Contemplating Cognitive Biases

Posted by QED at 3:00pm on September 29th 2017
A graphical representation of confirmation bias

You will think of this panel session favourably afterwards if it’s the first one you attend, thanks to the primacy effect, or if it’s the last, thanks to the recency effect. Don’t expect it to change your views on anything though, because attempts to present you with contradictory evidence will backfire. But as long as the panel accords with what you already think, you will love it for the confirmation it confers.

As shortcuts which the mind takes to reach decisions rapidly (though sometimes incorrectly) cognitive biases are so natural that it’s difficult to avoid succumbing even when we are aware of them. Take the opportunity to learn more at QED, as the immediate benefit of understanding them as soon as possible must surely far outweigh any future discoveries you might make about them thanks to hyperbolic discounting.

Experts in the field benefitting from an authority bias to discuss these issues are:

  • Carol Tavris, a social psychologist, writer, and lecturer who has sought to use the contributions of psychological science to dispel some of the harms of pseudoscience and “psychobabble.” Her book with Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me), is one of the most cited works in the skeptical movement, highlighting the reasons people don’t change their minds, recognize the harms they inflict, or give up useless practices simply because the evidence says they should.
  • Richard Wiseman, Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He has written several best-selling books including The Luck Factor, Quirkology, Paranormality and 59 Seconds. Richard was listed in the Independent On Sunday’s top 100 people who make Britain a better place to live, and has acted as a creative consultant to Derren Brown, the MythBusters, and Heston Blumenthal.
  • Chris French, the psychologist, author, and TV presenter who is well known to QED audiences. He is former editor of The Skeptic magazine and heads the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He is a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and appears frequently on radio and television casting a sceptical eye over paranormal claims.
  • Deborah Hyde, editor of The Skeptic magazine and a full-time film-industry production manager. She is no stranger to how people can be fooled, and writes about belief in the malign macabre at Deborah will be chairing this session.

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