Friday, May 24, 2013

Cliff May @ Townhall: Benghazi and a Study of Self-Delusions

‘Humans are great at self-delusion,” the polymathic philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb has observed.

In his best-selling book The Black Swan, Taleb endeavors to explain “everything we know about what we don’t know,” with particular emphasis on the impact of the unexpected (e.g. black swans).
Taleb explains that those who fool themselves with simple stories that satisfy a desire for easily comprehensible patterns are indulging in “narrative fallacy.”  
“Naïve empiricism,” he says, is the “natural tendency to look for instances that confirm our story and our vision of the world — these are always easy to find.”
Closely related is “confirmation bias,” the habit of focusing on evidence that bolsters preconceptions while ignoring evidence that challenges them.
“Belief perseverance” is the tendency not to change one’s mind even in the light of compelling contradictory evidence, while “belief defense” is doubling down on incorrect conclusions for the “protection of self-esteem.” Taleb argues that many people, perhaps most, “treat ideas like possessions” and find it difficult to part with them.

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