How we fool ourselves

This short podcast from Scientific American highlights how easy it is for a person to fool them-self. Evolution generally provides us with perceptions and reasoning abilities that are ‘good enough’ for our survival. But great things happen when you sit down and make careful measurements, and look for the limits of your understanding. This is the realization that has fueled our remarkable scientific and technological success in the past few centuries.

Now, careful measurements and skeptical thinking will help you not get fooled into seeing things that aren’t there. But, I’m not sure they would help you see the gorilla while counting basketball passes (see the above mentioned podcast). One can imagine a lot of scientific discoveries are missed because people weren’t looking for them. So, there’s yet another value that a good scientist needs to add to their list: know what you expect and be sure to notice evidence that doesn’t fit.

I’m also glad to see that some of Feynman’s brilliant ideas are being promoted here:

We profoundly overestimate our ability to see things as they are. As the physicist Richard Feynman famously said: The first principle is you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.


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