Not applying analysis in one domain to your actions in another

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Solvent
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Not applying analysis in one domain to your actions in another

Post by Solvent » Thu Apr 13, 2017 3:11 pm

I was kicked into a train of thought by this interview between Tyler Cowen and Patrick Collison (the series is very good, by the way, I think it's been linked before). Particularly this para:
What I find depressing about a lot of academia is you have people who think very scientifically about their research, but then their life is just something totally different. Or they talk about politics, and they’ll be just like anyone else, not very analytical or very scientific. So the idea that, if you believe something, at least try to see it through: What else does it imply? What else does it imply for all other things I believe in life? And then allow that to have feedback into your research.
It's actually something I've found myself thinking before, although not necessarily about academics since I don't have the opportunity to mix with them. Quite frequently, I see people have a strong approach to thinking critically and analytically about one very small area they're passionate about, but then fail to apply the knowledge they have there to any other domain. In fact, they will fanatically resist applying their strongly held ideas from their preferred field to other parts of life.

I think most of us here (given the subject matter of this forum) see this quite clearly with the kind of people who will bargain and optimize expenditure on one particular area of their life - I don't know, getting the best deal on a used car for example, or shopping around for insurance. But then they will massively resist the idea that one could optimize expenditure in other areas, such as grocery shopping or mobile phone purchases.

Perhaps this is sitting at the top of my mind because I was recently reading something of Robert Twigger's on Polymathics and how knowledge from one domain should be allowed to benefit your learning and way of thinking about apparently unrelated domains.

Would any of you like to discuss 1) in a self-critical way, do you see yourself doing this in any area? Are you passionate about thinking clearly and analytically about one thing but then think impulsively, or incoherently, or generically, in another area which could benefit from the same kind of analysis? And 2) outside of the realm of consumer culture/expenditure optimization, which is de rigueur for these forums, can you think of other common examples of this kind of failing you see in others?

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Ego
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Re: Not applying analysis in one domain to your actions in another

Post by Ego » Thu Apr 13, 2017 5:37 pm

Solvent wrote:
Thu Apr 13, 2017 3:11 pm

Would any of you like to discuss 1) in a self-critical way, do you see yourself doing this in any area? Are you passionate about thinking clearly and analytically about one thing but then think impulsively, or incoherently, or generically, in another area which could benefit from the same kind of analysis? And 2) outside of the realm of consumer culture/expenditure optimization, which is de rigueur for these forums, can you think of other common examples of this kind of failing you see in others?
Absolutely. I am 100% guilty. And I do it purposely. Probably the most glaring example is free will. It does not exist, but it is useful to pretend that it does. Along those same lines are beliefs that are beneficial to hold (or at least to operate as if they are true) but are not necessarily true. The Ego bathroom vs the Riggerjack bathroom, for instance. :D

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Dragline
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Re: Not applying analysis in one domain to your actions in another

Post by Dragline » Thu Apr 13, 2017 7:18 pm

Sure, anywhere there are emotions involved, I'm less likely to be as analytic, especially with the wife and kids. A lot of times my priorities are more about what makes them happy or what saves headaches. Same with my elderly parents.

I think this kind of compartmentalization is actually normal human behavior, because its built on experience applied upward in an uncertain world, not on application of learned theories downward in a known (or even knowable) world. Meaning that the "rational animal" of Aristotle does not really exist outside theoretical and highly temporal constructs. Instead, people rely more on Kahneman's "System 1" heuristics or rules of thumb applied selectively to the various domains of their lives.

But the effort to apply lessons across domains is still very worthwhile -- same idea as C. Munger's mental models.

That was a really good interview, BTW.

Campitor
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Re: Not applying analysis in one domain to your actions in another

Post by Campitor » Fri Apr 14, 2017 12:26 am

I think these types of lapses of logic/analytics is probably caused by mental fatigue. When you're spending all day doing high level analysis, the last thing you want to do when you get home is more high level analysis on something you may consider mundane. I will often avoid any kind of analysis in my personal or professional sphere when I'm mentally fatigued in order to avoid making bad decisions or forming incorrect opinions. This choice is often incorrectly perceived as procrastination or laziness. And sometimes you don't have a choice - you have to do something because doing nothing has a higher opportunity cost despite the high probability you may be making a suboptimal choice.

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Re: Not applying analysis in one domain to your actions in another

Post by jacob » Fri Apr 14, 2017 9:05 am

A lot of "professional" thinking isn't a priori/on the spot analysis but rather experiental or prepared knowledge.

For example, when someone goes up and gives a talk or proves a theorem or says something clever, it's almost never a case of instantaneous original invention. Such analysis and creativity takes as much time in areas outside one's specialty as they do inside it.

Would also point out that almost 90% aren't effectively literate enough to perform much of any analysis at all.
https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2014/2014008.pdf (see the B-appendix table and cross check with the summary on page 6 in the doc).

Then there's the whole Dunning-Kruger aspect of it. ebast posted an interesting paper some weeks ago demonstrating that people who are really good at analysis (the 95%+) (grad students) like to think that they have a much better understanding of "simple things" (how does a crossbow or a pinlock work) than they actually do. This is disastrous whenever such conceited folks meet and discuss things.

What you mostly see when someone is doing an analysis (both as a professional and and as a layman) is someone regurgitating factoids and stringing them together in an analytical way that looks like they know what they're talking about. Such conversations can proceed into fairly sophisticated arguments even if nobody partaking has ever done any personal useful analysis on the subject (*cough* climate change threads *cough cough*). Someone capable of analysis is very good at forming arguments out of limited substance like a single newspaper article or blog post.---But has not grokked that maybe it would be better to read some books first. They accept this in their own field of expertise but almost never for other fields. Maybe it was all those years in the school system spent writing dumb essays with a short article or a poem as source material that created this monster ... well (I'm making the same mistake here).

In order for analysis to happen you need both time, desire, and capability. These are all rare qualities. Applying analysis and synthesis in every single field of interest requires tremendous effort, so even experts typically only have room for 1 (work) or 2 (work + one hobby).

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Chad
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Re: Not applying analysis in one domain to your actions in another

Post by Chad » Fri Apr 14, 2017 9:36 am

There are definitely certain subjects or certain times I do not apply analytical rigor to a problem, issue, situation, etc. For me, the mixture is half Dragline's answer and half Campitor's. Emotional subjects can cloud out the analytics, along with mental fatigue. Though, I find myself tending to get very very rational in many cases during emotional subjects where everyone is physically present. I think it's because that type of response in that type of situation generally shocks everyone, as they are looking for you to join into the strong emotional response. My contrarian streak comes out.
Anyhoo in order for analysis to happen you need both time, desire, and capability. These are all rare qualities.
This is also the answer to the last 6-8 posts on the Trump- Clown Genius thread.

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Dragline
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Re: Not applying analysis in one domain to your actions in another

Post by Dragline » Thu Apr 20, 2017 11:16 am

Recent interview of Kahneman relevant to this thread: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Obf1ayP7Pg

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