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Posts Tagged ‘Argument’

Disdain or with hot rage

Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632) by Galileo Galilei, p. 322

In the long run my observations have convinced me that some men, reasoning preposterously, first establish some conclusion in their minds which, either because of its being their own or because of their having received it from some person who has their entire confidence, impresses them so deeply that one finds it impossible ever to get it out of their heads. Such arguments in support of their fixed idea as they hit upon themselves or hear set forth by others, no matter how simple and stupid these may be, gain their instant acceptance and applause. On the other hand whatever is brought forward against it, however ingenious and conclusive, they receive with disdain or with hot rage — if indeed it does not make them ill. Beside themselves with passion, some of them would not be backward even about scheming to suppress and silence their adversaries.

Most frequent errors, fallacies, and biases when decision-making

Looking for something that might tell me how often logical fallacies and cognitive biases occur in discussions, I could find nothing at all.  Not willing to let go, I resorted to using N-grams.  It has the drawback that some fallacies and biases are terms commonly used in other contexts (ex: false memory) or returned no results (ex: normalcy bias).  I lost about hundred biases and fallacies from this weakness, though generally more obscure or nuanced biases and fallacies.  This was about half the population.  Of the remaining hundred or so, I was able to obtain an N-gram number and then rank from largest to smallest.

All this tells us is the degree to which specific biases, errors and fallacies are being discussed in books.  I am making the bold inference that specific biases and fallacies which are discussed frequently are correspondingly more common or more problematic (i.e. perhaps they don’t occur that often but are more consequential when they do).  So having caveated the corpus to death, I present the top most commonly discussed biases and fallacies in a whispering ghost of a list.

These would seem to be the errors, fallacies, and biases you are most likely to encounter when working with a group to reach an empirical, logical, and evidence based decision.

Anecdotal Evidence
False assumptions
Cognitive Dissonance
Fallacy of composition
Unstated Assumptions
Slippery Slope
Selective perception
Halo effect
Argumentum Ad hominem
Illusory correlation
Source Credibility
Forer effect (aka Barnum effect)
Sunk cost bias
Begging the Question
Fundamental attribution error
Generalizing personalities
Hindsight bias

Not quite the list or order I would have expected, but not completely out of the realm of probability.  The top ten in particular are broadly consistent with my experience in terms of mistakes teams make when trying to arrive at decisions.

All this should challenge the application of the antismoking model to obesity.

In The Making of the Obesity Epidemic: How Food Activism Led Public Health Astray  by Helen Lee, the author makes the argument that the nature of obesity is misunderstood, that the evidence of the ill-effects of obesity are poorly understood, and that public policy has been ineffective.  In addition, the author makes the claim that a significant part of policy ineffectiveness arises because the public health community mistook the lessons of the campaign against smoking and attempted to apply the same approaches in the smoking campaign to the campaign against obesity, expecting similar results when in fact the two issues were different and the approaches to one could not be extrapolated to the other.

All this should challenge the application of the antismoking model to obesity. Where smoking can be banned, overeating cannot be. The two behaviors are similar only in that they, like much else we do, are factors in health. There is no secondhand eating. Nor can there be “no overeating” sections of restaurants and airplanes. Overeating and unhealthy foods are fuzzily, subjectively, and variously defined, whereas we can all agree on what smoking and cigarettes are. What that means is that unhealthy foods will remain widely available — even more available than cigarettes, which can still be found at any corner store. If history is any guide, food availability and diversity are likely to increase, not decrease.

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