14 On Being Certain
: Even If You Are Wrong by Robert Burton

Conclusion : This neuroscience explains thinking errors and I think it is consistant with explaining "denier shouter" thinking

Certain & WRONG : The Dangers of Certainty
- repeated from my page 4
- I was listening to the ABC Science show and there was a scientist giving a lecture about something Fukushima.
- The thing was he sounded so absolutely certain, but I knew he was talking absolute crap. And that is the thing with a lot of climate stuff TOO, people can sound absolutely plausible, but when you check the detail they are talking crap.
.. Ah the guy wasn't a scientist at all actually he's a translator .. but the shows presenter likes to give a lot of time to his activist friends, so it's often The ABC Science Activist Show

- I realised that this is a phenomenom I am seeing often these days. In fact I sometimes do it my self. There are people who talk in a way that they are absolutely certain & talk aconvincingly, but they don't know what they are talking about and they are talking absolute crap

- Seems People who are most certain about something are the least reliable
- then by chance I come a cross a book with the same name.

On Being Certain Even if you are wrong
- I just happened to bump into this theory on the Brain Science Podcast & you can see it continues on from my own theory that when people are CERTAIN about something they are probably talking crap.

"Blink" was a LIE : unconscious doesn't give magic rational

- It appears to be written in frustration to Gladwell's book Blink which says all you do is trust your first instant opinion. Burton criticises this saying Gladwell read a science book and then totally misinterpreted it and even LIED to make a good story.

- Gladwell baed his book on a good psychology book, BUT, Gladwell misinterprets it saying instant response will alwyas be right ..this is incorrect ..it is not held up by statistics
- in an example Gladwell lies stating people instinctively felt the truth about statue was fake
.. he misleads by failing to mention
1. they were experts that's why they had an instant opinion that the public wouldn't have
2. even now the status of the statue as unknown : It is not classed as fake.

- Burton says the book is flawed says : good decisions don't come from the unconcious in fact all thought comes from unconscious.

Brain : Memory Illusions
: The brain doesn't give you a correct view of reality for technical reasons it lies.
- e.g. Certainty Of Memory
illustrated by people being certain about false memories about disasters : Twin Towers, Challenger disaster ..even tho their memory account is differnet from their contemporary written account.
- Phenomenom of cognitive dissonance is choosing a false belief cos it feels right : ( Internal bias and a misplaced feeling of knowing)

- Daniel Schacter, including his book The Seven Sins of Memory. Memories - semantic = facts

- "perceptual thoughts," computations - like visual can have Illusions

Brain : Time Illusions

: Tennis players tell you they saw the ball and they decided to play their shot, but Neuroscience shows that they had already made the decision to play that shot before they saw the ball position.
- It seems to compensate for processing time, there is thing called "brain time". It tells you it's now, but it is actually a few microseconds behind.
- If it didn't do that then you'd see the ball pass you after you'd actually hit it.
- or you end up with a backstory that you saw the chalkdust ..you didn't you guessed it
- Not just sport we need to do this for language also
- So what this is saying it that we are SURE of things before we can positively KNOW them.

Direct Wired Like fear - not passing conscious center

- Just like rats have this direct sound to fear response, without going through the brain, so possibly humans have a similar mechanisn.
- I think climate change fear is similar, note how "anti-vaccine people" tap into the same fear
- We located that rat fear location, but not the certainty location we haven't located an area in the brain

Motivates learning BUT lose out on flexiblity to rethink
- "The feeling of knowing the reward for both proven and unproved thoughts is learning's best friend and mental flexibility's worst enemy."


you do get that feeling of knowing on acid ..as if the gatekeepers have suddenly approved ..that feeling you knew all along

- Theory : we feel we can't say that 2 choices are pretty much the same. we have to have a feeling that one is correct. says maybe it evolved as a reward system to keep us motivate to learn.
- (I covered this last week in choice anxiety - when actually either outcome would have been OK.)

* "once we have a thought connected to a feeling of correctness, it's hard to undo"

* mechanism a neuron fires, but you can't tell the chain that led up to that ..only the fact that it fired

*- we have been educated to pick a BLACK/WHITE answer

*different people have different tolerences to the "knowing dopamine"
- nuture effects the expression also

- feelings like knowing is a sensation like surprise, fear etc. we don't have conscious control over them

- you can't control it anymore than you can stop feeling pain when you cut your finger off but alcoholics can overcome the feeling of thirst

- Nodules not modules : not discrete modules of decision making but rather nodules on a network

- I disagree with him about remembering the friends house. He says you already know the house that why you remember the door. I say you remember the green door without remembering the house.

- you don't own your thoughts..they come from society
.. same as me saying that we are all prisoners of our culture.
(she says - "we have truths in our minds we have no control of" ..but that's the same as above )

- but diminished responsibility is not real cos it's same for all of us ..it's upto us to police our actions not just to blame our subconsciousness.

- there is a difference between inate tendencies and predicting actual behaviours.
- in the twin studies, it was found that what they said they wanted to do and what they did were not the same

- We have never been able to analyse reasoning properly : We con ourselves, cos our mental limitations make it impossible to accept our mental limitations

- We are overwired to see cause and effect, when a pattern recognition gets to a certain level it becomes accepted as fact

- Like the Google Suggestion Box He talks abut waking up with a new idea ..not result of logic ..they are not special thoughts ..just the result of background computation

SUMMARY of interview

- Debunking idea that Unconcious thought is SPECIAL myth of the autonomous, rational mind
..all thought comes via unconciousness both wrong and right
- The unc is unknown ..so we can't make it smarter ..
I say well we can have proper sleep to allow dreams for a start

- says we should tolerate religion diff etc..no our logic can overrule unc thats why , diminished resp for crim..CONTRADICTION
- should say it is good that different people interpret evidence in different ways
- no we can ..but we can now undersatnd why people are so stubborn, they think they have a different reality of fact

Mention : Bad Science is "I know this works, I just need to get a grant to prove it"
- or writing the grant proposal after doing the experiment.

Concludes : We think we have Objecting Reasoning,
but it's not possible for humans
.. your mind has no blocking mechanism to block out emotion so it will influence any thinking.
- often this perception of certainty is just a perceptual illusion just like we have optical illusions This feeling of certainty over-rules reason

Disputes there is thing called "objective reasoning"

Ends replace the word "know" with "believe."

humans have no ultimate reason :OVERSTATEMENT ?

- Ah I fact checked and found he does say the same as me ..it's just it was omitted from the podcast "The answer, Burton argues, lies in accepting the limits of our ability to know and in “playing by the rules of scientific method”
—believing we are right if empirical evidence and testing give us reason to do so, but accepting that subsequent evidence may one day prove us wrong.

Before I read that i wrote this :
(yes we can't rely on feeling, but what about if we rely on data , we test ideas)

- I think in his haste to debunk Gladwell he goes over the top :

- If I am holding a ball in my hand ..and I say it fall to the ground cos of the principle of gravity.. then I am 100% right.. I will always be right in this type of example
- If I have a memory of Bill's face ..and I see some one in the crowd and I say "I am sure that is Bob" I am 100% right. ..now this one I will sometimes be wrong
- Even for complex issues come-on of course we have objective reasoning if we use proper scientific system and data to filter out emotion .. I think what he is saying is that the unconcious is not 100% rational so don't rely on it. Instead we need to parse thinking with our concious mind using correct tools like the scientific method ..then we can be rational.

- Reasoning is about making accurate predictions ..on most especially :
simple things I will almost always be right... BELIEVE=KNOW
- now complex things : BELIEVE=PROBABLY : unless externally tested.
-e.g.3. I think I have malaria ... + medical test = I know I have malaria "

Extra Comments

- also You mentioned "Fooled by Randomness" by Nassim Taleb. It is a good book, but now move to "The Black Swan"


- Gingers Warmup text transcript
- Podcast : Robert Burton interview
- link to the book Amazon
- can read online
- Another Commentary
- Yet Another Commentary
- burtons blog Last updat 2008 ! I see he lays into PBS for pseudoscience
- rburton.com

transcript of his new book Skeptic's Guide to the Mind"
on (BSP 96)
- "mental sensations" - they are not emotions

- Some people have "a very strong sense of causation" e.g. believe in alt-med
- (I think he feels the same about climate change believers, he offers no opinion, but seems skeptic cos he calls in global warming)

- we don't understand much about how THOUGHT works
- get problem of a microscope studying a microscope
- mind is not the brain
- The mind is a concept not a thing so very difficult to pin down
- only way to get info on thoughts is to ask people - so error prone
- talks about sense of self, sense of agency
- particularly diffcult to understand UNCONSCIOUS

- We can't think well with our consciousness as working memory is crap it can only handle 3 things at a time
- (I wonder if we can say that our unconcsiouness is where the real work takes place, and that consciousness is somehow just some emergency mode that deals with instant things )
- but we can't tell what is conscious and unconscious

- I think they are saying that our brain plays tricks with timing etc. ..so sometimes we make a decision, and we think it was a conscious decision, but actually the unconscious did it, but a the same time created a false sense that we did it consciously.

sense of causation
- he talks about he holds up from sense of causation whereas as other people are quick to attribute N to A. ...what did I mean ?
- Me I am quick to makeup possibilities, but I don't readily believe them I just hold them as possibilities

- Dunning-Kruger effect .. people who are most certain are most likely to be wrong

- We Choose the simple/familar option : effect of things that are easy to process seem more likely to be correct ..cos through experience you know that familar answers come quickly

- talks about politicians getting bogged down ..refusing to compromise ..caring about winning rather than truth "modern discourse is not about arriving at the best answer; it's about arriving at the answer that gives the individual participants the greatest sense of pleasure and purpose'

- For me in the morning I have a new revealation, but I have to unpick it like going on a journey ..it's not all there automatically .. I have to make an effort ..it's not like it's there instantly, but it wasn't there at all yesterday

- Ginger showed people are vulnerable to false cause and effect you said that cigarettes cause cancer .. I am pretty sure they don't.
what they do is facilitate the things that do cause cancer .. that's why some 99 years old are able to go around "saying cigarettes don't cause cancer, i don't have it" and some 25 yearold non-smokers have died of cancer

Conclusions - what's new in this book ?
- Be Skeptical !
- cos we really can't trust what we think
1. too ready to assert cause and effect
2. we jump to the simple/familar, but that is not always right
- some people are more ready to jump to conclusions than other

- I think what he is saying explains "denier shouter" thinking

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a Stew Green opinion
Out of the box thinking
- from someone who was never in the box in the first place

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