Why radicals can't recognize when they're wrong

Why radicals can’t recognize when they’re wrong

  • Not only does everyone have personal experience with how difficult it can be to change people’s minds, but there’s also empirical research showing why this is the case.
  • A new study in Current Biology explains why some people seem to be constitutionally incapable of admitting they’re wrong.
  • The study shows the underlying mechanism behind being bull-headed, and there may be some ways to get better at recognizing when you’re wrong.

If you find yourself in an argument about politics, climate change, religion, or any number of conversation topics that are taboo at the Thanksgiving table, you’ve probably silent screamed to yourself, “Why won’t this jerk change their mind? It seems so obvious!” Not only that, but it seems like the crazier position the other side has, the more obstinate they are that you’re wrong, not them.

New research published in Current Biology on December 18, 2018, confirms this feeling: people with radical beliefs actually think differently than those without. Specifically, radicals have less metacognitive sensitivity than moderates.

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Hence the appellation “thicker than 2 short planks.”

Has to do with judgement:

Metacognition refers to the ability to be aware of and analyze one’s own thinking. Metacognitive sensitivity is similar, but more specific: it refers to the ability to distinguish between one’s correct and incorrect judgements.

Robert McNamara for example:

McNamara was responsible for the institution of systems analysis in public policy, which developed into the discipline known today as policy analysis.

Very smart man.

I’ll go steamer a few dozen better by saying they are:

unintelligent, ignorant, dense, brainless, mindless, foolish, dull-witted, dull, slow-witted, witless, slow, dunce-like, simpleminded, empty-headed, vacuous, vapid, halfwitted, idiotic, moronic, imbecilic, imbecile, obtuse, doltish, gullible, naive, foolish, silly, unintelligent, idiotic, brainless, mindless, scatterbrained, crackbrained, nonsensical, senseless, irresponsible, unthinking, ill-advised, ill-considered, inept, witless, damfool, unwise, injudicious, indiscreet, short-sighted, inane, absurd, ludicrous, ridiculous, laughable, risible, fatuous, asinine, pointless, meaningless, futile, fruitless, mad, insane, lunatic, thick, thick as two short planks, dim, dumb, dopey, dozy, crazy, barmy, cretinous, birdbrained, peabrained, pig-ignorant, bovine, slow on the uptake, soft in the head, brain-dead, boneheaded, lamebrained, thickheaded, chuckleheaded, dunderheaded, wooden, wooden-headed, fat-headed, muttonheaded, crazy, daft, dopey, cracked, half-baked, cock-eyed, harebrained, nutty, potty, dotty, batty, derpy, barmy, gormless, cuckoo, loony, loopy, zany, screwy, off one’s head, off one’s trolley, out to lunch, dumb-ass

which I will say goes for radicals on the left as well but there are simply so many fewer of those because most people on the left have a good bit more than an 8th grade education.

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Engineering Terror

a statistical fact: in the ranks of captured and confessed terrorists, engineers and engineering students are significantly overrepresented.

The engineer mind-set, Gambetta and Hertog suggest, might be a mix of emotional conservatism and intellectual habits that prefers clear answers to ambiguous questions — “the combination of a sharp mind with a loyal acceptance of authority.” Do people become engineers because they are this way? Or does engineering work shape them? It’s probably a feedback loop of both, Gambetta says.

Now hold on a minute. We train a lot of engineers on this planet. Its not that we are sharp minded and accepting of authority as a rule, and therefore great terrorists. For a lot of guys it might be more like: Its difficult to compete, the work is boring, there are no girls here, and I only took this path because I thought it would make my family proud.

That’s speculation on why engineers are over represented in that population. The percentage of the total would be very low.

Anyway point being terrorists are very often intelligent and well educated.

It might be a lack of good opportunities for engineers in backwards 8th Century theocracies too.

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And engineers are very practical. They shape the world directly.

sure. Because one could imagine that the choice to become a terrorist is more about being in a bad place emotionally than it is about education and intellect. They want to fit in, be a part of something bigger, and tear down a system that has shown them a wonderful lifestyle but hasn’t given them access to it. Incels seem to feel the same way. I reckon there are more people who feel shut out of the lifestyle they can see-but-not-touch than there are people who live that way. The saddest thing about alt-right-conspiracy consumers is that someone has recognized this consumer disaffectation and used it as a hook to sell them on fears that can be used as handy-handles to manipulate them politically and economically.

That’s called empowerment. Everyone should have that feeling.

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The engineer profession is over-represented on the radical right. For the radical left it’s lawyers evidently.

the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany staged kidnappings, assassinations, bank robberies and bombings. Seventeen of its members had college or graduate degrees, mostly in law or the humanities. Not one studied engineering.

That may be too small a sample, being one organism so to say. I suspect lawyers and engineers are rather like water and oil (though not so much as engineers and accountants).

hurr durr conservatives are dumb

“On the left” to you and comrade Steamer is anyone to the left of Marx so I could see why you would think that.

In the book When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management it was mentioned that:

Among LTCM’s principals were several former university professors, including two Nobel Prize-winning economists

One of the book’s claims was that the perhaps LTCM management had too many economists, lack of divergent views.

I would think in case of a radical group too many divergent views would be a bad thing.

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Still relevant: “The True Believer” by Eric Hoffer.

Fascinating guy. I used to hang around the San Francisco waterfront around quitting time to get a chance to wave at him. Way too shy a kid to go up and say hello.



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Far from it.

If there is any class or group that I will not “loyally accept” it is the authority class. They had better be good at what they do, do it right, and base what they do on reality, not dogma or some mythology beat into them by some fraud they consider an “authority” before I will even listen to them.

You mean where the Cheeto’s “base” lives and wants to force the rest of us to go?

Anyone who defines themselves by their religion or mythology is immediately suspect in my world. The idea of a nation that creates laws based on mythology is profoundly disturbing. The fact that most of our politicians either truly believe that crap (the veep creep) or pretend to (the Cheeto in chief) is a national obscenity.


I guess to those who have a binary view of their reality we are “on the left” but for people capable of thinking without guidance from the voices that blather from AM radio, there is a great deal more width to the political and social spectra.

With regards to the marine side of things, in the novel “The Sand Pebbles” the main character (played by Steve McQueen in the movie) is standing a deck watch and reads and records the air temps (IIRC) and makes the observation that in the E/R if a reading is not correct an engineer adjusts it but on the deck side it’s just read and recorded.