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Your Deceptive Mind Part 8: “Heuristics and Cognitive Biases”

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By Frank Simons

The Meditation Center presents the 24-part Great Courses series, Your Deceptive Mind Part 8: “Heuristics and Cognitive Biases,” Thursday, August 16, 2018, 5:30pm, Meditation Center, Callejon Blanco 4.

Our thinking is inclined, often in subtle or subconscious ways. We are biased. This lecture examines our cognitive biases, one example being a heuristic—a mental shortcut that works most of the time. The worst kind of bias is that of which you are unaware. We will look at how to become aware of our biases and engage in metacognition, loosening the grip of our biases.

Cognitive biases affect the way we argue and the way we think. Our minds take the path of least resistance unless we make a specific effort to step out of these processes and think in a clear and logical manner. Our numerous and pervasive cognitive biases are often related to logical fallacies, leading us into invalid and fallacious rather than logical ways of thinking.

Heuristics, which are subconscious rules of thumb or mental shortcuts, sometimes thought of as just plain common sense—allow us to arrive at conclusions quickly and are correct most of the time. Only a little accuracy is sacrificed for the efficiency of decision-making.

A heuristic called anchoring involves focusing on a prominent feature of an object, person, or event and making decisions or judgments based on that single feature. We oversimplify the complexity we are confronted with.

The availability heuristic, what is immediately accessible to us, has a subtle and powerful influence on our thinking. It gives inordinate weight to events that are recent, vivid, personal, and emotional, like the news. Associated with this heuristic is anecdotal evidence. We have personal experiences that are not part of a controlled or experimental condition, but we use them as a method of estimating probability. The representative heuristic is the assumption that, typically, causes must resemble effects. Emotionally charged effects must have emotionally charged causes. There are many others.

The course is presented by Steven Novella, MD, Academic Neurologist, Yale School of Medicine. He is host and producer of the award-winning podcast, The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe. He writes a regular column for Skeptical Inquirer. He maintains a personal blog, NeuroLogica Blog, covering news and issues in neuroscience, philosophy of science, critical thinking, and the intersection of science with the media and society. Novella is the founder and senior editor of Science-Based Medicine—a group medical and health blog.

There will be an opportunity for discussion following the video.

Presentations of the Center are offered without charge. Donations are gratefully accepted.


Video Presentation

Your Deceptive Mind Part 8: “Heuristics and Cognitive Biases”

Thu, Aug 16, 5:30pm

Meditation Center

Callejon Blanco 4

Free, donations accepted

044 415 156 1950


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