Monthly Archives: October 2009
On my way to work this last Monday I couldn’t help but notice that it seemed as if squirrels at the side of the road would wait until the van was almost upon them before rushing across the street in a mad suicidal dash.
Would it be a valid inference to conclude that the local squirrel population was hell-bent on destroying itself, or that the presence of an oncoming vehicle made them risk their lives in this manner, to become road pizza? I suspect not, fortunately for the majority of the urban tree-dwelling wildlife gene pool.
It turns out that I was engaging in a sort of self-deception known as confirmation bias, and since the sight of small animals running across the street stands out more than the vast majority that don’t rush out in front of oncoming traffic, it’s easier to notice and remember, as per the following observation by Francis Bacon:
It is the peculiar and perpetual error of the human understanding to be more moved and excited by affirmatives than by negatives.
Events that are more cognitively significant, and forgetting, for not having paid much attention to those fauna that stay off the road, is a typical example of this error.
Confirmation bias is a form of selective thinking in which one remembers, more closely considers, or looks for observations affirmative to one’s beliefs, and forgetting, dismissing, ignoring or downplaying data that contradict one’s beliefs. It’s the human tendency to ‘count the hits and ignore the misses,’ and something we all do if we aren’t careful.
Confirmation bias is one reason for many paranormal and occult beliefs, such as that of the powers of alleged psychics, who often use cold reading techniques such as shotgunning, where a lot of random guesses, some of them highly likely to be true for almost anyone (common names, numbers, dates, etc.), are made, during which the psychic relies on his or her subject to forget or dismiss the incorrect guesses and keep in mind only the ones that subjectively seem accurate, thus seeming to the subject to possess special knowledge obtainable only by paranormal means, while really relying on verbal and non-verbal feedback cues unknowingly given by the subject.
This tendency is also responsible for belief in so-called lunar effects, such as the supposed increase in hospital admissions during nights of a full moon, such things as childbirths, or injury from accident or violence. Some hospital staff will pay more notice to those admissions during a full moon, and pay little or no mind to those times during a full moon when admissions aren’t high as being the exceptions that prove the rule.
A perusal of hospital admission records over time will reveal nothing special about these nights. So if I document my observations of the road on the way to work more carefully, and go back over them later, it speaks much better for the survival instincts of the local squirrels that they aren’t risking their lives to become roadkill as much as they seem to be through casual observation. Fnord.
(Last Updated 16:20, 10/30/2009: Grammar & Verbiage Corrections)
Check this out. More cool stuff by the Quirkologist. Note the words at the top of the placard…
I was looking through my comments, and found this little gem posted as a response to one of my old video entries on Out of Body Experiences. I thought it might be fun to post it here where you all can see it for yourselves and try to figure out exactly what this guy is saying. Let me know if you’re just as perplexed as my Troythuluness was. Do try not to ridicule though: the man is obviously psychologically disturbed and mental illness is not funny. Except for the deletion of personal data, this comment is verbatim:
The fact that the brain received magnetic fields does not proved that the brain “created the experiences”.
Our soul receives physical imput through our senses and the brain. It is logical that our soul reacts to the magnetic input.
This experiment does not prove that the brain can cause our soul to be on another country instantaneously, telepathy, etc.
It’s like saying “by typing in the keyboard of this computer I conclude that the keyboard is responsible to make me go to any website in the internet.”
Besides, there is a huge physical evidence of existance of ghosts (is that caused by our brains too?). Are the brains of animals useless? Only ours are good?
We are not a physical body, we are powerful “energy” beings connected in a huge multidimensional/multiuniverse network that some people call “God”.
Claudio [personal data redacted], and OBE traveler like everybody else (with different “awareness/focus levels”, that’s it).
So, what do you think? I couldn’t make any sense of it. Let me know in the comments…
(Last updated 10:04, 10/24/2009)