Presentation on theme: "Philosophy 148 Chapter 4. Beliefs People are asked to believe an extraorinary amount of things, many of which are inconsistent with each other When faced."— Presentation transcript:
Beliefs People are asked to believe an extraorinary amount of things, many of which are inconsistent with each other When faced with a new claim, first evaluate whether it conflicts with any other claims that you have good reason to believe A good set of background knowledge, suitably acquired and maintained, will serve you well. A shoddy set of background knowledge will serve you poorly.
Background Knowledge The more basic things you know, the less likely you are to be taken advantage of or victimized by bad information (aka mind poison). Ways to improve your background knowledge – A healthy skepticism (not too much, not too little, just to keep you examining claims) – Education – Reading (the more the better, and from as many sources as practical; its still the most effective way to build scientific and philosophical literacy)
Authorities We cant be expected to know everything, so we often rely on authorities. – Be sure the authority is an authority over the proper area – Check that the authority is consistent, supplies good support for their assertions, and commits no formal fallacies – Check that the authority is qualified/reputable Education, employer, job title, other special recognition,etc. – Check that the issue is one in which there can be authorities – Check if other authorities agreeif authorities disagree, that is good reason to withhold judgment on a claim.
Web Sources Who wrote it? Look for authors or organizations responsible, and then research those people or organizations, if the only information you have of them is from that one place, its not credible. Look for cross citation. Google a particular sentence to see if anyone else is citing this page as if its credible. Look for contact information. The following is likely to mean a more reputable organization or author: A toll free contact number, (as opposed to a toll number or no number at all) a business address, (as opposed to a residential one) a location in a plausible area, a variety of email addresses (indicating the existence of a staff, not just one kook)
Confirmation Bias Confirmation bias is the intellectual habit of noticing only evidence that confirms previously accepted opinions or theories. It can even be taken further by interpreting ambiguous evidence as support for previously held theories, and even resisting good evidence against previously held theories. See Thomas Gilovichs study summarized on p.147.
Availability Bias Available evidence may be inconclusive, but lacking anything else, many people simply treat the available evidence as strong. This is another psychological habit. Advertisers make extensive use of availability biasit is a common misconception that the purpose of an ad is to make you want to buy the product. All they have to do is make sure youve heard of it, and you are MUCH more likely to buy it as opposed to something else.
Availability Bias Quiz 1.What do you blow your nose with? 2.What do you do if you cut your finger? 3.What do you do if you have a headache? 4.Name a popular soft drink flavor (can you name two or three?).
Availability Bias Quiz 1.You blow your nose with a facial tissue or a handkerchief, not necessarily a Kleenex, which is a brand of facial tissue. 2.You place a bandage with antibiotic cream on it, not necessarily a Band-Aid with Neosporin. 3.For headache, take acetylsalicylic acid, ibuprophen, or acetaminafen, often branded as anacin, advil, or tylenol, respectively. 4. – Soft drink flavors: cola, cherry, citrus, root beer, orange, grape, vanilla, etc. – Soft drink brands: Coke, Pepsi, Dr Pepper, A&W, Mountain Dew, 7-up, etc. Is it any wonder that in each of these categories, the brand names that have become synonymous with the product names sell best?
Claims in the News The mainstream news-media is becoming a more and more problematic source of information. For now, well bypass examples of this and proceed to the reasons why: 1.Profit motive: Journalism viewed as a business rather than as a public service necessarily impacts every facet of how journalism is done. 2.A selfish, ignorant, short-sighted, and distractible public = the same kind of mediaits a big mirror, folks. 3.The sources of news content have greatly diminished over the years. Media outlets have increasingly been held by fewer and fewer large corporate entities. see http://www.freepress.net/ownership/chart/main http://www.freepress.net/ownership/chart/main 4.entertainment news has had a pernicious effect on public discourse. See Neil Postmans often revised Amusing Ourselves to Death
Where does this leave us? In general, seeking out a diversity of information sources is the best way to fight being spoon-fed information by powerful entities with profit motives. In a sense we are now all asked to do for ourselves what we used to count on journalists to do for us. (Its not the journalists faults, hardly any of the big media companies employ them or listen to them when they do) Check out the list on pp. 156-157
Advertising Is the single largest source of unsupported claims available today. Encourages fallacious reasoning Takes advantage of psychological tendencies Has been demonstrably successful. Some possible effects: Most media-exposed nations are also the nations with the highest personal debt loads (by % of income).
Against Advertising Critical thinking is necessary, but its just not enough. At some point we must deliberately limit our exposure to it, and find ways to diminish the incentives to advertise the way that advertising is currently done At worst, mass advertising is a widespread moral travesty.