Nov 10, 2014 | By

Bias Goes Deeper Than We Think

The November issue of Nautilus is dedicated to Illusions, and three of its articles in Chapter One (“Made You Do It”) are particularly interesting.Five Ways To Lie With Charts” by Becca Cudmore reviews a few of the more obvious ways that visual displays can be constructed to play with our minds. “Fooled By Your Own Brain” by Virginia Hughes examines nine different ways our senses can be or confused – and why the magic of illusionists continues to fascinate people. “How Your Brain Decides Without you” by Tom Vanderbilt explores the fact that what we perceive is influenced by our mental expectations – what we see is often determined in advance by our beliefs.

4676_ea6979872125d5acbac6068f186a0359?Duck – or – Rabbit?

These are all sobering reminders of the difficulty we have in sorting fact from fiction (or illusion) – and the challenge of evaluating our own perceptions and motivations in our rational decision-making process. Expectations, emotions and moral judgments rise from our pre-conscious mental structures and shape our perception and assessment of the evidentiary material we need to be rational.   This suggests that the biggest risk is that we fool ourselves. Moreover, as Tom Vanderbilt notes – “we are stubborn about our decisions, too.” Once we have formed an expectation or judgment it becomes remarkably difficult to see the other side.


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