208. Critical Thinking: Why You Believe You’re Right Even When You’re Wrong

11 takeaways from this video:

00:00:20 Every human’s response to fear and threat of violence is relatively the same (the soldier mindset):

  • Your adrenaline elevates
  • Your behavior depends upon your innate, instinctive desire to protect yourself, instincts which have been deeply engrained in your brain since your birth
  • You defeat your enemy, or you are defeated

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For more on how the evolution of your human brain determines your actions, watch my lecture Managing Age, Cultural & Personality Differences, Jerks & Assholes.

For more on nature versus nurture, check out the lectures:

Lastly, for more on the role of adrenaline and sex, check out Sex & Dating: Fetishes, Fantasy, and Spanking; Understanding What Turns You On.]

00:00:40 A military scout’s responsibility, contrarily, is not to attack nor defend, but to understand, analyze, and report as accurately and objectively as possible (the scout mindset).

The ability to accurately make sound judgments depends on which mindset you are in while making decisions.

00:01:44 In December 1894 in France, a shredded and discarded note was discovered in a trash can by some French officers. That note, once pieced back together, proved that someone within the military ranks had been selling secrets to Germany. This proof turned into a full-scale investigation, and the results of this investigation sparked what would be considered one of the biggest political miscarriages of justice in history.

Alfred Dreyfus and his damning evidence in the Dreyfus Affair

After a thorough investigation, Alfred Dreyfus, a captain of Jewish descent was, despite his clean record and no apparant motive, found guilty of treason and selling secrets to the German government, and was imprisoned for life simply because he happened to be the only Jewish person at such a high rank for a goverment that at that time happened to be highly anti-semitic. The lack of evidence during the investigation was merely interpreted as further proof of his cunning and culpability as a German spy, and any background stories and information they did uncover was contorted into a ‘rock solid’ case against him.

Two years later Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy  was identified as the real traiter,  thus acquitting Dreyfus. But the proof against Esterhazy was suppressed by a higher-ranking officer and he was set free while more and more charges piled up against Dreyfus. But more on this later…

00:04:41 Motivated reasoning happens when a person’s emotions towards or against certain information distorts and manipulates what should be an objective, untainted investigation and decision-making process.

Whether it is your favorite football team, your belief in abortion, the right to carry arms, capital punishment, or a man accused of treason, humans have a tendency to seek out and interpret studies, statistics, and evidence which supports their cause or political belief, while downplaying or ignoring studies, statistics, and evidence that disagrees with their worldview. This, according to Julia Galef, is akin to the soldier mindset.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For more on how motivated reasoning and other cognitive errors can become a legal risk for humans in The United States, check out the lecture Why You Should Never Talk to The Police, And How The Police Get You to Talk.

For more on how these errors can damage workplace relationships, check out Timoni West‘s talk Critical Thinking: 8 Biases That Hinder Progress In The Workplace.

Lastly, for more on how junk science and statistics seep into your life and ruin your logic and critical thinking skills, check out John Oliver On The Dangers Of Not Challenging Junk Science.]

00:06:26 Despite all the seemingly obvious proof of Alfred Dreyfus’ culpability, George Picquart, a fellow French army officer, questioned the legitimacy of the evidence against Dreyfus, and even spent time in prison himself because of his insistent questioning of Dreyfus’ innocence and the French government’s refusal to re-examine Dreyfus’ case.

Finally, 10 years later and after much fight and debate, Alfred Dreyfus was found to be innocent of the charges of treason and espionage and was reinstated to his former position.

00:08:13 The scout mindset is not to prove that one idea is better than or worse than another, but just to make sure, as objectivly and accurately as possible, that what you see is what you get; even if what you get isn’t what you had hoped you’d find.

Your motivations to discover and uphold truth should trump your political or religious beliefs.

00:08:33 Why are some people capable of (at least periodically) overriding their own cognitive biases and heuristics, and political and religious beliefs and approaching a problem as objectively as they can?

The ANSWER lies in human emotions such as defensiveness or tribalism. The scout mindset tends to be:

  • Curious
  • Problem-solvers who derive pleasure from solving problems and finding solutions to problems, actively seek out statistics and reseach that contradict their belief systems and expectations – with the goal of proving or disproving their belief systems or expectations more important than narrow-mindedly reinforcing and propogating their belief systems and expectations
  • Open-minded and willing to update their belief systems when confronted with sufficient credible evidence that what they believe may be wrong or, at the very least, inexact.
  • Grounded in who they are and their ability to admit that perhaps sometimes they are wrong, and that being wrong doesn’t equal being stupid.

Being a curious, open-minded and grounded problem-solver is a sign of good judgment, and being wrong doesn’t mean you are stupid.

The ability to admit you are wrong predicts good judgment, and there is a low correlation between these traits and a high IQ score.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For more on how emotions influence decisions, check out my lecture Managing Age, Cultural & Personality Differences, Jerks & Assholes.

For more on how curiosity leads to innovative advertising, marketing, and branding strategies and campaigns, read How to Shape Human Behavior 2nd Edition.

Recall in Armin Trost‘s lecture Human Resources Management: Recruitment From Application To Offer that intelligence is being able to explain something, even if you don’t believe it.]

00:10:34 If you want to improve society and human development:

  • Don’t place an educational emphasis only on logic, rhetoric, probability or economics; teach the scout mindset.
  • Learn how to be proud when you are proven wrong, be it by your own research or by others.
  • Learn how to become intrigued when your belief systems are challenged, and not defensive and hateful.

Are you simply defending your own beliefs or are you sincerely trying to see the world as clearly as you possibly can?