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Constant2 comments on One Argument Against An Army - Less Wrong

41 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 15 August 2007 06:39PM

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Comment author: Constant2 16 August 2007 11:41:49AM 1 point [-]

"Constant, virtually any modern hot-button political issue will do."

Actually, I think it would be pretty hard to come up with unambiguous examples of this, because what you're describing is not misbehavior that occurs in any given encounter, but a pattern over time in which an individual changes his own beliefs in the wrong way in response to the evidence. This is hard to demonstrate for at least two reasons. First, since it occurs over time rather than on a single occasion it's difficult to observe. Second, since what you're really talking about (the revision of one's beliefs) occurs inside a person's head there's the problem of gaining access to the person's head.

But if it is difficult to come up with unambiguous examples of it, then by the same token it is hard to observe in the first place. Any supposed observation of it will almost certainly require a large element of speculation about what is going on inside someone else's head.

What can we actually observe? Relevant to what you describe, we can observe two things:

1) We know generally that people's political views often harden over time. And since they do it in different directions, then in at least some cases the hardening is unlikely to be occurring for the right (the rational truth-seeking) reasons.

2) People do observably rehearse already-known support.

But (2) in itself is perfectly legitimate. Meanwhile (1) already has many explanations apart from the phenomenon that you are speculating exists. It's a much observed and much talked about phenomenon, and what you have done here is added only one more speculation about why it happens to the bulging library of explanations. While you are not necessarily wrong, at the same time as far as I can see there isn't all that much compelling evidence in favor of your speculation.