I read Robin Hanson’s post on his grade redistribution video, which can be found here.
Here are some of his observations from his post, which I agree with:
- Ask random colleges student random policy questions and they will feel compelled to come up with opinions.
- Ask them for reasons for those opinions and they’ll feel compelled to come up with such reasons.
- Such opinions strongly tend to support the status quo – mostly whatever is, is assumed good.
- There is only a weak added tendency for students to offer similar opinions and reasons on similar policy questions. Opinions and reasons are not being generated by processes that tend to produce much added similarity.
- Students are mostly satisfied to grasp at any plausibly policy-relevant difference to justify treating things differently, even when such differences don’t obviously “make a difference” to the issue at hand.
I would expand the first and second to include most people, not just random students. It is very rare that I hear someone say something like, I’m not sure. I don’t really have a well-formed opinion on that. Or, I haven’t given that much thought. Or even, I really don’t have any interest in that.
We seem to speak first and reason later. We tend to speak from our gut and then back into the reasoning we need to support that gut reaction. And often our gut instinct, per Hanson’s third bullet, is the status quo.
As a real world example, I see this in performance evaluations in organizations. Often the evaluation is predetermined from gut instinct and personal preferences by the higher ups in the organization and then they back into the reasoning to justify their gut instinct.
It’s not hard to do. Over the course of the year, everyone has enough successes and failures, so it’s usually easy to use confirmation bias to back into whatever reasoning is necessary.
You think someone is great? Well, let’s remember all the good stuff she did and sweep some of her foul-ups under the rug. After all, there were external circumstances that contributed to those foul-ups. We can’t blame her for that.
This guy though, (he rubs me the wrong way), he doesn’t deserve a very high rating. He fouled up here and here.
The immediate boss might push back: But, those were essentially the same foul-ups as the woman you rated as great.
Yes, but he could have done something about it.
The immediate boss again: But, he had some great successes too.
Well, there were external circumstances that contributed to those successes. We can’t give him full credit for those.