A Quick Tour of Irrationality

Tue, Apr 12th 2022 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Reception - Irene Walker
Menu Choice - Stephen Bennie

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The subject of the talk by President Mike Dow’s, a Clinical Psychologist by training was  ‘A quick Tour of Irrationality’ (Or Why We Need Science).

 Throughout the past we have had many instances of Gobsat, evidence from so called experts, ranging from bloodletting as a medical cure to the use of Thalidomide for morning sickness.  We need evidence instead based on sound empirical scientific evaluation.

As individuals we often see patterns that don’t exist. A run of luck, a winning streak when only randomness exits. We tend to have a bias towards positive evidence and often overvalue information, as police interviews can sometimes do. A good example of our often need to conform was shown by the Asch experiment which uses two cards: - one card has a single vertical line and another three vertical lines. A group was asked to pick a line from the three that corresponded to the single line. Only one of the group was a genuine subject and the others were plants, giving clearly wrong answers. Repeating this experiment, 75% of subjects gave wrong answers in an obvious bid to conform.

Mike gave examples of regression to the mean. We go to the doctor quite often when conditions are at their worst, when without intervention they are most likely to improve or when the economy is at a low and probably can only improve. Other examples were given of bias based on prior beliefs and communal reinforcement: - physically attractive people are kind; good handwriting is a sign of intelligence.

There were many examples to show what we think we know is a good deal less than we know. My intuition, albeit now shown to be totally flawed, tells me we will be unlikely to remove the shackles that make us act in the same old non-scientific ways.

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