Thursday, 26 July 2018

How do beliefs arise - Thinking in Bets – Making smarter decisions when you don’t have all the facts – by Annie Duke Part 2


How we think we form abstract beliefs:
1.       We hear something.
2.       We think about it and vet it, determining whether it is true or false; only after that.
3.       We form our belief.

We actually form abstract beliefs this way:
1.       We hear something.
2.       We believe it to be true.
3.       Only sometimes, later, if we have the time or the inclination, we think about it and vet it, determining whether it is, in fact, true or false.

If we were good at updating our beliefs based on new information, our haphazard belief formation process might cause us relatively few problems. Sadly, this is not the way it works. We form beliefs without vetting most of them and maintain them even after receiving clear, corrective information.

Truthseeking, the desire to know the truth regardless of whether the truth aligns with the beliefs we currently hold, is not naturally supported by the way we process information. We might think of ourselves as open-minded and capable of updating our beliefs based on new information, but the research conclusively shows otherwise. Instead of altering our beliefs to fit new information, we do the opposite, altering our interpretation of that information to fit our beliefs.

“We do not simply react to an event…. We behave according to what we bring to the occasion” (Hastorf and Cantrill). Our beliefs affect how we process all new things, ‘whether the thing is a football game, a presidential candidate, Communism or spinach.”

Once a belief is lodged, it becomes difficult to dislodge. It takes a life on its own, leading us to notice and seek out evidence conforming our belief, rarely challenge the validity of confirming evidence, and ignore or work hard to actively discredit information contradicting the belief. This irrational circular information processing pattern is called motivated reasoning.

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