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pjeby comments on Don't Believe You'll Self-Deceive - Less Wrong

15 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 09 March 2009 08:03AM

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Comment author: pjeby 09 March 2009 07:54:23PM 2 points [-]

It seems to me that you are confused.

There are two kinds of belief being discussed here: abstract/declarative and concrete/imperative.

We don't have direct control over our imperative beliefs, but can change them through clever self-manipulation. We DO have direct control over our declarative beliefs, and we can think whatever the heck we want in them. They just won't necessarily make any difference to how we BEHAVE, since they're part of the "far" or "social" thinking mechanism.

You seem to be implying that there's only one kind of belief, and that it should be subject to some sort of consistency checking. However, NEITHER kind of belief has any global or automatic consistency checking. We can stop intellectually believing that we're dumb or incompetent, for example, and still go on believing it emotionally, because although the abstract memory involved has been updated, the concrete memory hasn't.

It isn't even necessary to DO anything in order to have contradictory beliefs; it merely suffices to neglect the cross-checking, and perhaps a bit of effort to avoid thinking about the connection when somebody tries to show it to you.

And that avoidance can take place automatically, if you have a strong enough emotional reason for wanting to maintain the intellectual belief. Even among my clients who WANT to change some belief or fix some problem in their heads, the first step for me is always getting them to stop abstracting themselves away from actually looking at what they believe on the concrete/emotional level, as opposed to what they'd prefer to believe on the abstract/intellectual level.

Imagine how much harder it must be for someone who isn't TRYING to change their beliefs!

Comment author: abigailgem 10 March 2009 09:48:43AM 1 point [-]

"The monster will get me if I make a mistake" can be a deep concrete belief, one looks at it rationally, and thinks, that is ridiculous- but getting rid of it can be hard work.