When it comes to discerning truth from myth, our enemy is ourselves — and ourselves really, Really, REALLY like to turn chance events into coherent narratives. (Via Kellan)

19 Responses to “A must-read for anyone who wants to be less stupid”

  1. Also highly recommend You Are Not So Smart for an easily digestible discussion of many cognitive biases.

    • Tynam says:

      Thanks; a deeply useful link I didn’t know about.

    • ocker3 says:

      Can you recommend a starting point? Your link is to a page full of links, as is the Less Wrong one below. Humans struggle to make choices when presented with more than 7-8 options without additional guidance, and I’m pretty busy and distracted most days

      • Well, it doesn’t seem like it is meant to be read in any particular order. I guess I’d start at the bottom and work my way up, since that’s the order in which they were posted. Since each one covers a particular bias in full, I’d only skip ahead when one page mentions a bias on that list, and you have no information on it to begin with. Not sure I’d sit and read them all in one sitting.
        The book by Mr. McRaney mixes a number of the topics on the site, as well as some original content, in a very solid order. If you head to Amazon, they have a scan of the Table of Contents which might help. :)

  2. Tynam says:

    For a deep discussion of many cognitive biases and techniques for avoiding them in your own thinking, I’d also strongly recommend Less Wrong.

  3. hardwarejunkie9 says:

    While the subject is indeed interesting, the material is written with an assumption of statistical knowledge in the audience which would suggest an understanding of the topic already.

    I’ve got a pretty strong statistical background and I still had to stare at parts of it to pick up his line of thought.

  4. Once you start thinking that everybody suffers from confirmation bias, you’ll instantly start seeing evidence of confirmation bias all around you.

  5. semiotix says:

    I’d like to think that I want to become less stupid, but to be perfectly honest, there’s no evidence to support that assertion.

  6. Boundegar says:

    Some people feel that a thousand-year-old tradition is a good foundation for constructing new narrative.  Others feel that a firm grounding in statistical theory is a good foundation for constructing new narrative.  Is there actual evidence to support either claim – besides the narrative itself?

  7. sockdoll says:

    People love a good narrative. It helps make sense of the world.

    • dustbuster7000 says:

      Yeah, they do. But that’s kind of the point. We love a narrative so much, we think that because it makes for a good story, that it is true. Marketeers and political leaders use that instinct to persuade us. But “making sense of the world” is just another way of saying “make us feel less confused and afraid about why things happen that we can’t explain.” But comfort does not ensure truth. Assuming believe in the idea of objective truth :)

    • drokhole says:

      But is ‘people love a good narrative’ just a good narrative?  It makes sense.

  8. drokhole says:

    The fact that we really, really, really like to turn chance events into a coherent narrative is a coherent narrative that I really, really, really like.

  9. eris_kallisti says:

    I wanted to be less stupid, but that article/blog entry was so poorly written, I gave up after the last Gaul was buried. Maybe I just don’t understand how Etsy works, or know any “ostensibly atheist” assholes from Brooklyn. 

  10. Jeremy Pickett says:

    Every presentation, talk, lecture, or paper I have worked on professionally for the last *grumble-kids/lawn/etc.* years has always been prefaced by management at hand saying, “Use your data to tell a story, build a narrative”.  With an undertone of, “Tell a *good, juicy* story…”.

    Anyone else in this boat?

    • drokhole says:

      I like to eat juicy burgers.  I also like to make a coherent narrative out of the cow’s life that the ground beef came from.  We were on a small boat (after our much larger boat cap-sized), but there was grass on-board (which was good because, you know, grass-fed), and we had to learn to live with each other while dealing with the dangers of our conflicting natures and the indifferent/endless sea-at-large.  Moral of the story is, God.  And burgers.  Therefore, God-burgers.

  11. Well, that went butter-side-down; guess I’ll have to stick with reading everything and telling all the stories with all the excess awesome available for attribution.

Leave a Reply