These tendencies are not inborn, but they are possibly coping strategies to protect the ego and low self-sufficiencies. The environment we are immersed in along with the other errors and biases, which we might not be aware of, is what leads us to be victims of the self-serving bias. Motivated reasoning will have us looking at a picture of a person dying in war and saying things like I am so lucky that I have peace in my country. Going beyond this would be saying, How can I create a system that does away with the need for war?
“Don’t ask kids what they want to be when they grow up but what problems do they want to solve.” – Jaime Casap
The moment you do as Jaime Casap suggests you move away from how can I serve myself? To How can I make the world a better place for as many people as possible? Is there a gain from such attitude? Yes! A saner next generation and the potential for the development of a world without politics, poverty and war.
The Scientific Method
“Science is really an attempt to predict the next most probable” – Jacque Fresco
We keep hearing about the scientific method, and people tend to resist it, thinking it’s just another belief system, not understanding that the scientific method is a process which, if applied, helps avoid most cognitive errors and biases. It does this by using a ‘Double-blind procedure.’ This is an experimental procedure in which neither the subjects of the experiment nor the persons administering the experiment know the critical aspects of the experiment. Double-blinded research is used in many fields such as medicine, psychology, social and natural sciences and forensic research. It can even be used in writing journals in which both the person reviewing the paper and the author are not informed of each others identity. This is known as a double-blind review. The reason for utilizing this method during a peer review is not to be swayed negatively or positively by the author’s reputation, personality, and character, allowing the reviewer to look at the journal with a relatively unbiased opinion. Of course, the person reviewing the paper might have vested interest in the matter and might favor the content of the article or the opposite might be true. To account for this, multiple people should review the article. Is it a perfect system? No, but it’s better than not having a self-checking mechanism, guessing, assuming and using metaphysical references or philosophy to reach a conclusion which might fail in a double-blinded procedure.
“When we talk about science we talk about a method of looking at a situation, a method of evaluation that differs from the opinionated system, “If you ask me, I’ll tell you!” The scientific method has no real connection to truth; it merely has a better way at looking at things than the earlier systems, in which everything was attributed to gods or demons.” – Jacque Fresco
When researchers design particular experiments, they break the participants into to two groups: the control group and the experimental group. The control group does not receive the experimental treatment whereas the experimental group receives the experimental treatment. Both groups are vital to the experiment because without the control group the experimenters won’t be able to compare results, which means they won’t know if the experimental treatment had any significant effect. In other words, if I give you an aspirin for a headache, but at the same time, I make you drink lots of water and give you a candy (a placebo), and told you it’s aspirin, I won’t know if it is the water, the placebo or the aspirin that got rid of your headache.
What is important is for the two groups of individuals not to know which group they are in. If they do, they tend to display different types of behavior than they would normally, which means the experiment will be invalid. When I say display different types of behavior, I mean that if I told you that you are the experimental group, and you are drinking an energy drink, you could subconsciously convince yourself that you are feeling more energetic. This is known as participant bias where you would behave in ways you believe the experimenter wishes you to behave.
If we want to know whether that energy drink has any effect on people or not we will give it to the experimental group but the control group would drink normal tap water. In this case, neither groups would be aware that one of the groups is receiving the energy drink. Experimenters also use this on themselves to tackle the problem of experimenter bias which is when the experimenter influences the results by administering the experiment or collecting data in a biased way, which typically happens when the experimenter has vested interest in the results of the experiment. An extension to the double-blind is the triple-blind procedure. The monitoring committee who is responsible for evaluating the response variable is not told which group is which. They will just observe group A and group B, again to avoid any biases as a result of vested interest or personal beliefs.
These processes have their weaknesses and this should always prompt us to look for a better system that produces less biased results.
We looked at the age of enlightenment to understand how human beings have been viewed in the past and how that past is still haunting our present. We analyzed a small fraction of the cognitive biases and errors we are influenced by. Even though some of these biases and errors had their evolutionary purposes, we have to become aware of them and reinforce saner ways of thinking and acting.
Conclusively, we looked at the scientific method and how experiments are coordinated so as to avoid errors and biases. One might ask, We are not all scientists how does this applies to us?
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
It seems to me that most people want to change the world, but they have difficulty with two things which are revealed in the following questions: Why should I change? I am a ‘good’ person. I don’t harm anyone! Or What do I change into?
The belief that you are a ‘good’ person and your ways do not cause harm is evidence for the ‘holier than thou’ effect. We should be exploring the ‘magic of reality’ using the scientific method, while outgrowing the need for and debunking metaphysical delusions which are causing global neural lag. We should have self-check mechanisms in place to ensure that we are not subjecting the world to actions based on our cognitive biases and errors. Understanding how human behavior is determined by environmental influences debunks the myth of ‘free will,’ which has been haunting us for thousands of years. Outgrowing conditioned reflexes such as resistance to change. Rethinking our values and traditions, and aligning them to the physical world while raising our children to take care of the Earth and everyone on it.