Why The Internet Is Full Of Morons Who Are Always “Right”
The human is not a rational animal, but a rationalizing one. We aim to justify our actions, not act with justification. We believe first, and ask questions later – yet the answers to those questions rarely change our minds.
To reach your goals, to become a better athlete – a better human – you need to know the TRUTH about how to get there, and what to do. But your brain has no interest in the truth. How can we get past this cycle of idiocy we’ve inherited from our evolutionary past?
“Why do half of all Americans believe in ghosts, three-quarters believe in angels, a third believe in astrology, three-quarters believe in hell? … Why do more than 40 percent of Americans think the universe began after the domestication of the dog? … Let’s not give the defeatist answer and blame it all on stupidity. That’s probably part of the story, but let’s be optimistic and concentrate on something remediable: lack of training in how to think critically and how to discount personal opinion, prejudice, and anecdote in favor of evidence.” – Richard Dawkins
(bold is mine)
The bad news is that we really are as dumb as it sounds. The GOOD NEWS is that we can change that. We ain’t stuck. The truth is out there, and we are going to find it, damn it!
In a relatively recent article in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences, entitled “Why Do Humans Reason? Arguments for an Argumentative Theory,” by Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber, the authors shed some light on Dawkins’ questions.
The essence is this: The human mind was not adapted to find truth, but to win arguments.
By this, they mean that we are better at rationalizing than we are at reasoning.
- We act, then we justify our actions.
- We believe, then we justify our beliefs.
We decide something is good BEFORE we know if it is or not. Then, because we already DID/BELIEVE it, we feel compelled – emotionally and cognitively – to justify it using all manor of mental gymnastics.
We rely on corroborative evidence, and avoid – at all costs – the rigors of falsifiability. The scientific method was invented precisely to deal with our natural tendency to avoid truth in favor of what we already believe (or want) to be true.
We are anti-Popperians to the core.
Examples abound in cognitive psychology of our unreasoning minds. These biases are at the core of every argument on the internet, strength forums, Facebook…
Among our biases and brain-glitches are:
- The Confirmation Bias – hunting for evidence to support what we already believe, and avoiding evidence that might contradict it.
- Conservationism (Bayesian, not political!) – when presented with new evidence, you still don’t alter your belief to accommodate the “new shit that has come to light” (as Lebowski would say)
- Endowment Effect – you demand far more to part with something than you would be willing to pay to acquire it in the first place. (Once you have something, it instantly becomes more valuable to you.)
- Expectation Bias – you will believe the evidence that supports your position for more than evidence that undermines it.
- Framing Effect – the same information will be seen completely differently when presented to you by different sources, people, etc. (This is how the wine market works, and is behind all “appeals to authority” in arguments/debates.)
- Induction Fallacy – the belief that future probabilities are altered by past events, when they aren’t at all. (Flipping a coin 7 times and getting heads does NOT increase the chance that your next flip will be heads – at all.)
- Negativity Bias – you will remember negative events with far greater frequency and clarity than you will remember positive events.
And many many many more…
Over the next few weeks, I will be diving deep into the nooks and crannies of your brain/mind in order to avoid defaulting to (as Dawkins said) “the defeatist answer”. Instead, we are going to take the modern science of mind seriously to aid us in becoming stronger, smarter, and generally more badass.
It can all be summed up easily, however: We ain’t as smart as we think we are, but we have the power to change that.
The only thing you need to know is that changing your mind is just like changing your body. It is physical, it is about behavior patterns, it is about TRAINING.
We KNOW how to train. That’s our thing. It is now time to train your mind with as much voracity as you train your body.
Now go lift something heavy, Nick Horton