Brain bugs

I read this really good book in summer about the scientific community’s (physicists to be precise) unhealthy fixation with “naturalness,” i.e. their tendency to judge the quality of a theory based not on rigorous scientific criteria but on how simple (or “natural”) it looks, which stems from the unfounded assumption that the laws of nature have to be simple. At the end of the book the author (Sabine Hossenfelder) very briefly lists the sorts of biases sociologists have observed in her community. I will just quote her here:

“Probably the most prevalent brain bug in science is confirmation bias. If you search the literature for support of your argument, there it is. If you look for a mistake because your result didn’t match your expectations, there it is. If you avoid the person asking nagging questions, there it is.” (Hossenfelder 2018:226)

“The shared information bias is why we keep discussing what everyone knows but fail to pay attention to information held only by a few people.” (Hossenfelder 2018:226)

“We like to discover patterns in noise (apophenia).” (Hossenfelder 2018:226)

“We think arguments are stronger if the conclusion seems plausible (belief bias).” (Hossenfelder 2018:226)

“And the halo effect is the reason you are more interested in what a Nobel Prize winner says than what I say—regardless of the topic.” (Hossenfelder 2018:226)

“we consider a fact to be more likely the more often we have heard of it; this is called attentional bias or the mere exposure effect. We pay more attention to information especially when it is repeated by others in our community.” (Hossenfelder 2018:227)

The skate community had better start dealing with a few of those too.

Hossenfelder, S. (2018). Lost in math: How beauty leads physics astray.

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