Why You Can’t Help Believing Everything You Read

Believe first, ask questions later

Not only that, but their conclusions, and those of Spinoza, also explain other behaviours that people regularly display:

  • Correspondence bias: this is people’s assumption that others’ behaviour reflects their personality, when really it reflects the situation.
  • Truthfulness bias: people tend to assume that others are telling the truth, even when they are lying.
  • The persuasion effect: when people are distracted it increases the persuasiveness of a message.
  • Denial-innuendo effect: people tend to positively believe in things that are being categorically denied.
  • Hypothesis testing bias: when testing a theory, instead of trying to prove it wrong people tend to look for information that confirms it. This, of course, isn’t very effective hypothesis testing!

Source: Why You Can’t Help Believing Everything You Read – PsyBlog

Although this post is almost six years old, it is still interesting reading. It’s certainly consistent with my recent post about Fox News.

Modern Life is Rubbish: the Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin


Is Fox News full of BS?

With the departure of Jon Stewart from The Daily Show there’ll be one less voice calling out Fox News for its bullshit. Was Stewart really justified in his constant criticism? I came across How Fox News Changed American Media and Political Dynamics, a paper on the Social Science Research Network by Bruce Bartlett discussing the impact of Fox.

Bartlett starts by discussing the liberal domination of media in the sixties and into the nineties, and how the abolition in 1987 of the Fairness Doctrine by the FCC increased the scope for partisan broadcasting exemplified by Rush Limbaugh who was an early arrival:

There are many reasons why conservative talk radio worked so well. One is that conservatives finally had a news source that fed their philosophy. Another is Fumingthat conservatives viewed themselves as outsiders and were attracted not only to the philosophy of conservative talk radio, but its tone and articulation of outrage toward liberals that many listeners themselves had long felt.

Then Roger Ailes convinced Rupert Murdoch to let him build Fox News.

It should be noted that Murdoch has long been a conservative ideologue and Fox News fit into a larger conservative empire he built over the years that includes the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal. Although the Journal has long had a conservative editorial page, prior to Murdoch gaining control in 2007, its news pages were free of bias. But soon after, a conservative tilt began creeping into the news coverage.

[Read more…]

Science Isn’t Broken

The scientific method is the most rigorous path to knowledge, but it’s also messy and tough. Science deserves respect exactly because it is difficult — not because it gets everything correct on the first try. The uncertainty inherent in science doesn’t mean that we can’t use it to make important policies or decisions. It just means that we should remain cautious and adopt a mindset that’s open to changing course if new data arises. We should make the best decisions we can with the current evidence and take care not to lose sight of its strength and degree of certainty. It’s no accident that every good paper includes the phrase “more study is needed” — there is always more to learn.

via Science Isn’t Broken | FiveThirtyEight.

An interesting article about the problems of “doing science”: probability values are misleading, different analytical techniques can yield different results, people make mistakes, people cheat, people are biased, failed projects don’t make headlines…

Boys in the Alley

I’ve been sorting my photos from our Rome-Venice trip. I really like this one.

Boys Playing in the Alley

Boys Playing in the Alley

Critical Thinking

There has been a lot written about Jon Stewart’s decision to quit The Daily Show after 16 years as presenter. I’ve been catching up on his last few shows. One of the recurring segments on the show has been interviews in which people often make what seem to be completely outrageous statements. Apparently viewers have been asking whether these interviews are real or faked: “Why would anyone appear when they are made to look dumb?”

Well, it seems that these people didn’t mind, and to demonstrate the point Daily Show regular Jessica Williams re-interviewed some “stars of the past”. One such was Dr James David Manning, a pastor, who had compared Barack Obama to Hitler. He doubled-down on this assertion by saying that he now regarded the US President as a “son of Satan”. This was bad enough, but at the end of the interview Jessica asked the good doctor about his claim that Starbucks were using semen to flavour their lattes:

JW: You think that they’re using semen to flavour their lattes?
DJM: I do, yes.
JW: What empirical evidence do you have that Starbucks is using using semen to flavour their lattes?
DJM: What empirical evidence do I have?
JW: Yes.
DJM: I think if you’re asking for that, you may not be able to find my explanation suitable to meet the empirical standards, but let’s just say, I know.


Dignity in Dying

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THEORETICAL PHYSICS: “The Stars Died So That You Could Be Here Today” / Lawrence M. Krauss ☮