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> It has to take an incredible combination of obliviousness and ethical failure to still consider something like this a good idea.

Sadly people don't have to be stupid or evil to think this stuff is acceptable. Bob sees other people do it, and Bob knows it's bad when those people do it, but when Bob does it it's different somehow. There's a reason somewhere that means what other people do is bad spam, but what Bob does is not. When Ann looks at what Bob is doing she thinks it's pretty clearly dodgy.

These kinds of cognitive biases are tricky to spot in ourselves.




Carving an exception like that for oneself strikes me as immediately disingenuous. I personally can't see how that doesn't make you either stupid or evil or both.

I don't think "cognitive bias" doesn't make you not-a-dick.

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Carving exceptions for oneself I think is very common and may not be obvious to the person doing it.

My wife hates when people talk on their phone while driving, to the point of screaming obscenities at them. Yet, if her phone rings while she's driving, she often answers it. If I point out the discrepancy, she dismisses it, as her call is "important" or "short" or she's "still watching the road".

I suspect I do the same thing, although (like my wife and her phone) I don't realize that I'm judging others for behavior I myself engage in.

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Doctors referred patients with osteoarthritis to surgeons for something called knee arthroscopy. They did this for years. Doctors, and surgeons, thought it was doing good. They were not dicks. They were not charlatans. They were not quacks. They were not idiots.

They just didn't have enough evidence, and persuaded themselves that the evidence they had was better quality than it actually was. The surgery isn't outlandish; it has a plausible mechanism of action; patients report good results afterwards. And the reason best standard research wasn't done is because there's a bunch of stuff we do that we've been doing for a long time and are only just now getting around to properly studying.

So, when a placebo-controlled blinded study was done we discover that knee arthroscopy probably doesn't do anything more than placebo for osteoarthritis.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthroscopy#For_osteoarthritis)

> Carving an exception like that for oneself

Well, I guess it depends on how aware people are of cognitive bias, and how much they're closing themselves off to the possibility that they're subject to biases.

These things are really hard to guard against.

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Patients demanding placebo like vitamin shots or antibiotics is an old problem (or technique, depending on how you look at it). For that matter, many doctors are regularly prescribing people stimulants or opioids because patients are asking for them - instead of turning down their money and/or making them unhappy.

I agree with you and like the example, but I wanted to provide feedback that this example is confusing in its relation to the current topic.

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This example is excellent for cognitive bias!!!

We know that we should only trust double-blind controlled randomised trials. This surgery hadn't had that trial, thus it shouldn't have been trusted, yet it was. And the reasons it was trusted are just biases.

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_You're_ doing it for a valid reason that makes sense to you

_They're_ doing it because they're pricks and trying to get as many eyes as possible.

That's normally what I see happen.

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Sure, but self-analysis isn't optional.

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No, it isn't, but it becomes much more difficult when you feel justified in your actions.

This is one of the areas that having "no-men" is a good idea. Someone who will force you to reëxamine your idea and lay out alternatives.

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You don't seem clear on what "cognitive bias" means. At all.

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As frustrating as it is, actor/observer asymmetry[1] is a reality and you can't simply say it's "unacceptable" unless you're willing to find a lot of people's normal behavior to be "unacceptable". It's a line that if you draw, it becomes hard to not appear dickish in normal situations.

Because sadly, everyone abuses actor/observer bias.

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actor%E2%80%93observer_asymmetr...

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