Making decisions under uncertainty #4

Posted on September 19, 2011


So far we’ve talked about true beleavers who have blind confidence in their opinions or decisions – see the top of the chart (very high C). Examples include religious and political extremists.

We’ve also talked about those at the bottom of the chart – those with very low or no confidence (C) in an initial decision or opinion.
They make their decisions by following a trusted technology (for example like opinion pollsters) or by following a leader, by relying for their decisions on the opinions of an  ‘expert’ or trusted other.

Ef = f[C, Ei + (1 – C)g(E1, E2, . . . , Ej . . . , En)

Confidence level


C = 0.9 to 1 True deductive believer—rejects (–) evidence
C = 0.7 to 0.8 Strong deductive believer—discounts (–) evidence
C = 0.4 to 0.6 Reasonable person who becomes overwhelmed by information overload and conflicting evidence; unproductive because of inability to settle on a given hypothesis (Ei), or evidence-sorting ritual (g), long enough to go to press
C = 0.2 to 0.3 Strong inductive believer—sophisticated (g’s)
C = 0.1 to 0 True inductive believer—dogmatic (g) rituals
Now we consider the strong decider.
strong believers

Strong but ‘wise’ decision makers  are the productive theorists or speculators who possess strong confidence (C = 0.7 to 0.8) in the hypothesis (see the above chart) and yet also have enough confidence  left (1 – C) to drive functional editing mechanisms that help him or her select out from the subsequent flow  evidence supporting  (E’s) their  opinions (cherry picking), while also discounting or rebutting negative evidence(E’s).  Such strong believers have residual confidence (1-C)  to effectively practice what has been called the scandal of induction—a general-purpose information-processing mechanism (g) that enables believers to edit in positive evidence and edit ou (ignore or discount) negative evidence. Thus, a theorist reviewing the literature relevant to one of his or her pet hypothesis can always find flaws in any study that challenges the hypothesis, but it requires cognitive energy (confidence), which strong believers have. If they are also very bright, then their inductive editing is impressive, and critics must remain on their toes to challenge them effectively.

Unlike the bigot, then, these investigators engage in critical analysis and debate, publish their findings, and attract disciples for varying lengths of time. For example, many graduate students who are unable to make up their own minds about what to study or  what methods to use  become protégés and research assistants – these kinds of decision makers (‘leaders’) attract followers Notice, with these additional cognitive resources (followers or cognitive slaves), the scientists or leader can commence doing multi-method, multi-measure research, extending the methods (g’s) and the Data Base  or evidence (E1, . . . , En)  supporting his or her decisions or theories, as well as perhaps extending the external validity. Of course, during such conditions, some students eventually find a hypothesis or method of their own to believe in and research. Or, after graduation, as noted previously, many students give up on sciencing completely, or become critics, or revert back to ‘there’s much to be said for and against both sides, concentrating their confidence instead on teaching, administration, criticism, golf, or wine-making.

Next we consider the strong technition or methodologist.

Posted in: Sciencing