Monday, August 25, 2014

Rationality - attainable goal or vanishing horizon?

Some days the blogposts just write themselves. It's Monday morning, a bleak and rainy day after an entire bleak and rainy weekend. Perfect weather for
a) a heavy sigh and 

b) a depressing blogpost. 

Theme: The work to become rational/promote rationality is never done.

Supporting links:

1. The most depressing news about the brain, ever. Sept 2013 This is about American voters, but it could be about any group of humans probably. 

"Say goodnight to the dream that education, journalism, scientific evidence, or reason can provide the tools that people need in order to make good decisions."
Even if tools are provided, people don't seem to pick them up.  
"When people are misinformed, giving them facts to correct those errors only makes them cling to their beliefs more tenaciously."
Backfire effect.

2. Keith E. Stanovich, Richard F. West, and Maggie E. Toplak; Myside Bias, Rational Thinking, and IntelligenceCurrent Directions in Psychological Science 2013  22(4) 259–264 (FULL TEXT PDF)
"AbstractMyside bias occurs when people evaluate evidence, generate evidence, and test hypotheses in a manner biased toward their own prior opinions and attitudes. Research across a wide variety of myside bias paradigms has revealed a somewhat surprising finding regarding individual differences. The magnitude of the myside bias shows very little relation to intelligence. Avoiding myside bias is thus one rational thinking skill that is not assessed by intelligence tests or even indirectly indexed through its correlation with cognitive ability measures."
Take-home point: Myside bias will operate as a default mode of thinking unless instructions are explicitly given to set it aside; it has nothing whatever to do with intelligence.

3. Rationality vs. intelligence 2009, by Keith Stanovich

"Intelligence tests measure important things, but they do not assess the extent of rational thought.  This might not be such a grave omission if intelligence were a strong predictor of rational thinking. But my research group found just the opposite: it is a mild predictor at best, and some rational thinking skills are totally dissociated from intelligence."
4. Conflict as thinking: Margaret Heffernan at TED Global 2012: An epidemic hidden in plain view. 

People don't want to rock boats. It's a long learning curve for them comfortable with disagreeing, but without objective thinking, we get exactly nowhere.  

5. Against all reason: Effects of acupuncture and TENS delivered to an artificial hand. 

6. Common misconceptions about back pain in sport: Tiger Woods’ case brings 5 fundamental questions into sharp focus  Peter O'Sullivan, Aug 22 2014. 

Hat tip to Carol Lynn Chevrier, Todd Hargrove, Sigurd Mikkelsen, Barrett Dorko, and Rick Carter for these links. 
Many thanks to Peter O'Sullivan for such a rational (and hopefully, rationality inducing) blogpost.

I don't know what to do about any of this. I'm as guilty as anyone. 
Meditate I suppose.
Kill time until the end comes. 
Breathe in and out. Become fascinated by that. 

I'm not up to going off into the woods and watching the moon become the minute hand and the seasons become the hour hand. I guess I'll just keep plugging away at making pictures instead, getting them published some day. Treating patients with every minimalist bit of myside bias I can manage to muster. And continue to add links to this list.

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