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March 05, 2009

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This has been changed by the Internet. My positions on various issues over the last decade, are on display.

Since people are subject to anchoring biases, it isn't obvious whether folks views are on net more or less accurate if they write down their old views.

Happened to me fairly recently but I don't remember the exact occasion: I said "No way, I never said that, that doesn't sound like something I would ever say" and then the other person linked to the email.

Like Thomas, this is the primary reason I blog.

That's funny!
I think that the kids were easily persuaded because they are kids...
that is what i think.... But I dunno... could be wrong like anyone else in the world! lol

Ah, yes, the "true change == amnesia" effect. This is almost a truism in the Mind Hackers' Guild; if you've successfully made a REAL change to a belief or the automatic behavior pattern it evokes (as opposed to merely having a vague *intention* to change, or thinking it would be a good *idea* to change), it tends to be followed by amnesia for the old way you responded to things.

Interesting to hear that it applies to conscious, opinion-type beliefs as well as emotional/unconscious/behavior type stuff.

I know that's happened to me here once or twice, because I actually managed to catch myself in the act of mentally going from "oh, hey, that's cool!" to "that's obvious and I already knew that."

The specific thing in question was the suggestion about rationalists exchanging likelihoods instead of final probabilities as a way to reach agreement.

I actually managed to catch myself during that bit of mental shifting and go "NO! This notion is one I hadn't thought of before. It may be arguably obvious in retrospect, but I still didn't think of it that way before. At least this time, I'm damn well going to stop myself from doing the whole 'I knew it all along' thing when I know that I definitely didn't!"

I agree with Robin. Though increased accuracy may be possible if writing down opinions means you notice changes and actually try to assess why they happened and how legit the reasons are. Smaller (anchored) changes in opinion backed by reasons seem more likely to tend toward accuracy than larger ones not. There is then a trade off in how often you look at your old opinions: often = more influenced by them, rarely = don't notice when they change until long after, so remember less accurately why they might have changed.

If you only look at your old opinions right after recording current ones, I doubt looking at the old ones will have much effect. But that only helps if you know which issues to monitor. Also, writing them in the first place probably anchors you.

One particularly bizarre example: I had a crush on somebody online and admitted it to her. The result was pretty awkward, and as a result I gave up on the idea, as well as mostly stopped talking to her. A good while later, I was talking to another friend, and he mentioned that she had told him about me having a crush on her. For a moment, I couldn't figure out what he was talking about - I'd certainly never had those kinds of feelings towards that person! It took me a while to realize that yes, I'd had.

Since people are subject to anchoring biases, it isn't obvious whether folks views are on net more or less accurate if they write down their old views.

Also, writing them in the first place probably anchors you.

Yep. You should write them down, then forget about them. Easy, right? (and whatever you do, you shouldn't write a blog post on them...)

Like Thomas, this is the primary reason I blog.

Blogging is a good compromise version of this - you avoid anchoring biases simply because you are producing so many opinions a day, that your old posts are quickly forgotten until they are brought to your attention at a later date. Not true for major, well remembered posts, but for the others...

To all those who blog, do you find there is an anchoring bias for your minor opinions?

Maybe the "amnesia" is a defense mechanism, otherwise you WON'T be able to change your mind(or be extremely difficult)...After all the contrary opinion is stupid, wrong or even immoral, and if you explicitly remember having held it, you acknowledge all that bad attributes as well which will make shifting opinions and beliefs very difficult.

I believe your most valid opinions are formed from actual experiences in the gut. That is the point of experiencing life as opposed to siting on the sidelines, and getting your information from highly persuasive arguments of others.

The amnesia isn't an independent defense mechanism; it's a side-effect of the fact that memory isn't built to be a record of facts. Memory is a database used to estimate probabilities. So once you've updated data that's relevant to your future predictions, there's no reason to store the old predictive model -- it would just get in the way.

Perhaps there are two ways to change your mind. In first one you realize that both previous theories can be reconciled into one unified theory. In second one you replace one theory with another one.

Raivo Pommer
raimo1@hot.ee

Österreich Krise

Österreichs Ruf als Schuldner steht auf dem Prüfstand. Die Alpenrepublik will in dieser Woche ihre bis 2014 laufende und 2 Milliarden Euro schwere Staatsanleihe um eine halbe Milliarde Euro aufstocken. Dieser Betrag sollte leicht auf dem Anleihemarkt einzusammeln sein. Allerdings ist Österreich ins Gerede gekommen. Das liegt an der tiefen Rezession in weiten Teilen Osteuropas. Dort haben österreichische Banken Forderungen von 280 Milliarden Dollar - eine Zahl, die dem österreichischen Bruttoinlandsprodukts nahekommt. Wegen der wachsenden Schwierigkeiten osteuropäischer Schuldner, ihre Kredite zurückzuzahlen, sind die Bedenken der Anleger mit Blick auf die Kreditwürdigkeit Österreichs und seiner Banken in den vergangenen Tagen gewachsen.

Ein Indiz für die Skepsis ist die Renditedifferenz zwischen österreichischen Staatsanleihen und deutschen Bundesanleihen. Noch nie war sie so groß wie derzeit. Für zehnjährige Laufzeiten zum Beispiel beträgt die Differenz fast 1,4 Prozentpunkte. Bundesanleihen rentieren mit 2,9 Prozent, österreichische mit immerhin 4,3 Prozent. Auf dem zu Übertreibungen neigenden Markt für Kreditausfallversicherungen (CDS) ist die Diskrepanz zwischen Österreich und Deutschland sogar noch größer. Die Aufstockung der österreichischen Staatsanleihe ist daher keinesfalls Routine.

I believe your most valid opinions are formed from actual experiences in the gut

@JosephineSouthern: That's because there are more nerve endings in your gut than there are in your head.

I have never changed my mind. I have discovered, however, that I didn't always know what I really believed until much later.

For example, I have always opposed Bush. I just didn't know that when I voted for him in 2000. It took a few more years to realize I had never, ever, supported him.

[ /snark ]

Seriously though, I see this kind of reasoning a lot. The people who changed their minds on busing probably felt like this too. "I was always anti-busing deep-down. I just didn't know that during the time I advocated for busing" and likewise.

It strikes me as similar to to the "No True Scotsman" fallacy.

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