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thescoundrel comments on The limits of introspection - Less Wrong

56 Post author: Yvain 16 July 2011 09:00PM

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Comment author: thescoundrel 14 November 2011 10:44:17PM 0 points [-]

So, the fundamental attribution error tells us that everyone is doing things for reasons that adhere to an internally consistent story... does this tell us that we are all making up that internally consistent story as we go, with little to no understanding of the true influences to our decision making? At some point, we all believe that we can improve our decision making ability- thats would seem to be why we are all here. Is the important take away here that we need to constantly review our actions before we take them, to make sure they are rational?

Comment author: lessdazed 15 November 2011 01:33:27AM 1 point [-]

So, the fundamental attribution error tells us that everyone is doing things for reasons that adhere to an internally consistent story...

I'm not sure how to read this sentence.

People commit the fundamental attribution error when they think others do things nearly entirely due to their natures, when in reality their situations are extremely influential.

Depending on what you meant, my further response is one of the following: many different things could be fit into an internally consistent story, so people's actions aren't too dependent on that (but see also cached selves); we don't think that people are trying to conform to their stories, but that they are expressing their nature.

does this tell us that we are all making up that internally consistent story as we go, with little to no understanding of the true influences to our decision making?

Our never-ending excuse making for ourselves is miraculously somewhat closer to correct than our evaluating the causes of others' actions, though it may be systematically untrue in the opposite way. We don't understand others' decision making, but we don't naturally understand our own either.

Is the important take away here that we need to constantly review our actions before we take them, to make sure they are rational?

This is a bad way to phrase it because it implies the first step is generating a plan for action and the second is checking to see if it is rational, but we know the program to generate it is greatly influenced by the most mundane and irrelevant things. It could be the right plan, particularly if there are only a few possible responses, but if there are many, it pretty much won't be.

Less wrong thought needs to be part of the entire process - it needs to guide the entire planning stage, not just the thoughts in it. For example, for some types of important phone calls I dress a certain way - this is part of organizing my responses such that they are optimal. I don't do phone job interviews lying naked on the couch and then deliberate over what comes to mind naturally as words to say in the conversation, thinking, "would this be good to say or not?" I get dressed, sit at my desk, plan (in a calm state) what responses should be if something is said,etc.

Comment author: thescoundrel 15 November 2011 03:35:26AM *  0 points [-]

Our never-ending excuse making for ourselves is miraculously somewhat closer to correct than our evaluating the causes of others' actions, though it may be systematically untrue in the opposite way. We don't understand others' decision making, but we don't naturally understand our own either.

Can you clarify what you mean here? Right now, all I read from it is "We have a slightly greater probability of correctly identifying our own actions than we do those of an outside observer." While that may be correct in some cases, it actually seems to contradict the the focus of the text:

These studies suggest that people do not have introspective awareness to the processes that generate their behavior. They guess their preferences, justifications, and beliefs by inferring the most plausible rationale for their observed behavior, but are unable to make these guesses qualitatively better than outside observers.

Concerning this statement:

Less wrong thought needs to be part of the entire process - it needs to guide the entire planning stage, not just the thoughts in it.

If decision making begins before conscious thought, and is "greatly influenced by the most mundane and irrelevant things", and the conscious portion of the brain is the only part we have to work with in planned, rational decision making (at least consistently- learned, rational habits not withstanding), then it would follow that a first step before we take action would be to review the action we are about to take and make sure it lines up with rational thought- since we know our brain will attempt to explain why it is taking the action independent of the actual cause, only by ensuring the action is rational before we take it can we keep from undercutting ourselves as we attempt to accomplish our goals.

Comment author: dlthomas 14 November 2011 11:12:32PM 1 point [-]

In the broadest strokes, yes.

Comment author: lessdazed 14 November 2011 11:21:21PM 1 point [-]

I'm going to note my dissent and write more when I have some time.