Monday, March 02, 2009

Biased minds make better inferences.

Here is an interesting open access article "Homo Heuristicus: Why Biased Minds Make Better Inferences" from the first issue of a new journal from Wiley Interscience, Topics in Cognitive Science. (Check out this free online first issue, there are a number of other fascinating articles). It makes the point that a biased mind can handle uncertainty more efficiently and robustly than an unbiased mind relying on more resource-intensive and general-purpose processing strategies. Its abstract:

Heuristics are efficient cognitive processes that ignore information. In contrast to the widely held view that less processing reduces accuracy, the study of heuristics shows that less information, computation, and time can in fact improve accuracy. We review the major progress made so far: (a) the discovery of less-is-more effects; (b) the study of the ecological rationality of heuristics, which examines in which environments a given strategy succeeds or fails, and why; (c) an advancement from vague labels to computational models of heuristics; (d) the development of a systematic theory of heuristics that identifies their building blocks and the evolved capacities they exploit, and views the cognitive system as relying on an "adaptive toolbox;" and (e) the development of an empirical methodology that accounts for individual differences, conducts competitive tests, and has provided evidence for people's adaptive use of heuristics. Homo heuristicus has a biased mind and ignores part of the available information, yet a biased mind can handle uncertainty more efficiently and robustly than an unbiased mind relying on more resource-intensive and general-purpose processing strategies.

4 comments:

Susan Weinschenk said...

The "thin slicing" Blink idea, right?

Deric said...

My take is that this is the message of "Blink" in a more academic and rigorous guise.

gottschalk said...

This article is astonishingly interesting to me. To me it shows the keenness of our capacity to be subjective and where our solutions to it's dangers lies beyond our criminalizing it.

When I ignore information to focus on the relevant I've rendered a judgement. The quality of my judgement depends on the quality of my subjective ability. If I've locked my subjective ability in the cellar in the quest to be objective (done by my judgement) then what can this core and brilliant capacity of ours do but pale and atrophy?

I would argue from this article and elsewhere that the quality of our objectivity is tied to the quality of our subjectivity; if the accumulation of facts leads to knowledge, than the training of our subjective muscle leads to wisdom. And better wisdom leads us to better judgement as to what is really relevant.

gsgk said...

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/33210

"Stereotypes Are A Real Time-Saver"

:)

-Ganesh

Post a Comment