[lit-ideas] Re: Can You Imagine 2 + 2 = 5?

  • From: "John McCreery" <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 21 Nov 2007 16:53:49 +0900

On Nov 21, 2007 3:44 PM, Andreas Ramos <andreas@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> We can stick to our principles and say "that's irrational, and therefore
> you've lost", but that doesn't go anywhere. They still believe their ideas
> and we end up having to deal with that.

The question, then, is, indeed, how to deal with that, once we have
realized that pointing out contradictions rarely results in
persuasion, especially if done in a way that assumes the other is a

We might begin by considering, for example, Gary Klein's recognition
primed decision process. Basically the process works like this.

Faced with incoming information the brain employs a pattern
recognition process, looking to memory for a model that fits the
information. The first model that seems to fit is the one initially
acted upon. As the action takes place, the pattern recognition process
continues, checking for new information inconsistent with the first
model. Small contradictions are ignored or taken into account by minor
adjustments to the model. Past a certain threshold, however, the first
model is rejected and replaced with another model that offers a better

Only after the fact, however, can all possible models be laid out
side-by-side and evaluated by the canons of rational judgment.
Instead, the decision maker is envisioned as having a stack of models
from which the first (closest to the top) that seems to fit is chosen.
If it is rejected, the next which appears to fit is picked up.

Klein's theory was developed to account for decisions made in
stressful situations where time pressure is severe, e.g., by
firefighters, tank commanders, or currency traders. Arguably, however,
it applies more broadly, since we all, after all, now live in a world
where the flow of incoming information is overwhelming, to which we
may add that, in the great majority of decisions we have only partial
information to work with. Those of us who instantly respond to email
are an excellent case in point.


John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
Tel. +81-45-314-9324
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