Quote of the day/week/however long

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."
~William James

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Of Course I'm Sure. I'm Supposed to Be.

"A weak man has doubts before a decision, a strong man has them afterwards."  
- Karl Karus

 With all due respect, Mr Karus - however much that might be - are you from Austria, or from the Planet Zarkon?

Better, in all ways, to pay attention to Jonah Lehrer, a rational Earthling:

"It feels good to be certain.  Confidence is comforting.  This desire to always be right is a dangerous side effect of having so many competing brain regions inside one's head.  While neural pluralism is a crucial virtue - the human mind can analyze any problem from a variety of different angles - it also makes us insecure.  You never know which brain area you should obey.  It's not easy to make up your mind when your mind consists of so many competing parts.

"This is why being sure about something can be such a relief.  The default state of the brain is indecisive disagreement; various mental parts are constantly insisting that the other parts are wrong.  Certainty imposes consensus on this inner cacophony.  it lets you pretend that your entire brain agrees with your behavior.  You can now ignore those annoying fears and nagging suspicions, those statistical outliers and inconvenient truths.  Being certain mean that you aren't worried about being wrong.

"The only way to counteract the bias for certainty is to encourage some inner dissonance.  We must force ourselves to think about the information we don't want to think about, to pay attention to the data that disturbs our entrenched beliefs.  When we start censoring our minds, turning off those brain areas that contradict our assumptions, we end up ignoring relevant evidence.
"The certainty trap is not inevitable.  We can take steps to prevent ourselves from shutting down our minds' arguments too soon.  We can consciously correct for this innate tendency....

"...when making decisions, actively resist the urge to suppress the argument.  instead, take the time to listen to what all the different brain areas have to say.  Good decisions rarely emerge from a false consensus.  Alfred P. Sloan, the chairman of General Motors during its heyday, once adjourned a board meeting soon after it began. 

'Gentlemen,' Sloan said, 'I take it we are all in complete agreement on the decision here ... Then I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.'"

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