Perception, memory and ‘reason are reliable but not infallible. Perception, memory and ‘reason are reliable but not infallible


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Perception, memory and ‘reason are reliable but not infallible.

  • Perception, memory and ‘reason are reliable but not infallible.

  • There are errors of reasoning and sensory illusions to which all people are prone.

  • But if we know about them we can avoid being fooled.



Cognitive Illusions: ‘Informal Fallacies’ and other errors of judgment

  • Cognitive Illusions: ‘Informal Fallacies’ and other errors of judgment

    • Denying the evidence
    • Confirmation bias
    • The Rule of Typical Things (‘Representativeness Heuristic’)
    • Conjunction fallacy
    • The Paradox of Choice
    • Implicit bias
  • How conditionals are falsified

  • ‘Strength’ of a proposition: in weakness there is strength















In 5 seconds, please estimate the product of 1 x 2 x…x 9

  • In 5 seconds, please estimate the product of 1 x 2 x…x 9

  • 9! = 362,880

  • Virtually everyone gives an estimate that’s much too low

  • But subjects asked to estimate 1 x 2…x 9 on the average give even lower answers than those asked to estimate 9 x 8 x…x 1





In 5 seconds, please estimate the product of 1 x 2 x…x 9

  • In 5 seconds, please estimate the product of 1 x 2 x…x 9

  • In 5 seconds, please estimate the product of 9 x 8 x…x 1

  • 9! = 362,880

  • Virtually everyone gives an estimate that’s much too low

  • But subjects asked to estimate 1 x 2…x 9 on the average give even lower answers than those asked to estimate 9 x 8 x…x 1























Predicting A leaves it open whether it is or isn’t a B too.

  • Predicting A leaves it open whether it is or isn’t a B too.

  • Predicting that it’s an A and B is riskier!



The fallacy of judging a conjunction (‘and statement’ to be more probable than one of its conjuncts.

  • The fallacy of judging a conjunction (‘and statement’ to be more probable than one of its conjuncts.

  • Why is this a fallacy?

    • The conjunction is at least as ‘strong’ as each of its conjuncts i.e. it conveys at least as much information (and typically more) than either of its conjuncts.
    • The more information we convey the more risk we take!
  • Moral: in weakness there is strength





Maximization Scale

  • Maximization Scale



Fall 2015

  • Fall 2015



Typically (i.e. not always) satisficers maximize while maximizers fail

  • Typically (i.e. not always) satisficers maximize while maximizers fail

  • Suppose we want to maximize our utility (happiness, desire-satisfaction)

  • + benefit of outcome achieved, e.g. great shoes

  • - costs of search and deliberation, e.g. searching Zappos local malls looking for the perfect pair of shoes.

  • Does the difference between satisfactory and great shoes outweigh the costs of search?



Many cognitive processes that affect behavior are unconscious in nature and are inaccessible to observation by the actor.

  • Many cognitive processes that affect behavior are unconscious in nature and are inaccessible to observation by the actor.

  • These implicit processes affect perception, influence behavior, and color interpretation of past events.



The IAT requires the rapid categorization of various stimulus objects, such that easier pairings (and faster responses) are interpreted as being more strongly associated in memory than more difficult pairings (slower responses).

  • The IAT requires the rapid categorization of various stimulus objects, such that easier pairings (and faster responses) are interpreted as being more strongly associated in memory than more difficult pairings (slower responses).



The IAT “measures the thumbprint of culture on our minds.”

  • The IAT “measures the thumbprint of culture on our minds.”

    • 88 percent of white people had a pro-white or anti-black implicit bias
    • Nearly 83 percent of heterosexuals showed implicit biases for straight people over gays and lesbians
    • More than two-thirds of non-Arab, non-Muslim volunteers displayed implicit biases against Arab Muslims.


We all have the thumbprint of culture on our minds

  • We all have the thumbprint of culture on our minds

    • 48 percent of blacks showed a pro-white or anti-black bias
    • 36 percent of Arab Muslims showed an anti-Muslim bias.
    • 38 percent of gays and lesbians showed a bias for straight people over homosexuals.


The results of the IAT are confirmed by “real world” tests of biased behavior

  • The results of the IAT are confirmed by “real world” tests of biased behavior

  • Economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago recently sent out 5,000 résumés to 1,250 employers who had help-wanted ads…Some applicants were given stereotypically white-sounding names such as Greg; others were given black-sounding names such as Tyrone…Every employer got four résumés: an average white applicant, an average black applicant, a highly skilled white applicant and a highly skilled black applicant.



Interviews beforehand with human resources managers at many companies in Boston and Chicago had led the economists to believe that black applicants would be more likely to get interview calls.

  • Interviews beforehand with human resources managers at many companies in Boston and Chicago had led the economists to believe that black applicants would be more likely to get interview calls.

  • Employers said they were hungry for qualified minorities and were aggressively seeking diversity.



Résumés with white-sounding names triggered 50 percent more callbacks than résumés with black-sounding names.

  • Résumés with white-sounding names triggered 50 percent more callbacks than résumés with black-sounding names.

  • High-quality black résumés drew no more calls than the average black résumés.

  • Highly skilled candidates with white names got more calls than average white candidates, but lower-skilled candidates with white names got many more callbacks than even highly skilled black applicants.



The resume sting operation has been repeatedly with similar results.

  • The resume sting operation has been repeatedly with similar results.

  • Recently in France employers were sent identical resumes with applicants identified by either “Franco-French” or “Arab-sounding” names.

    • 30% of the Franco-French applicants got interviews.
    • Only 5% of the Arabs got interviews.
  • In response, a number of firms are now ‘blind-reviewing’ resume, avoiding names and pictures

  • When symphony orchestras began auditioning blind women instantly went from just the harpist to 1/3 of the orchestra and has been climbing since



Blind review

  • Blind review

  • Equal opportunity regulations

    • how can we prove discrimination when the criteria are soft?
  • Affirmative action

    • what constitutes a reasonable goal?
  • Taking philosophy and learning how to go with your head instead of your gut!



"Mind bugs operate without us being conscious of them. They are not special things that happen in our heart because we are evil."

  • "Mind bugs operate without us being conscious of them. They are not special things that happen in our heart because we are evil."



The following is a false dichotomy:

  • The following is a false dichotomy:

    • Either people (primarily wicked white western males) are consciously discriminating against women, minorities, etc.
    • Or women, minorities, etc. get more or less equal treatment.
  • We can avoid acting on our implicit biases if we

    • recognize that we have them (like recognizing peculiarities of of minds that produce optical illusions) and
    • Going with our heads rather than our guts!


If we understand the “pecularities of our minds at work” we can factor them out and make correct judgments.

  • If we understand the “pecularities of our minds at work” we can factor them out and make correct judgments.




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