August 31, 2015

The leftward drift

I came across an intriguing bit in Richard Nisbett's book Mindware which was about what he called the leftward drift. This leftward drift refers to the fact that the number of college and university students who self-identify as liberal or far left in their political orientation increase as they move through college. At the same time, the number of students who call themselves conservative or far left decreases. In other words, college makes many students drift to the left in their political views.

August 30, 2015

5 Dimensions of belief systems

Gerard Saucier of the university of Oregon has done research into belief systems of people. Belief systems are important because they guide people's behaviors and thereby influence their development and the circumstances in which they will find themselves. Saucier has created insight into what kind of belief systems there are. He did this using factor analysis. Through factor analysis it is possible to reduce a large number of variables to a more limited number of variables (factors; read more). Saucier found out that the degree to which people vary in their beliefs can be describes using the following 5 dimensions (Saucier, 2013).

How to deal with the arrogant-yet-ignorant state of mind

We do not fully perceive and understand reality as it is. First, our senses do not permit us to perceive large parts of reality accurately or at all. Second, evolution has equipped us with cognitive rules of thumb (heuristics) which are fast and helpful to survive in most situations but which are also crude and inaccurate in many ways (read more). To add to this, we are to some (perhaps large) extent unaware of these handicaps. In other words, we may be ignorant without realizing it. The 2x2 model below describes four states of mind regarding our own ignorance.

August 28, 2015

Solving the replication problem in social science

Today, a team of researchers has made a good contribution to solving the replication problem in social science. 

Previously, I wrote about what science is and why it is important (see Improving science). In that piece I used the picture below to describe some essential parts of the scientific process. Each of these parts are links in the chain of the scientific process and play an essential role in making science function well. In several of these links there are some serious weaknesses which threaten the quality of science.

August 21, 2015

Alfie Kohn's misleading critique of Carol Dweck

Alfie Kohn has written an new article entitled The perils of “Growth Mindset” education: Why we’re trying to fix our kids when we should be fixing the system. The article is critical of the popularity of idea of the growth mindset. Kohn says the growth mindset concept was a promising idea but got over-simplified - something against which Carol Dweck did not object enough according to Kohn - and has now been coopted by conservative ideology. While Kohn's article raises some valid points, I disagree with its general contention.

August 20, 2015

Review of Mindware: tools for smart thinking by Richard Nisbett

Psychologist Richard Nisbett has written a new book called Mindware: tools for smart thinking. I think it is essential reading for students of psychology. Here is my review.

As a psychology student in the 1980s I first learned about the work of the Richard Nisbett. Together with Lee Ross (who coined the term fundamental attribution error; which I will come back to later) he wrote the classic book Human Inference (1980) about how people use rules of thumb in social judgment and decision making and about how we often systematic mistakes in the way we judge events and people. Nisbett & Ross' work build on and was closely related to the work done by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman.

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