

    What your brain “biologically has to do” is a cognitive bias. You are simply substituting your concept of cognitive biases, based on personal observation, for those generally accepted by the psychological community, based on decades of research. You do not make a compelling argument.

    I agree that there are many problems with how psychology is often put into practice. I write about those problems often here on this very blog. I also agree that psychological research is tricky and is particularly sensitive to unstated premises and cultural biases. You do have to look very skeptically at any interpretation of the psychological literature. Again – read this blog, listen to the SGU, and you will be treated with many examples of just that.

    That does not mean, however, that the current thinking of mainstream psychologists is completely wrong, and you have overturned decades of careful research with your uncontrolled observations. You need to be more skeptical of yourself. And if you think you are onto something, figure out a way to demonstrate it experimentally.

    If you are not an experimentalist, then run your ideas past some experimental psychologists. See what they way. See if they think it has any potential. See what the current psychological thinking actually is (I don’t think you quite grasp it). There may be experiments that already have implications for your ideas. Engage. Don’t ridicule.

    I say this honestly because you seem to be reachable, not as an insult. If you want your ideas to actually have some influence, you have to test and be persuasive. What you are doing now are the actions of a crank, and you will waste your career and never be taken seriously. If you truly care about children being mistreated and wanting to help, then you should care about how you go about trying to convince the world of your ideas.

  57. hardnoseon 09 Nov 2014 at 10:54 am

    Yes Karen does need to be more skeptical of herself. Some commenters here like her because she is an atheist reductionist, even though her ideas are not supported by any scientific evidence.

    But I do think a lot of psychology research is ideologically-driven nonsense. The researchers probably think they are being scientific, but they subconsciously set up unnatural experimental situations that will give the results they expect.

  58. peter65on 09 Nov 2014 at 11:06 am

    petrossaon

    “What baffles me it took till 1991 to ‘discover’ something so self evident.”
    They formalised an observation that has been made many times:

    Darwin said “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge”

    A saying attributed to Confucius: “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”

    Francis Jeffrey (19th century Scottish judge)”Nothing is so firmly believed as that which least is known.”

    Benjamin Disraeli “To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.”

  59. karenkilbaneon 09 Nov 2014 at 11:51 am

    Excellent feedback. I’m on it…

  60. karenkilbaneon 09 Nov 2014 at 1:08 pm

    Is there any merit to the idea that a cognitive bias is a concept derived from an inaccurate assessment of what personal perspective is due to an inaccurate assessment of what the human personality is.

    To discern a cognitive bias, there has to be an impartial judge of the person manifesting that bias. It seems to me that everyone who judges another person’s thinking will assess it a little to a lot differently. This is why if you go to 25 different therapists you will get 25 different assessments of your problem.

    There exists objective truths, but the degree to which people can interpret those truths seems to exist on a broad spectrum given the vastly different ways each person interprets information from one another. Is it possible for any two people to assess a third person’s cognitive bias in exactly the same ways? And are cognitive biases more about cognitive differences than errors in judgement?

    If I am making complete sense of a situation in the only way I can, how can somebody else tell me I am engaging in a cognitive bias when I have no other options for how to understand that situation given my cognitive capabilities, realm of experience, pattern recognition capabilities, ability to visualize spatial patterns, sensory capacities, etc.

    If we had a different working definition for the human personality I think the cognitive biases would become examples of how people organize information differently than one another, not how they have errors in their judgement, or how they are being unreasonable from the point of view of an allegedly objective observer.

    Tests of cognitive biases could be interpreted quite differently by different interpreters based upon how they themselves organize information due to the idiosyncrasies of how they associate their stored memories with new information, how they perceive numerical relationships, how they perceive spatial patterns and relationships, their processing speed, etc.

    I have found information processing speed impacts a lot more than meets the eye. A child who processes information slowly, often because he is low tone, will have forgotten some of the information he started with because it didn’t reach his brain fast enough for his brain to retain it A task given to that slow processing boy and another quick processing boy will end up being achieved quite differently because some of the information about the task did not make it to the slower boy’s brain in time to be retained. That boy is literally working with a different set of information in order to complete the task than the quick processor, so they cannot help but arrive at different conclusions. You can’t say the slow processor had a bias as compared to the quick processor because you cannot compare their two brains that in the end working with different sets of information.

    Another example, take a woman who grew up in a Christian household and went to a religious school and was taught to base her every decision making processes in terms of how her decisions would impact the people who judged her according to specific religious rules. She ends up with a brain that learns to organize information in this way. This is not a bias, this is just her brain. When she grows up and doesn’t believe in evolution it is because she never once developed brain schemata for how to reference scientific principles to understand her humanity or the humanity of others. She cannot draw from scientific pattern association that simply isn’t in her brain’s tool kit. She has a rudimentary knowledge of science, but the patterns she established for making decisions since birth were to reference her religious rules first always. Her brain has stored that God created man, and that is all she has has to work with in her stored memory. How can she be said to have a cognitive bias for processing a kind of information that isn’t available in her brain to process. Once we establish patterns of association in our stored memories, it is hard to change them. This girl would have been punished if she made the wrong decisions. Her brain has hard wired patterns of thinking that allowed her to cope optimally in her environment. Can you call her decision making biased, or just how she learned how to make decisions?

    Cognitive bias theories also don’t take into consideration the sensory and motor considerations each person has to account for in making their own decisions or how those considerations impact how one’s brain develops and what kinds of experiences one will eventually have to draw from in one’s brain. Sensory and motor capacities vary greatly among people and affect our decision making and our brain development and our stored memories and stored associations.

    For example, a child who cannot crawl or walk until age 5 will have far fewer experiences cognitively to draw from in formulating conclusions in his environment than the 5 year old that crawled at 6 months and walked at 12 months. The late walker might have low muscle tone and engage in way less physical activity than the other. By age 30 they will have had vastly different experiences from one another because the early walker biked, hiked, and travelled the world he was so vigorous. The late walker never left his home town, watched a lot of TV, played a lot of video games. Both boys were content, but they have brains that cannot really be compared to one another. Their stored memories from which they can draw to evaluate new information would be startlingly different. If they were to be tested for cognitive biases, how could you solve for their brain differences.

    If I am way off base on these ideas, it would be really helpful for me to know why. Thank you.

  61. karenkilbaneon 09 Nov 2014 at 2:12 pm

    When you say a person has biased thinking, you are implying that person is supposed to be making judgement calls in terms of how his judgements will eventually impact the interpretations of an observer.

    My different way of orienting how we understand personality is to say that a person’s judgements are always making perfect sense to that person. The observer has nothing to do with that person’s brain and that person’s judgements.

    That person can neither be biased or not biased when they are assessing a situation and making a judgement about it. They can only think how they can think.

    An observer can judge that person’s assessment, find it wanting, and give information to that person who can then use it in the future when making a similar assessments. This doesn’t mean their previous assessment had an error or bias in it. It just meant they were using the only information available in their brain at that time.

    We are judging how people assess as if there are outcomes they SHOULD be arriving at. When they do not arrive at those outcomes, we decide they have an error.

    No..Yes…????

  62. Steven Novellaon 09 Nov 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Karen,

    You would likely benefit from reading some experimental psychology, which is very different than therapy. The best experiments are those that control for as many variables as possible and use objective outcomes. Cognitive biases are measured when one variable has a measurable effect on a dependent variable.

    For example, anchoring bias. Show 200 people a picture of a consumer product, like a blender. For 100 subjects, ask them if they think the blender is more or less than $50, then ask them to guess the price. For the other 100 subjects, ask them if they think the blender costs more or less than $500, then ask them to guess the price. Both groups are ultimately guessing the price of the same blender. However, the average guess will be much lower in the $50 group than in the $500 group.

    This is a pretty simple experiment, without much subjectivity or room for researcher bias. You can replicate it with houses, cars, whatever. It always works. We mentally anchor to the first number we are fed. That’s a cognitive bias.

    Why do you think prices are always $19.99 or similar. Do people really think that $19.99 is less than $20? The answer is yes, at least some people enough of the time to make it worth doing. We have a left-most digit bias. It’s just the way our brains quickly assess numbers.

    There are countless studies showing how you can influence or bias people’s decision-making, at least in the aggregate, with simple manipulation. Sure, you cannot predict the behavior of one individual because there are quirky personal influences, etc. But when those average out with large numbers of subjects, you can reliably measure biasing effects.

    This really is robust research (in general, not every study, obviously). You really should not dismiss it without taking a close look.

  63. hardnoseon 09 Nov 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Karen, you are way off base. A person’s brain is not set with certain ideas during childhood that can’t change when new information is received.

    I don’t think biases matter when there is clear objective evidence one way or another. Biases are only involved when things are ambiguous, as they so often are.

  64. jsterritton 09 Nov 2014 at 6:47 pm

    @karenkilbane

    “Can you call her decision making biased, or just how she learned how to make decisions?”

    Her decision making is, by your own description, biased. We are all biased in this way, products of our personal abilities and experience. Your examples describe precisely the “cognitive bias theory” of how heuristics, cognitive and informational processing, and access to information necessarily bias decision making.

    You seem to be arguing against yourself. Or mistaking the technical meaning of “bias” as a judgment being made by some to discriminate against or disadvantage others. Your who-are-they-to-say-what’s-biased argument makes little sense. To me, it sounds like you are making a case for thinking about so-called “disordered” cognitive processes as “differently-ordered” and this idea has great merit. However, a cognitive bias will still remain a cognitive bias, no matter how or by whom it was arrived at.

    A cognitive bias describes a decision or judgment that is influenced by bias, not some sort of punitive test. I think you are making interchangeable terms like cognitive bias, intelligence, cognitive ability, smart, right, and wrong.

    Your position echoes criticism of educational and testing bias. That criticism correctly points out that certain biases are favored over others (i.e., are considered “normal”). There is also the “bias bias” where the ability to see biases in others is used as a cudgel and is itself a bias (like the fallacy fallacy). As a rule, anyone who claims to be bias-free is at least suffering from a blind spot. Certainly experimental and academic psychology does not make this claim.

    Personally, I see the field of cognitive bias research to be non-judgmental (or all-judgmental). It is premised on the understanding that we all have them. Wouldn’t this be better seen as common ground on which to build your ideas?

  65. tmac57on 09 Nov 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Here’s another way to think about bias. You can take the words of Ronald Reagan,and tell a conservative that Obama said them,and you will reliably see a statistical downgrading of such statements,and likewise you could put Obama’s words in Reagans mouth,and see liberals downgrade those statements,on a statistical basis. This works not only in politics,but for different cultures,religions,educational background,social status,region,country,almost any kind of clear segment of society that we might call a ‘tribe’.
    If you deny that these kinds of biases do not exist,then you have not been paying too much attention to the world around you. They exist,and are easily measured in study after study. And that’s not even getting in to things such as primacy and recency of information,availability bias,self serving bias,and on and on.
    Psychology and cognitive science are slowly unraveling the puzzle of how we perceive and misperceive our world,and to throw out all of that careful work based on personal stories,is a rather ironic twist.

  66. RickKon 09 Nov 2014 at 8:28 pm

    Hardnose said: “I don’t think biases matter when there is clear objective evidence one way or another.”

    Really? I think there is no amount of evidence, however clear and objective, that will convince some people that children really died at Sandy Hook or that the WTC towers weren’t brought down by explosives planted before 9/11. Bias can absolutely blind you to objective facts – we see it every day.

    Karen said: “My different way of orienting how we understand personality is to say that a person’s judgements are always making perfect sense to that person.”

    Yep, and that person can later determine, based on more facts, more knowledge, more experience and/or more expertise, that their earlier judgment was dead wrong. That’s why a judgment made in ignorance should always be questioned and discounted, even if it makes perfect sense at the time.

    And of course Steve is right – there are many very interesting, very quantitative studies on how human judgment can be skewed by the simplest, crudest methods by playing on our natural cognitive imperfections. I strongly recommend Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational” as an accessible introduction to some of these.

  67. grabulaon 09 Nov 2014 at 8:44 pm

    Dr. Novella said it better than I did:

    “What your brain “biologically has to do” is a cognitive bias. You are simply substituting your concept of cognitive biases, based on personal observation, for those generally accepted by the psychological community, based on decades of research. You do not make a compelling argument.”

    Karenkilbane my issue with what you’re saying isn’t that there are some fundamental issues with psychology, it’s that you’re willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater:

    “Is there any merit to the idea that a cognitive bias is a concept derived from an inaccurate assessment of what personal perspective is due to an inaccurate assessment of what the human personality is.”

    You can’t seem to understand that because it might be weak in a few areas that it’s not entirely wrong, or moving in the wrong direction. Your fear of psychology is borderline conspiracy theory.

    “If I am making complete sense of a situation in the only way I can, how can somebody else tell me I am engaging in a cognitive bias when I have no other options for how to understand that situation given my cognitive capabilities, realm of experience, pattern recognition capabilities, ability to visualize spatial patterns, sensory capacities, etc. ”

    It doesn’t matter what your options are here karen – the point is that regardless you are as beholden to cognitive bias as anyone else. For skeptics it’s important we keep this in mind when we are examining an issue skeptically.

    “If we had a different working definition for the human personality I think the cognitive biases would become examples of how people organize information differently than one another, not how they have errors in their judgement, or how they are being unreasonable from the point of view of an allegedly objective observer.”

    You’re making a qualitative judgement where there isn’t necessarily one to be applied. Since we all indulge in cognitive bias we can accept it as a cause of being human. The important part for some of us is that we are aware of it and can work around it.

    “She ends up with a brain that learns to organize information in this way. This is not a bias, this is just her brain.”

    Again you’re trying to redefine a thing that doesn’t require it. It doesn’t matter what the source of her bias is, the fact is as a human being she has it, we all do. You can make up another word for it all you want but the mechanism and the outcome are the same.

    Ultimately Karen as I said before you seem to be lost in trying to redefine mechanisms based almost wholly on your opinion that psychology is horribly wrong. I believe it’s led you down several wrong turns – your focus on the definition of certain words, your misunderstanding of how a mechanism is defined regardless of it’s origin and so on. My impression is that you believe we are each individuals and to a certain extant we are, but that doesn’t also mean we follow a lot of the same basic rules.

  68. grabulaon 09 Nov 2014 at 8:44 pm

    @hardnose

    “But I do think a lot of psychology research is ideologically-driven nonsense.”

    We get it bro, science is hard and magical, God is the answer. Since you can’t provide any substantive input maybe consider moving along?

  69. karenkilbaneon 10 Nov 2014 at 6:00 am

    Thank you all for the feedback. It is helpful… The pricing example makes sense. The experimenter manipulated variables in the environment by how he referenced pricing and therefore influenced how people assessed and guessed at price.

    Because humans display observable behavior and share many common characteristics with one another it is easy to figure out how to manipulate them both individually and in groups. Observers who collect this kind of data can use it to either inform or exploit other humans.

    The blender type of experiment neither judges not explains human thought and behaviors, just reports information for how to predict it.

    I get that.

    A lot of discussion about cognitive biases revolves around why people get things wrong from the point of view of an observer. Then there are ‘explanations’ for why people get things wrong according to that observer. For example, we say someone who doesn’t believe in global warming is engaging in ‘wishful thinking.’

    Here is where I see the need for one possibly important change. Psychological analysis should not pretend one person can know the intentions of another. It is a fact that some people do not believe in global warming. We can note many attributes of people who do not believe in it, compile those attributes like religion, politics, socioeconomic level, education level, etc. Intentions, however, are not something we can know or should claim to know in the same way we can know one’s political party.

    You can make guesses about a human’s overt behaviors. You can make guesses about what he might conclude. But you can never know the actual intentions going on in his brain in which billions of neurons are firing per second per thought. It is a mathematical impossibility for two brains to have a billion neurons fire exactly the same way every second in order for one brain to know exactly the intentions inside of the other. This is one reason empathy is a biological impossibility. It is a false assumption for how one brain can know another brain. Those in the middle of the bell curve can often make very accurate guesses about one another’s thoughts and intentions and get close. So it seems as if we can actually take the perspective of someone else when we are really just making good guesses. Atypical thinkers often have no clue how to predict the thoughts or feelings (another often misused word) of people who think dramatically differently than they do. For this reason the atypical thinkers will be identified with the symptom called ‘lack of empathy.’ Most personality disorders in the DSM list lack of empathy as a symptom.

    Language specificity matters because psychological theories are translated into practices in almost every one of our American institutions, especially in our schools.Every single child in America who is not home schooled is on the receiving end of our psychological theories. And increasing numbers of our children are being diagnosed with personality disorders.

    I believe mental illness is caused by having our decision making processes inhibited in ways we cannot overcome like being put in double binds and expected to make predictions we cognitively are incapable of making. We are wired to experience and handle multiple traumas and harsh environments and survive them. We are not wired for our decision making capacities to have to answer to how they impact and make sense to the judgements of an observer. Our decision making capacities are set up to integrate with our sensory, motor, and nervous system and ours alone.

    Cleaning up false assumptions woven through psychological theories that are potentially damaging our children is perhaps a better way for me to phrase my goals.

  70. BillyJoe7on 10 Nov 2014 at 7:10 am

    grabula,

    “We get it bro, science is hard and magical, God is the answer. Since you can’t provide any substantive input maybe consider moving along?”

    🙂

    I decided to ignore him, but that was good.

  71. The Other John Mcon 10 Nov 2014 at 8:12 am

    Karen,

    “I believe mental illness is caused by having our decision making processes inhibited”

    But WHY do you believe this? Do you have any compelling scientific reason for this belief, or is it just based on your gut feelings? What does it even mean to say someone’s decision-making process is “inhibited”? We know, scientifically, that even if this assertion were true for some psychological disorders, it’s not true for many others. We know there are some genetic components that contribute to psychological disorders; and we know there are not any simple answers as the causal links are complex mixes of genetic, developmental, and environmental contributors.

    “Cleaning up false assumptions woven through psychological theories that are potentially damaging our child.”

    This is a worthy goal, and in fact is a primary motivator for many of the people I know who work in this field professionally. Again, some clarity and specificity on what these false assumptions are, and scientifically demonstrating that these are damaging to children, would help you accomplish your goals and help you be taken seriously by others.

    I am a research/experimental psychologist myself, and I’ll be the first to admit the field is messy, complex, and there are a lot of bad ideas out there. Most of ‘pop-psychology’ is just goofy bunk worthy of harsh criticism. There is LOTS of room for improvement in this field. So, put the work in, learn what we DO know, and what we don’t know, how we know these things, and THEN teach us how to do it better.

  72. The Other John Mcon 10 Nov 2014 at 8:22 am

    Karen, another point I meant to make.

    You said: “It is a mathematical impossibility for two brains to have a billion neurons fire exactly the same way every second in order for one brain to know exactly the intentions inside of the other. This is one reason empathy is a biological impossibility. It is a false assumption for how one brain can know another brain.”

    But this is not how “empathy” is defined in the psychological literature. No one thinks that one person’s brain has to literally have every pattern and neuron firing in exactly the same way as another person’s brain in order to demonstrate empathy. You are pointing your frustrations towards a problem that doesn’t actually exist, and you are correcting ‘false assumptions’ that no one is assuming. This is one of the reasons it is difficult to understand your concerns about psychology; you need to understand the actual assumptions before correcting them, and before demonstrating they are wrong or problematic.

  73. mumadaddon 10 Nov 2014 at 8:26 am

    I think she may have been thinking of mirror neurons. Harriet Hall on SBM recently did an interesting article on this: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/mirror-neurons-and-the-pitfalls-of-brain-research/

  74. The Other John Mcon 10 Nov 2014 at 8:37 am

    I figured she might be thinking of mirror neurons. Extrapolating from interesting findings using single-cell recordings to theoretical explanations of complex behaviors always struck me as a bit of a stretch, too, since the complex behaviors are generally going to be high-level activities coordinated across vast ensembles of networks. It’s hard to imagine that a single neuron in all this ‘noise’ is going to tell you much about what is going on at a level involving thousands or millions of interacting neurons.

  75. The Other John Mcon 10 Nov 2014 at 8:43 am

    As if single-cell recordings weren’t difficult enough to accomplish….interpreting the data from this and extrapolating to a higher level (appropriately & correctly) can be even more difficult.

  76. jsterritton 10 Nov 2014 at 10:54 am

    @Karenkilbane

    “Psychological analysis should not pretend one person can know the intentions of another.”

    Why didn’t you say this in the first place? It is clear that it is what you meant, yet substituted your misunderstanding about cognitive bias for some reason. Oh well, no harm done. You should continue to hone your ideas. Some unsolicited advice: strip your ideas of their hostility and antagonism toward other therapeutic approaches (pointing out the shortcomings in other approaches doesn’t strengthen the value of yours). Find common ground. Study and learn — specifically, read the scientific literature and be able to cite it chapter and verse. Follow Dr Novella’s advice and find a way to conduct your own experiments and research. As tmac57 has noted, you’ve gotten a taste of what peer review and other academic endeavors (thesis, doc, post-doc) will be like when you present your ideas: you will have to defend your them to know-it-alls. Please don’t keep your own counsel on this subject exclusively or seek out an echo chamber. Don’t give in to the dark side and rely on your personal experience, real and hypothetical case studies, and the strength of your convictions to bolster your beliefs. Rather, try to test and falsify your ideas and make sure others have a chance to do the same. You have shown yourself here to be open to criticism and open to new information.

    Do science, not woo. Again, the dark side (woo) is tempting and easy, but it will undermine the good intentions you have and in the end it will benefit no one.

    Good luck!

  77. hardnoseon 10 Nov 2014 at 1:34 pm

    ” I think there is no amount of evidence, however clear and objective, that will convince some people that children really died at Sandy Hook or that the WTC towers weren’t brought down by explosives planted before 9/11. Bias can absolutely blind you to objective facts – we see it every day. ”

    If someone thinks the official news media can’t be trusted, they would not consider those objective facts.

  78. hardnoseon 10 Nov 2014 at 1:38 pm

    The Dunning-Kruger experiments are obviously defective. We know that people know when they are no good at something.

    Cognitive psychology experiments often lack ecological validity. That means they create artificial situations that do not test what they claim to test.

    Yes we sometimes think too highly of our own abilities, but not consistently and not when faced with obvious evidence.

    The fact that the researchers, and everyone who agrees with the research, could not see this is kind of bizarre.

  79. hardnoseon 10 Nov 2014 at 1:39 pm

    “No one thinks that one person’s brain has to literally have every pattern and neuron firing in exactly the same way as another person’s brain in order to demonstrate empathy.”

    Karen has gone off the deep end in trying to be a materialist.

  80. hardnoseon 10 Nov 2014 at 1:40 pm

    “We get it bro, science is hard and magical, God is the answer. Since you can’t provide any substantive input maybe consider moving along?”

    Sorry if I have scared you.

  81. steve12on 10 Nov 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Hardnose:

    What about cognitive biases where estimation of probabilities is concerned, i.e., where there is mathematical ground truth with which to compare human decisions? Are those cognitive biases also BS?

  82. hardnoseon 10 Nov 2014 at 4:49 pm

    steve12,

    Estimating probabilities can be difficult, which gives plenty of room for bias.

    It seems to me that most or all important decisions involve ambiguous or probabilistic data. When the data is clear and obvious, decisions happen lightening fast and usually aren’t even noticed. The decisions we notice are the difficult ones.

  83. steve12on 10 Nov 2014 at 4:57 pm

    HN:

    I’m not saying this in a vague sense – I mean like Kahneman’s work. What do yo think of this cog bias work?

  84. Ekkoon 10 Nov 2014 at 6:29 pm

    hardnose,

    Re:
    “The Dunning-Kruger experiments are obviously defective. We know that people know when they are no good at something.

    Cognitive psychology experiments often lack ecological validity. That means they create artificial situations that do not test what they claim to test.

    Yes we sometimes think too highly of our own abilities, but not consistently and not when faced with obvious evidence.

    The fact that the researchers, and everyone who agrees with the research, could not see this is kind of bizarre.”

    A good experiment will acknowledge limitations, confounding factors, etc. and do its best to account for or mitigate them. It still may not be perfect. Peer review and reproducibility come in here to help. Still not perfect maybe, but better than the alternative, which is where you come in:
    “We know that people know when they are no good at something”

    Who is “we”? Who are “people”? What is “something”? I really hope you are not saying that cog psych experiments have limitations to them but that your armchair cog psych gut feelings and anecdotes are obviously much more accurate. Because, well, that would be laughably stupid.

  85. RickKon 10 Nov 2014 at 7:26 pm

    hardnose said: “If someone thinks the official news media can’t be trusted, they would not consider those objective facts.”

    Riiiight… because the only possible way to get information from the people involved in Sandy Hook was through the official news media – none of the parents, teachers, administrators, emergency personnel, family members, neighbors, friends or anyone else with direct knowledge had a Facebook account or a blog.

    Got it!

    Thank you for demonstrating so clearly the motivated reasoning and “bias over fact” thinking that Steve blogged about.

  86. jsterritton 10 Nov 2014 at 8:57 pm

    @Ekko

    “I really hope you are not saying that cog psych experiments have limitations to them but that your armchair cog psych gut feelings and anecdotes are obviously much more accurate.”

    We know that people don’t necessarily know when they are being laughably stupid.

    (In the comments on a post about DK and cognitive biases.)

    Priceless.

  87. grabulaon 10 Nov 2014 at 8:58 pm

    @BJ7

    “I decided to ignore him, but that was good.”

    I try but hardnose is probably the most regularly ignorant poster we have here. Remember when he used to be a scientist? He has yet to show an understanding of even the most basic science and blames this on subversion by the popular choice. He’s not been able to back up one claim with any sort of credible evidence and rarely decides to even bother. His ignorance is supremely painful and hard to ignore. Like a nail sticking out of your foot.

  88. grabulaon 10 Nov 2014 at 9:11 pm

    @hardnose

    “Sorry if I have scared you.”

    You do, but not in the way you think.

  89. Ekkoon 10 Nov 2014 at 10:08 pm

    @jsterritt,
    I know – the irony is priceless. It’s almost like something in hardnose’s psyche wanted to create a teachable moment/live example in the comments.

  90. hardnoseon 11 Nov 2014 at 9:06 am

    RickK,

    I believe that children were killed at Sandy Hook, and I believe that terrorists flew planes into the WTC. I have almost never seen a conspiracy theory that I believe.

  91. hardnoseon 11 Nov 2014 at 9:09 am

    “I mean like Kahneman’s work. What do yo think of this cog bias work?”

    There are lots of problems in Kahneman’s work. Some researchers seem to get so immersed in their ideas and preconceptions they can’t see the defects.

    I refer to it as “smart person’s syndrome.” When someone has been told all their life how smart they are, of course they believe it. But they go farther and start to feel sort of infallible. And if they are a professor in an ivy league school, everyone around them reinforces this and supports their ideas, however nonsensical. I have seen this happen many times.

    Some of Kahneman’s and other cog psy research is ok, but I have seen lots of obvious defects.

  92. hardnoseon 11 Nov 2014 at 9:11 am

    ” His ignorance is supremely painful and hard to ignore. Like a nail sticking out of your foot.”

    Haha i didn’t know I was making so much of an impact.

  93. hardnoseon 11 Nov 2014 at 9:13 am

    Just to clarify, I am not an “armchair” cognitive scientist, but have a lot of experience in it and I know the literature probably as well as anyone.

    Not that you will believe me. I am too much of a threat to your materialist bias.

  94. hardnoseon 11 Nov 2014 at 9:24 am

    If you want to know if Dunning-Kruger is valid, just spend a moment thinking of examples. Of course, materialist “skeptics” have been brainwashed to think ordinary reasoning is defective and only controlled experiments can be trusted. So you trust inane experiments with no ecological validity, and doubt your own lifetime of experience.

    If you asked me how well I speak French, for example, i would say not well at all. But i probably could not give you an accurate percentile ranking of my ability. The same goes for any skill or area of knowledge.

    Sometimes people at any early stage of learning something do over-rate themselves. Karen, the recent commenter here, seems to have read a couple of books on materialist brain science, or something, and now thinks she has a complete understanding of human nature.

    But as soon as she gets enough negative feedback her illusions will probably be corrected, and she will read a couple more books.

    As I said before, learning in isolation can make people over-estimate their skills and knowledge.

  95. Bruceon 11 Nov 2014 at 9:54 am

    Hardnose:

    Please consider these two things before you post any more unsubstantiated drivel:

    evidence/ˈɛvɪd(ə)ns/
    noun
    the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.

    citation/sʌɪˈteɪʃ(ə)n/
    noun
    1.a quotation from or reference to a book, paper, or author, especially in a scholarly work.

    This is especially pertinent when you say things like:

    “Some of Kahneman’s and other cog psy research is ok, but I have seen lots of obvious defects.”

    What are these obvious defects? What evidence can you provide to back up your claim? Are you so hard-headed that you have not figured out that us “materialists” won’t accept your confused narrative.

    You keep saying stuff, you keep not backing it up with anything more than your own strange handwaving and unique (mis)understanding of science and statistics.

    I do find it hilarious that the whole essence of your argument here is that the Dunning-Kruger effect is wrong because of… the Dunning-Kruger effect.

    You are not a threat, Hardnose, you are a lesson for all who visit this site on how not to do things. You remind me of the father bear in the Berenstain Bears book: “The Bike Ride”.

  96. mumadaddon 11 Nov 2014 at 10:02 am

    HN,

    You keep throwing in atheism/materialism as being the basis for any science you disagree with, but you never flesh this out. If we’re talking about science, or effects measured and quantified by science, what place is there for anything immaterial or god? How can science possibly factor anything it cannot test for into it’s framework?

    It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that your own position is anything but ideologically derived.

  97. hardnoseon 11 Nov 2014 at 10:44 am

    Science does not have to be materialist. We have no definition of the word “materialism” for one thing. Or for the word “naturalism,” which they sometimes prefer.

    Many things studied by science, such as gravity or electromagnetic fields, cannot reasonably be called “matter.”

    In general, you call something “matter” if you can perceive it, or if it can be detected by scientific instruments. Ok that’s fine, but you go further and declare that nothing can be called “matter” that science has not already figured out how to detect.

    You state that any hypothesized substance or field cannot possibly exist because its existence would defy the known laws of science. Where is the logic in that statement?

    Materialism is an old philosophical perspective that has no basis in logic or scientific evidence. But you faithfully stick with it, no matter what.

    What you really seem to mean by “materialism” is a belief that the universe cannot possibly be an intelligent machine.

  98. Bruceon 11 Nov 2014 at 10:54 am

    I have removed my palm from my face and Imma just drop this quote in:

    “What do you think science is? There’s nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. Which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic?”

  99. tmac57on 11 Nov 2014 at 11:06 am

    hardnose- I think we can now all just ignore your arguments since you have tacitly admitted that they are ‘immaterial’.

  100. hardnoseon 11 Nov 2014 at 11:29 am

    Bruce,

    I DO NOT DISAGREE WITH SCIENCE. geez, how did you ever get that from any of my comments?

  101. mumadaddon 11 Nov 2014 at 11:58 am

    HN,

    Honestly, it seems like you’re wilfully misunderstanding the position you’re arguing against – nobody here holds the position you outlined above. The key point about ‘materialism’, ‘naturalism’ or however posters here choose to label their position (and some don’t care for a label at all) is the absence of something outside the universe acting within it. Matter, nature, whatever we choose to call this ‘stuff’, it doesn’t affect this principle.

    What you really seem to mean by “materialism” is a belief that the universe cannot possibly be an intelligent machine.

    Well no, this conclusion is not held for the purpose of excluding anyone’s pet belief – it’s an honest assessment of the evidence. Also, science is progressing just fine with the assumption of methodological naturalism. Where is the evidence for the universe being an intelligent machine? Why has science been unable to uncover whatever it is you see that has led you to this conclusion? What phenomena exist that require a non-materialist explanation? What are your non-materialist hypotheses and how have they been tested?

  102. hardnoseon 11 Nov 2014 at 12:03 pm

    “Where is the evidence for the universe being an intelligent machine?”

    Everywhere.

  103. Hosson 11 Nov 2014 at 12:16 pm

    hardnose
    You have a major problem trying to access why someone disagrees with you as you continually attribute ideological motivations them and attack them with your misconceptions. You really need to do a better job controlling your biases as they are distorting your mind.

    “You state that any hypothesized substance or field cannot possibly exist because its existence would defy the known laws of science. Where is the logic in that statement?”

    There is logic in the statement, its just not valid logic. But the most interesting thing about your statement is that no one here has said or even implied anything remotely close to that. You do understand that attributing an invalid statement a person or group and then attacking the fallacious argument is a straw man, right?

    Do you know what a naturalist would think or say if someone hypothesized an ice-cream field that the more particles interact with it the less motion the particle has, and the less a particle interacts with it the more motion the particle has? Can you think of anything valid a naturalist would say about this situation? This question is to demonstrate that you do not understand naturalism, which is why I’m not offering the answer just yet.

    “In general, you call something “matter” if you can perceive it, or if it can be detected by scientific instruments. Ok that’s fine, but you go further and declare that nothing can be called “matter” that science has not already figured out how to detect.”

    Who the f*ck said that? You’re not arguing with anyone here. Yet another straw man.

    I don’t see there being a problem with a possible future discovery of dark matter 2. Do you see how what you said is flawed and easily demolished by this simple example?

    “Science does not have to be materialist. We have no definition of the word “materialism” for one thing. Or for the word “naturalism,” which they sometimes prefer.”

    Naturalism and materialism are not the same thing. Also, if you haven’t been paying attention for the last several thousand years, definitions in philosophy have undefinable boundaries, meaning the boundaries are fuzzy and have no clear demarcation.

    Science is conducted in the framework of methodological naturalism.

    Two more questions I pose to you. What type of philosophy do you identify with? If science shouldn’t use the framework of methodological naturalism, what should the framework be based upon and why?

  104. Bruceon 11 Nov 2014 at 1:04 pm

    “Bruce,
    I DO NOT DISAGREE WITH SCIENCE. geez, how did you ever get that from any of my comments?”

    Hardnose,

    I get it from your comments, BECAUSE YOU CONTINUALLY TRY TO REDEFINE IT TO MEET YOUR OWN NEEDS!!!

    You do not accept scientific answers, you keep making shit up and you keep pretending you have evidence that no one here EVER sees.

    You have never demonstrated:

    Being thorough
    Using careful observation
    Being systematic
    Or using consistent logic

    Even just one… never mind actually putting all 4 together which I would say is required for the science to be valid.

    But hey ho… you will take no learning from this, so I know this post is really just to stroke my “someone is wrong on the internet” bone as opposed to actually trying to convince you.

  105. hardnoseon 11 Nov 2014 at 1:22 pm

    “If science shouldn’t use the framework of methodological naturalism, what should the framework be based upon and why?:

    Science should use the scientific method. It should not prefer any ideological framework.

  106. steve12on 11 Nov 2014 at 1:49 pm

    HN:

    “There are lots of problems in Kahneman’s work. Some researchers seem to get so immersed in their ideas and preconceptions they can’t see the defects.
    I refer to it as “smart person’s syndrome.” When someone has been told all their life how smart they are, of course they believe it. But they go farther and start to feel sort of infallible. And if they are a professor in an ivy league school, everyone around them reinforces this and supports their ideas, however nonsensical. I have seen this happen many times.
    Some of Kahneman’s and other cog psy research is ok, but I have seen lots of obvious defects.”

    Can you be a little more specific re: what is wrong with Kahneman’s work? I’m not looking for a psy profile and vague impressions. You said that the bias lit was BS, so I’m asking for a critique who got a Noble prize-worthy work for it. And this is your critique?

  107. Hosson 11 Nov 2014 at 1:56 pm

    hardnose
    “Science should use the scientific method. It should not prefer any ideological framework.”

    This should be a quick read for you. It should(but probably won’t) clear up some of the misconceptions that you have about science, methodological naturalism, and philosophical naturalism.
    http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2010/10/secularism-and-methodological.html

    Why do you selectively answer questions(especially ones designed to demonstrate your flawed reasoning and lack of understanding)? Are you a coward, do you not want us to know the extent of your bullshit, or is it something else entirely?

  108. RickKon 11 Nov 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Hard nose said: “I believe that children were killed at Sandy Hook, and I believe that terrorists flew planes into the WTC. I have almost never seen a conspiracy theory that I believe.”

    Congratulations.

    But back to the actual point – your assertion that facts override biases fails in the case of conspiracy theorists that simply dismiss any facts that don’t confirm their biases. And this is a very common reaction in everyone to a greater or lesser degree.

    If admitting you are wrong causes you more personal distress than the idea you may actually BE wrong, then you’ll happily risk being objectively wrong and will use every means possible to avoid admitting you are wrong. That’s when favorable fact filtering kicks in.

  109. RickKon 11 Nov 2014 at 3:39 pm

    hardnose said:
    “Where is the evidence for the universe being an intelligent machine?”
    Everywhere.

    Ok, how would a universe driven by unguided natural processes and devoid of a ruling intelligence be different than our current universe? Please provide facts to support you opinions.

  110. hardnoseon 11 Nov 2014 at 4:53 pm

    “Ok, how would a universe driven by unguided natural processes and devoid of a ruling intelligence be different than our current universe?”

    It would be different because it couldn’t possibly exist. That whole ideology is irrational and bizarre. It only survives thanks to relentless brainwashing.

  111. grabulaon 11 Nov 2014 at 8:50 pm

    Hardnose

    “I DO NOT UNDERSTAND SCIENCE”

    I fixed that for you bud, seems you were confused.

  112. grabulaon 11 Nov 2014 at 9:03 pm

    “I believe that children were killed at Sandy Hook, and I believe that terrorists flew planes into the WTC. I have almost never seen a conspiracy theory that I believe.”

    Except for the materialist conspiracy that is right hardnose?

    “Just to clarify, I am not an “armchair” cognitive scientist, but have a lot of experience in it and I know the literature probably as well as anyone. Not that you will believe me. I am too much of a threat to your materialist bias.”

    I don’t believe you because you’ve lied about being a scientist in the past. When it’s convenient for you you claim a background in whatever it is you’re discussing. You used to be a scientist, now you have a background in cognitive psychology.

    “We have no definition of the word “materialism” for one thing. Or for the word “naturalism,” which they sometimes prefer.”

    keeeerist hardnose your hypocrisy knows no bounds. You’ve been tossing around that word since you started posting and now you claim we have no definition. It’s obvious YOU have a definition.

    “In general, you call something “matter” if you can perceive it, or if it can be detected by scientific instruments. Ok that’s fine, but you go further and declare that nothing can be called “matter” that science has not already figured out how to detect. ”

    Huge strawman but we’re getting used to that aren’t we hardnose? No one here has claimed we have discovered everything and figured out how to detect everything – Dark Matter/Energy is a great example of that.

    “Everywhere.”

    You make ridiculous woo woo statements and never fail to forget to support them.

    Bruce, I’d like to add to your list of things hardnose does not bring to the table:
    Being thorough
    Using careful observation
    Being systematic
    Or using consistent logic
    Evidence

    Hardnose arguments always boil down to “because I said so”

  113. steve12on 11 Nov 2014 at 11:58 pm

    Hardnose, you really are too much.

    I like to point out that when I ask you something specific, you alway beg out. Always. But the juxtaposition here is just so Fing rich.

    I ask:
    “Can you be a little more specific re: what is wrong with Kahneman’s work? I’m not looking for a psy profile and vague impressions.”

    Of course, HN has commented MANY times since then, but not to this. Wonder why.

    But THIS he knows
    RickK:
    “Ok, how would a universe driven by unguided natural processes and devoid of a ruling intelligence be different than our current universe?”

    Hardnose
    “It would be different because it couldn’t possibly exist.”

    Amazing. Hardnose now KNOWs what can POSSIBLY EXIST in the universe!!!! Ya may have outkicked your coverage here kid. Ya wanna try and defend that? In science, it’s alway good to make conservative, measured claims. So ya got that goin’ for ya.

    Then there’s this:
    “Just to clarify, I am not an “armchair” cognitive scientist, but have a lot of experience in it and I know the literature probably as well as anyone.”

    HA!!!! This is a good one. Let me personally assure everyone (not that they needed it) that you are no resource for cognitive sciences. I know that you believe that, but I’ve read enough of your post to know that this is incorrect.

  114. grabulaon 12 Nov 2014 at 12:45 am

    “HA!!!! This is a good one. Let me personally assure everyone (not that they needed it) that you are no resource for cognitive sciences. I know that you believe that, but I’ve read enough of your post to know that this is incorrect.”

    That’s hardnose MO. He sweeps in, makes some comments that show his profound misunderstanding of the subject at hand and science/scientific process in general. Later once he feels sufficiently backed into a corner he claims expertise in the field but has as of yet to provide one iota of evidence for his arguments or his credentials. In effect he is a classic internet personality, hiding behind anonymity but trying to get some respect.

  115. hardnoseon 12 Nov 2014 at 10:01 am

    “Can you be a little more specific re: what is wrong with Kahneman’s work?”

    One obvious mistake he has made is misunderstanding certain things about natural language. For example, the word “if” can mean “if” or “if and only if,” and this is disambiguated by the discourse context. In formal logic and computer languages, on the other hand, the exact meaning of “if” has to be specified.

    Kahneman (and Tversky, I think) did an experiment where subjects’ responses were considered wrong if they interpreted “if” correctly in terms of natural language, but incorrectly in terms of logic. (No, logic is NOT superior to natural language. Logical languages are restricted to simplified closed systems).

    There was another obvious mistake that I noticed, where they again assumed that natural language is inferior to artificial logical languages (this is, or used to be, a very common assumption in cognitive science).

    (I am writing all this from memory, would have to look stuff up to give all the details.)

    But here is an example from one of their experiments that I found especially stupid:

    Subjects read paragraphs that describe a person, and then answered multiple choice questions about the person. In this example, the person is an educated woman who majored in English and is very interested in politics. Subjects have to choose which statement about her is more likely to be true: A. She works as a bank teller, or B. she works as a bank teller AND is a feminist.

    Subjects tended to “wrongly” choose B.

    But in the natural discourse context, choice A implies that she is ONLY a bank teller and is NOT a feminist. K&T were oblivious to this, and I think gave this description as the main example in their paper.

    They claim that A AND B has to be less likely than A alone, and that is true in formal logic. But natural language is far more complex and sophisticated that formal logic (hurray again for the ordinary person).

    I had read this as a graduate student, many years ago. I mentioned the problem I noticed to my adviser and he said well yes, he had noticed it too, and then quickly changed the subject. Being skeptical about high status researchers at Stanford was taboo.

    I could go on and on about this for hundreds of pages, all from memory, but that’s enough for now, and I doubt anyone here is interested anyway.

  116. steve12on 12 Nov 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Conjunction fallacy.

    For one, you’re stuck on the fact that theses experiments are scientists judging people as dumb or wrong. This is an absurd persecution complex way of looking at these experiments. The researchers are looking for patterns of responses to try and understand how our brains work vs. some ground truth, nothing more.

    Hate to tell you, but you didn’t come up with some taboo criticism that scared your advisor, rather, you came up with a common objection to the original paper. Google scholar will show you that. I believe most of the people who published critiques along these line are still alive and have not been banished.

    In fact, it’s probably one of the most boundary tested finding in psych. Many conditions have been found that indeed make it less robust, and changing the language is one. This does not make it go away, however, which still makes it interesting. There are even variants where they specifically debriefed subjects about their reasoning to see if this was indeed the problem.

    But instead of researching a few of the hundreds of follow up experiments looking into conjunction fallacy (several reviews to choose from as well), you read the original paper alone, came up with one reasonable objection and then:
    1. thought you were shaking science to its core with your apostacy
    2. launched into paranoid dreams about bucking the system (trust me, you advisor didn’t give a shit what you though they probably wanted you out of the office so they could get back to work. I don’t mean personally because of you, I ean they’re busy)
    3. Concluded that Kahneman was enamored with his own intelligence and is someone who “…has been told all their life how smart they are, of course they believe it. But they go farther and start to feel sort of infallible. ”

    I think this may be talking beyond that data.

    HN, this is how science works. No paper is perfect or a dispositive final word. If you read just the initial paper in a series of hundreds, you can’t go around drawing these types of conclusions.

    The paranoia and conspiracy theories are not warranted either.

  117. steve12on 12 Nov 2014 at 1:21 pm

    HN:

    Good for you for answering a specific question though.

  118. hardnoseon 12 Nov 2014 at 2:22 pm

    I read plenty of criticisms of that paper steve12, don’t worry. When I write a comment on a blog i don’t expect to cover every possible aspect of every possible thing.

    At the time I read that paper, there weren’t any criticisms of it yet. If I had known you were going to nit pick, I would have mentioned that.

    The underlying goal, if only subconscious, of that line of research was trying to explain how the ordinary non-scientist could be so idiotic. They really thought that if everyone were taught to think “correctly” and use science and logic, the world would be paradise. Kind of like the John Lennon song Imagine. Imagine no religion, no war, the whole world just one giant orgy, etc.

    Most academics are leftists, by the way. (No, I am not a rightist, I just think both the political left and right are ludicrous).

    So you think I’m a know-it-all, well I think you are a know-it-not-much.

  119. jsterritton 12 Nov 2014 at 2:35 pm

    @hardnose

    “Being skeptical about high status researchers at Stanford was taboo.”

    How long have you been telling people this story? Have you always interpreted eye-rolling and groans as proof of your intimidating intellect? You really have no idea how ridiculous this story paints you, do you?

    (steve12, thanks for the laugh. Poor HN, his persecution continues apace!)

  120. hardnoseon 12 Nov 2014 at 3:10 pm

    I often made my professors nervous by finding defects in famous experiments. One guy’s face literally turned purple. I am no good at politics.

  121. hardnoseon 12 Nov 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Of course if you think every high status professor is a great genius whose research really is perfect then you won’t believe me.

  122. RickKon 12 Nov 2014 at 5:04 pm

    hardnose said: “The underlying goal, if only subconscious, of that line of research was trying to explain how the ordinary non-scientist could be so idiotic. ”

    hardnose, you really have to find a way to see around your own inferiority complex. It’s clouding your view of everything, causing you to react defensively to anyone who studies human cognitive foibles. Humans DO have cognitive foibles, many of them can be studied and better understood, and we’re better off for it. Understanding how to make clearer decisions through mastery of cognitive biases is no different than understanding how to make clearer decisions through mastery of mathematics.
    Scientists aren’t calling people who don’t understand cognitive biases stupid any more than they’re calling people who don’t understand mathematics stupid. Both require training to master.

    So stop being so defensive.

    Also, based on your posts I’m guessing that if you weren’t so saddled with feelings of inferiority, you’d stop repeating your story about challenging your professor in college. Then perhaps that raw skin on your back would have a chance to heal once you stop patting it so often.

    And I’m still waiting for your evidence to support your assertion from 11 Nov at 4:53 pm. You once again gave an unsupported opinion (a real doozy!) when I explicitly asked “Please provide facts to support you opinions”.

  123. tmac57on 12 Nov 2014 at 6:50 pm

    hardnose-

    I often made my professors nervous by finding defects in famous experiments.

    My,my,you must be quite the savant,turning science on it’s pointy little head left and right! I bow to your obvious genius. Could you catalog these defects of said “famous experiments” for us please…you know…just so we don’t presume you to be some blowhard fabulist…I would hate to make that mistake.
    I’m sure that you will remember them all,since after all,you must have made history…right?

  124. hardnoseon 12 Nov 2014 at 7:25 pm

    RickK,

    I am not defending my poor old self, I am defending humanity in general. I hate elitism and if there were a Nobel prize for elitism, those Stanford professors would definitely get it.

  125. hardnoseon 12 Nov 2014 at 7:38 pm

    tmac57,

    Graduate students are strongly discouraged from thinking independently. If you care about your future career, you will not mention obvious defects in famous professors’ research. I didn’t care enough, I guess. It doesn’t mean I think I’m smarter than average, it just means I am not political.

    I don’t consider myself special at all. I can see you are very worried and enraged because you think I think I am special and heaven knows we can’t allow that. But relax, I am just like anyone.

    I saw defects in the ideas of authority figures. I have done it since elementary school and you can imagine how much my teachers loved me. I do it here at this blog, and you can see how admired I am because of it.

    I saw extreme, major defects in my advisor’s dissertation research, which he gave me to read in my first year. And I wrote comments all over it with a red pen, and gave it back to him!!

    Then a couple of years later he tried to publish it, and it was rejected because of the same defects I had noticed.

    Well you won’t believe me but I really don’t care.

  126. tmac57on 12 Nov 2014 at 8:12 pm

    hardnose- Nice,vague,self-serving story,completely devoid of facts or data points.
    Why should anyone believe this yarn from one who has not shown himself (herself?…not sure) to possess the kind of intellect that would support such a tale?
    You are correct,in that you are not particularly special,and it is amusingly ironic that you have displayed, in full feature,the phenomenon that Steve Novella set out to write about in this thread.

  127. Ekkoon 12 Nov 2014 at 11:29 pm

    I’m not usually very special, but when I am, I often make my professors nervous by finding defects in famous experiments.
    I’m not very political, but when I am, I notice that all academic researchers are leftists.
    I’m not very elitist, but when I am, I call people brainwashed know-nothings.
    I’m not technically a scientist, but when I am, I see through materialist ideology to the intelligent universe everywhere.

  128. jsterritton 12 Nov 2014 at 11:47 pm

    I often made my professors nervous, they didn’t know what to make of my maverick genius.

    By finding defects in famous experiments, by the transitive property of an intelligent universe, I became famous and free of defects.

    One guy’s face literally turned purple. I think I am a Jedi. There is no way he was stifling laughter.

    I am no good at politics, which is beneath me. I play at truths, not games. And I should know, because of my Panglossian conviction that this is the most intelligent of all universes, and I am the most intelligent person in it.

    I see extreme, major defects everywhere, except in that one a$$hole I shave every morning. That guy is awesome!

  129. RickKon 12 Nov 2014 at 11:48 pm

    “Well you won’t believe me but I really don’t care.”

    What is it with you and “belief”? You offer nothing but unsupported assertions and childishly self-aggrandizing stories, then repeatedly complain that we don’t believe you. Nobody else here is asking for belief. Facts, studies, tests, reason – these comprise the currency with which ideas are transacted here – not belief.

    Hardnose, your insecurity is showing again. Using research and evidence and logic to support an argument isn’t elitism – it’s intellectual competence.

  130. hardnoseon 13 Nov 2014 at 9:12 am

    jsterrit,

    I was actually lol at your comment, I actually like it. It’s true I keep saying I am not very smart, but in fact I am in the dreaded top 1% for intelligence. At the same time, I think intelligence tests and formal education are mostly BS. Yes I see the apparent contradictions in my message.

  131. tmac57on 13 Nov 2014 at 9:14 am

    Spot on comments Ekko,jsterrit,RickK. Also, some good chuckles as an added treat with my morning coffee. 🙂

  132. The Other John Mcon 13 Nov 2014 at 9:20 am

    Was actually a really interesting article on Nautilus recently, an interview of several Mensa members and their thoughts on being “genius” and whatnot, very interesting:

    http://nautil.us/blog/how-is-a-genius-different-from-a-really-smart-person

  133. tmac57on 13 Nov 2014 at 10:49 am

    Here’s an example of how an average guy can overturn a famous math problem:

    http://www.gocomics.com/onebighappy/2014/11/13/

  134. BillyJoe7on 13 Nov 2014 at 3:37 pm

    …HN is the little boy, and I’m picturing the little girl’s face turning blue in the next frame.

  135. BillyJoe7on 13 Nov 2014 at 3:54 pm

    From HN’s post: “I am in the dreaded top 1% for intelligence”

    From TOJM’s link: “You can have a very high IQ and be a complete idiot”

  136. mumadaddon 13 Nov 2014 at 5:08 pm

    I did a fair few free online IQ tests a while back, and found that I always seemed to score highly, but the range was pretty big – 120-140. I tended to rationalise away the lower end scores and just count the top end, in spite of the fact I’d taken repeated attempts at the same test and cheated (using a pen and paper); and I walked around with the smug realisation that everyone I knew had no comprehension of how ‘very gifted’ or ‘genius’ the person they were dealing with was.

    I always got an email afterwards, congratulating me on my incredible intelligence, and offering me a detailed report on just how brilliant I am, for a special discounted rate. Somewhere in the back of my mind a little voice nagged at me about the whole thing possibly being a bit of a scam, cashing in on almost everybody’s secret intuition that they are in fact an unrecognised genius just waiting for fate to swoop in and propel them into their ultimate cascade of recognition and glory.

  137. mumadaddon 13 Nov 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Oh, and this: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/nov/29/iq-tests-online-are-they-valid

  138. mumadaddon 13 Nov 2014 at 5:12 pm

    I abuse commas. Fixed.

    I did a fair few free online IQ tests a while back and found that I always seemed to score highly, but the range was pretty big – 120-140. I tended to rationalise away the lower end scores and just count the top end in spite of the fact I’d taken repeated attempts at the same test and cheated (using a pen and paper); and I walked around with the smug realisation that everyone I knew had no comprehension of how ‘very gifted’ or ‘genius’ the person they were dealing with was.

    I always got an email afterwards congratulating me on my incredible intelligence and offering me a detailed report on just how brilliant I am, for a special discounted rate. Somewhere in the back of my mind a little voice nagged at me about the whole thing possibly being a bit of a scam, cashing in on almost everybody’s secret intuition that they are in fact an unrecognised genius just waiting for fate to swoop in and propel them into their ultimate cascade of recognition and glory.

  139. mumadaddon 13 Nov 2014 at 7:42 pm

    …but I’m worth it; I’m special; every folly I’ve committed has been the result of the inability of the other people involved to grasp the concepts in which I deal. Their faces turn purple when I hit them with my revelation boom-stick.

  140. grabulaon 18 Nov 2014 at 10:45 pm

    Just so we’re clear here:

    “I had read this as a graduate student, many years ago. I mentioned the problem I noticed to my adviser and he said well yes, he had noticed it too, and then quickly changed the subject. Being skeptical about high status researchers at Stanford was taboo.”

    So hardnose has moved on from claiming to be a scientist to claiming to have gone to a high end school…yet still shows almost no understanding of basic scientific principles.

    What a clown.

  141. grabulaon 18 Nov 2014 at 10:52 pm

    “I often made my professors nervous by finding defects in famous experiments. One guy’s face literally turned purple. I am no good at politics.”

    and no good at science.

    “I don’t consider myself special at all”

    Certainly not hardnose. I mean you’re a scientist, who can’t backup your credentials. You shook the very foundations of those who were supposed to teach you at a high end school, and you continuously point out how the status quo has it wrong and you have it right, but yiou’re oh so humble aren’t you?

  142. Gary Hurdon 08 Dec 2014 at 11:23 pm

    There is a rather surprising prior publication from 1998.

    “Unfortunately, like many people who are instinctively bad at something, the Archchancellor prided himself on how good at it he was.” Terry Pratchett, “The Last Continent.”

  143. Steve Ohsheaon 11 Mar 2015 at 9:42 am

    I am reticent about writing without reading prior comments; however, I believe that mediocrity is quite difficult to see either by introspection or from the outside. It is not a quality of a thing, but rather a state of limitation. It is as though a man falls down a well, looks upwards, and claims to be an astronomer, by virtue of the small circle of sky that he sees.
    There is a powerful congruence between simplicity, profoundness and brilliance. Much of Einstein’s work, although expressed in highly abstract mathematics, states principles that can be easily understood and freely discussed; it is only their proof, not their principles, that is quite difficult.
    Mediocrity is painfully conservative in the true definition of the word; not in the political sense we use it in America. Political liberals, as well as conservatives, seem determined to demonstrate mediocrity in so many ways.
    It is conservative because of its lack of vision; that alone is not a vice. But the insistence that one’s own vision is as good as any other person’s, that’s the vanity that underlies mediocrity and makes it so utterly toxic. As a measure it is harmless; as a standard, it is completely noxious.

  144. james rapaion 15 May 2015 at 1:19 am

    The dumb don’t know how dumb they are… we are scientists… we know.

    Now, where have I heard this before??

    Think, think, think…. scratch, scratch, scratch…

    Yes, got it! This is exactly the kind of spiel the Brahmin’s of yesteryears (of India of course) used to scam the lesser folks and get away with murder!

    Science is a crock of shit. And the practitioners… scratch that, the sideline fans, the fanatics, are… are… foaming in the mouth and vaccinating everyone in sight! God save us all from autism!

  145. BillyJoe7on 15 May 2015 at 8:42 am

    …move on…nothing to see here

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