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Awareness of Bias 
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Post Awareness of Bias
I was considering this book in it's entirety, and thinking of ways in which I'd summarize it in an explanation to Thomas Hood. Riniolo mentions a few times as his thesis that we're all capable, but can be quite inconsistent at critical thinking.

My problem in creating a summary is in explaining what exactly critical thinking is. Many of the biases which affect our thinking are explained in detail, and the author points out a few times the difficulty in always being aware of these biases.

No one can be completely without bias of course, but I've done mental experiments in the past to alert me of their presence. Your emotions are pivotal in being aware of bias. For example, if you become angry about something, such as seatbelt laws which are in place due to insurance company lobbyists, that anger should be a red flag that you're emotionally biased on the issue. Also, a feeling of comfort or pride in a belief can indicate that your thinking will remain focused on lines of reasoning which support that belief, thus keeping the 'good' feeling of pride or comfort going. The critical thinker would then be obligated to take a deep breath and consider the contradictory evidence in detail.



Mon Sep 21, 2009 12:22 am
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Post Re: Awareness of Bias
Interbane wrote:
Riniolo mentions a few times as his thesis that we're all capable, but can be quite inconsistent at critical thinking.

Our performance doesn't match our ability in these cases. Despite having critical thinking skills, why do we not always use them? Maybe the problem is as simple as that we are programmed to have beliefs, not confined to religion but broadly encompassing philosophy. It is probably impossible to have a belief while questioning every emotional bias we have. The result would be no beliefs, which wouldn't necessarily be a better state of affairs. We have to have loves and allegiances. The solution of being aware that we do have these emotional biases, that highly influence us in supposedly rational thinking, might work, but I'm not sure it's realistic.
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No one can be completely without bias of course

Right, and if we did live in that kind of world, who knows but that it might seem a worse alternative.
Quote:
Your emotions are pivotal in being aware of bias. For example, if you become angry about something, such as seatbelt laws which are in place due to insurance company lobbyists, that anger should be a red flag that you're emotionally biased on the issue. Also, a feeling of comfort or pride in a belief can indicate that your thinking will remain focused on lines of reasoning which support that belief, thus keeping the 'good' feeling of pride or comfort going. The critical thinker would then be obligated to take a deep breath and consider the contradictory evidence in detail.

Riniolo separates the cognitive from the emotional biases. I wonder whether the cognitive biases mostly come into play as a result of controlling emotional biases. At least, it's hard for me to separate these two types. I agree with the program you propose to make us more self-aware when it comes to emotional biases. But I wonder about the importance of in a sense using our emotional biases to propel us into action, to give us a sense of conviction. Or--something else to consider--can we distinguish between beliefs based on emotion that are unbiased vs. ones that are, and get out of the dilemma in that way.

As a personal example, I know that in most arguments involving the environment, I will be biased toward the pro-environmental side. This is largely by virtue of what I've come to love throughout my life. I could say it's by virtue of considering the facts only, but that would be a lie. Although I agree that my allegiance does not release me from the obligation to consider discordant facts, sooner of later we get to the matter that we are talking about values, not facts. Inherent in having values is the conviction that mine are the right ones. That sounds horribly unenlightened, but it seems to me honest. It's not "normal' for us to be detached from our values, considering other values as equally good.

I think it was Geo who recommended humility about our beliefs in view of the inevitability that we will have biases. I agree, but this doesn't mean we shouldn't attempt to persuade others that we are right! Because we might, in fact, be right. This debate is a healthy activity that should be done with an open and generous spirit. If Robert Tulip is reading, he might be glad to hear that I recognize the dangers of relativism in this instance.



Mon Sep 21, 2009 9:20 am
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