The bias paradox

We are biased about bias itself.

While we think of ourselves as being the rational animal, we humans falll victim to all sorts of biases. From the Dunning-Kruger Effect to Confirmation Bias, there are countless psychological traps waiting for us along the path to true rationality. And what's more, when attributing bias to others, how can we be sure we are not falling victim to it ourselves? Joshua Mugg and Muhammad Ali Khalidi ask, might we be biased about bias itself?



How rational are we? And if we are not rational, how could we tell, since we would have to rely on our reasoning to make that determination? Over the last few decades, psychologists have uncovered numerous ways that humans fail to live up to our own ideal of rationality. We are overconfident of our performance (‘Dunning-Kruger Effect’), we seek out information to confirm what we already believe instead of thinking about what would challenge our beliefs (‘Confirmation Bias’), the theories we hold seem to influe

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Roger Thach 31 March 2022

Depending on how we define ‘paradox’, this is either not a paradox or not a paradox that is fatal. The article conflates the existence of a bias with an inability to overcome that bias.
A trivial, uncharged example: many people are biased in favor of the New York Yankees, many others are biased in favor of the Boston Red Sox. In an important game, the fans may respond in opposite ways to the same pitch. (This will be confirmation bias, or expectation bias.) But, when shown a slow-motion replay, many fans may admit that they were wrong, and that the pitch should actually be called in favor of the other team. They don’t become unbiased, they simply admit their error.
(Of course, many fans will also double down, but I am not arguing against the existence of bias, just the straw man that biases are one-way tickets into parallel existences.)
Even if scientists are ‘Yankees fans’ or ‘Red Sox fans’, there are potential correctives, including the broader scientific community being a ‘slow-motion replay’.

Frank Smith 1 30 March 2022

Seems to me this boils down to: humans sometimes make errors. Those checking others for error also make errors. This does not mean there is no point in checking for errors or searching for truth. It simply means that the search for truth must be collaborative, so that we can check each other and check the checkers, check the checkers of the checkers, and so on ad infinitum. In other words, the search for truth always remains a search, never an absolutely perfectly certain arrival at destination. This does not mean there is no truth. If I say, "There is no truth," that itself would be a truth claim, and therefore would cancel itself out. No, there is truth, but we see it "through a glass darkly." We always see it through a human lens. Therefore, an increasingly close approach to truth, to absolute reality, depends on the quality of the human lens, which is to say, on the total integrity of the human being observing. This is much more than a matter of proper reasoning. It depends also on the degree of self-knowledge a person possesses, the healthy character of the life of feeling, and the ability to obey oneself and to act in such a way that one can authentically love one's actions. All that, and the achievement of something like full self-knowledge requires at least two things: 1) continual ethical development, and 2) development of higher states of consciousness through various concentration and meditation exercises. Three steps of ethical development need to be taken for every one step toward higher consciousness. There is no one source on how to work toward this, but I like Rudolf Steiner's book, Knowledge of Higher Worlds and Its Attainment. Also the little book, Six Steps in Self-Development.