Constructing reality #9

Posted on October 27, 2011


Is a basket of biases enough?

Remember we proposed that managing  the information overload and rapid pace of daily living was like repairing a ship at sea?

If you spring more than one leak, or have to repair more than one rotting plank to stay afloat,  how do you decide which bias in your basket to use? Remember Karl Popper talked about a hierarchy of plastic controls – a hierarchy means that the system – or basket – doesn’t activate a bias at random. Instead  the system has priorities. How does it get them? Through trial and error experience – via evolution, early experience, group and cultural pressures and programing – we inherit and learn ‘what comes first’.

Simplicity - bigotry

Some biased responses are hard-wired – we inherit them as a member of the species  – like flight and fight responses to certain triggers – like strangers, and  they’re fine-tuned by cultural and group experience – culturally programmed ways to fight or escape. Some priorities are wired in like reflexes such as fight or flight which in some situations  trump eating or sleeping. Similarly certain learned behavioral, emotional and cognitive bias take priority over others. For instance high on the list of priorities for many  ‘Republicans’ are small government and low taxes – these are like learned reflexes that are not negotiable. Once those biases – planks – are in place  good Republicans can move on to devote their limited resources – attention, money, etc,  – to other planks or mini-biases, in their baskets,  like restricting health care, social security, etc.

When your ship is threatened by high seas and rotting planks you need a super-bias. It may be part of your system of inherited biases (fight or flight) or of learned reflexes such as  emotionally anchored religious beliefs, or the meta bias may be accessed from outside, for instance from a trusted leader – someone peddling a super-bias. For instance in times of high social or economic stress bigots pick up disciples. This is the time when strong leaders – ones with simple, strong biases gain followers. The platform must be simple and strong (e.g., Cut taxes, Obama was born here, Mormonism is a cult, etc. In high seas your resources are already stretched to the breaking point, you can’t afford a ‘savior’ with a complex bias. You need a simple, clear  lifeline now, not a 100 page manual. Democrats have their super-biases too (Republicans are hard-hearted, greedy bankers, planet destroying corporations, etc.).

What super-biases do you rely on? Where did you get them?  Where do you get new ones when you need more?

Posted in: Sciencing