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Comment author: CrimsonWool 07 July 2013 08:14:08AM 3 points [-]

It's my understanding that people prefer to go counterclockwise in all sorts of situations, it might just be that.

Comment author: pete22 07 July 2013 08:21:16AM 2 points [-]

That's really interesting, but I don't think it's what's going on here. The real-world routes are messier of course, and in the particular one that made me think of this question, my preferred longer route is closer to clockwise. I think it happens both ways.

What's the name of this cognitive bias?

9 pete22 06 July 2013 03:05PM

Picture a circular road on a map. Let's say that my office is at twelve o'clock, my home is at five o'clock, and the post office is at three o'clock.

Now, suppose I have to leave work, pick up a document at home, and take it to the post office to mail it. I know it's faster to walk clockwise home, passing the post office, and then return to it with the letter. But my gut preference is to go counterclockwise, either because of an aversion to retracing my steps, or because that route just ... feels "cleaner" or more efficient somehow, or ... I can't articulate it any better than that.

Does anyone else share this intuition? Is it a manifestation of one or more known/studied effects?

Comment author: JoshuaZ 02 November 2011 09:27:13PM *  3 points [-]

To some extent, but not everyone may have a specific probability. And different people may outline the specific probabilities differently. Asking it as theist/agnostic/atheist also is implicitly asking about sociological, psychological, and epistemological norms at the same time due to the connotations of each of those terms.

Comment author: pete22 02 November 2011 10:40:42PM 4 points [-]

I agree that it could be asking about which label people identify with and how that reflects those various norms, and that would also be an interesting question -- but in that case it should have been worded differently, or there should have at least been an "other" category. The way it was presented suggests an exhaustive scale.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 02 November 2011 09:01:13PM 6 points [-]

It makes sense if one means by "agnostic" not "cannot be known" but "I don't know" or "I'm unsure." This makes sense in a general context and even more so in a a Bayesian context. In that context, one would have something like theists mean people that P(God exists) is high, atheists estimate that P(God exists) is low, and agnostics are in the midrange.

Comment author: pete22 02 November 2011 09:18:17PM 3 points [-]

OK, that makes sense. But then isn't this just a less-accurate version of the P(God exists) question?

Comment author: pete22 02 November 2011 08:46:54PM 11 points [-]

I just took it. My issue, which I haven't seen mentioned yet, is with the use of "agnostic" as a midpoint on the scale between theism and atheism. I realize that's a common colloquial use now but I don't get how it's a meaningful category -- unless it's meant to refer to negative atheism, and the "atheism" answers refer to positive atheism? And in the historical use of "agnostic" I think it's a separate category altogether that could overlap with both atheism and theism.

Overall I found the questions very interesting though, and I'm curious to see the results.

Comment author: pete22 05 February 2011 08:12:38PM 8 points [-]

I realize this discussion is a few years old, but I just came across this post while browsing through the sequences, and I wanted to put in a word for Gould's book "Full House" that was the main target of this post, since I just read it last year.

First of all, only a third of the book is about evolutionary biology at all. The part I remember more was a discussion of the disappearance of .400 hitting in baseball, using similar statistical arguments.

Second, in the the section that was about evolution, I did not come away with the impression that he was implying that most evolutionary biologists believed in increasing complexity, nor that he was setting himself up as a hero. As I remember it, the tone was much more "many laymen have this impression, because many biology textbooks and other references outside the field tend to depict evolution as a pyramid or progression, with more complex organisms at the top."

And you know what? He was right. I'm a layman, and I did have that general impression, and it was useful to read a detailed explanation of why it's wrong. And I'm also a baseball fan, and I had not thought of his argument about .400 hitting before I read it, and I found it pretty interesting.

Overall I found him slightly pompous as a writer but nothing like the way Eli (or others like Dawkins) have described him. I've never read any of his other books, and I'm absolutely not qualified to comment on the debate in the comments about the merits of PE or his scientific stature. But I think the content of "Full House" is not described accurately in the post.

Comment author: Costanza 04 February 2011 01:23:11AM 14 points [-]

'It's nearly impossible to humorously mock something that is reasonable.

Nonsense. Humor is lots of fun, but it's far, far from the measure of reason. I'm under the impression that, in every country, a reliable source of mockability is alien-seeming accents. I'm told that, in mainland China, at least 50 percent of TV humor consists of Chinese people mocking each other's regional dialects. I could give any number of examples in English, but is it really necessary?

Other sources of humor would include: people falling down, big noses, and -- at least in English -- words with a difficult 'K' sound.

Comment author: pete22 04 February 2011 12:52:04PM 5 points [-]

None of these examples involves an actual proposition that can be 'reasonable' or true or false. I don't think this is the kind of mockery that Adams is talking about.

Comment author: pete22 04 February 2011 12:49:37PM 3 points [-]

Thanks for all the replies. As I said in the post, I also don't think Adams is completely serious. Here is the weaker version of his argument that I find interesting: if someone can make you (or maybe other rational/informed people) laugh at your beliefs, should that cause you to reassess your level of certainty in those beliefs?

In other words, I don't think Adams really believes that someone "successfully" mocking your opinions automatically makes them false -- but he's asserting at least some connection between this kind of humor and truth. Which feels right to me, though I can't really articulate it any better than he did.

Or maybe it's more of a connection to self-deception -- the easier it is to laugh at your own beliefs, the more likely they are to be somehow insincere, regardless of their truth or falsehood.

Scott Adams: 'Mockability Test'

4 pete22 04 February 2011 12:44AM

I'm not sure what the protocol is for linking to or quoting another site on LW, but I thought this would fit here for two reasons: first, because I'm curious what people here think about his 'mockability' test, which seems to be half in jest but (I think) has a serious point at its core -- and second, because I think there might be people here who want to take him up on his challenge.

(Obviously I am not Scott Adams, and I have no connection to him nor any reason to promote his blog.)


'It's nearly impossible to humorously mock something that is reasonable. Take, for example, the idea that hard work is often necessary for success. There's nothing funny about that topic because it's unambiguously true. Humor only comes easily when the topic itself has a bit of dishonesty baked into it. That's why humor about politics, business, and relationships is so easy. There's a whole lot of lying in those environments.

I have a theory that some sort of mockability test would work like a lie detector in situations where confirmation bias is obscuring an underlying truth. In other words, if you believed that hard work often leads to success, and yet I could easily make jokes about it, that would be a contradiction, or a failure of the mockability test. And it would tell you that confirmation bias was clouding your perceptions. To put it in simpler terms, if a humorist can easily mock a given proposition, then the proposition is probably false, even if your own confirmation bias tells you otherwise.

I'd like to test this theory. I'm wrestling with my own confirmation bias on the topic of whether we could, in some practical sense, balance the U.S. budget without raising my taxes. I certainly want that to be a solution. But everything I see confirms my belief that it's literally impossible to do without causing more problems than it solves. And by that I mean more problems to everyone, not just the poor.

Obviously the math of budget cutting works. If you cut federal spending by 50%, just as an example, and keep collecting taxes, you balance the budget. And the philosophy of small government is legitimate. No one wants a government that grows larger without end. But I wonder if there is any way to cut government spending enough so that, along with economic growth, we can balance the budget without raising my taxes. I sure hope so.

So I issue a challenge to anyone who holds the view that the budget can be balanced without raising taxes. Allow me to interview you, by email, with the transcript published in this blog in a week or so. 

I will pick one person to interview on this topic. If you'd like that person to be you, describe in the comment section your qualifications, political leanings, and a brief bio of yourself. The rest of you can vote on which champion of the cause you would like to see me interview. I'll ask the chosen one to email me.

Just so you know what you're getting into, I plan to mercilessly mock anything you say that lends itself to humor. If I fail to find humor in your reasoning, you win. It's that simple. And remember, I want you to win because it means there's hope I won't have to pay more taxes.

Who wants to take a run at this?'

Comment author: PlatypusNinja 10 February 2010 08:15:06PM 5 points [-]

I would like to know more about your statement "50,000 users would surely count as a critical mass". How many users does Craigslist have in total?

I especially think it's unlikely that Craigslist would be motivated by the opinions of 50,000 Facebook users, especially if you had not actually conducted a poll but merely collected the answers of those that agree with you.

You should contact Craigslist and ask them what criteria would actually convince them that Craigslist users want for-charity ads.

Comment author: pete22 10 February 2010 08:50:00PM 4 points [-]

Actually, if you click through the link to Buckmaster's quote, there's an insta-poll right underneath it: "Should Craigslist take text ads to fund charity?" As of now there are 729 total votes and it's running 70% against. Facebook may have a little higher overlap with CL's userbase than ZDnet, but I would think the overlap in both cases is significant. Doesn't this weigh against the views of any future FB group, especially since (as Platypus points out) a poll should count for more than a petition?

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