Saturday, November 14, 2009

Your Own Worst Enemy: Cognitive Bias and 40k

Sorry about the pace of posts this month; I blame it on work + end-of-semester papers. Brainpower's at a premium, and I'm giving a nod to National Novel Writing Month* as well. Today, though, I'll be highlighting some of the ways the mind works, and how that impacts 40k.

Lazy Mind
Basically, the mind likes to take some shortcuts. A stereotype is a ready example, and we can all call to mind an easy one like 'jocks/blonds are dumb.' Is it true 100% of the time? No. Sometimes, though, a stereotype is true enough often enough for it to save us mental energy, and that's the core problem: the mind and thought tries to be as efficient as possible, and this is a fine way to cut corners.

First, it's important for me to tell everyone that this is a very, very basic overview. Reading this is not an equivalent of a cognitive psychology course. It's food for thought, not qualification for diagnosis. Much of this is skimming theory, and I offer it for purely as food for thought.

Memory Biases
Your memory isn't always perfect. How? Here's some examples.

Choice-Supportive Bias: If you chose it, it had to be better than other options

Consistency Bias: You think that you always acted the way you act now

Ego-Centric Bias: Your memory is a little self-serving, you think you looked/did better than you actually did

Suggestability: Suggestions become memory of something that you actually experienced

Decision-Making Biases
Bandwagon Effect: If Everyone's Doing It, then Everyone must be onto something...

Base Rate Fallacy: IGNORING STATISTICAL DATA in favor of anecdotes

Bias Blind Spot: Tendency NOT to compensate for your own biases

Confirmation Bias: Selectively attend to data that agrees with you; essentially it's that you've made up your mind and are getting information to back you up and ignoring info that doesn't.

Deformation Professionalle: Tendency to look at things through your own profession and forget about a broader POV (...irony? Maybe, maybe not. I choose to ignore it, though.)

Expectation Bias: similar to the confirmation bias; you look for data that backs your point and ignore/attack info that disagrees with you

Irrational Escalation: A rational decision in the past doesn't mean you'll follow it up with an irrational decision in the future

Neglect of Probability: ...yes, do ignore the odds. Makes great sense.

Outcome Bias: Well, if you got results, then that's what matters, right? Surely the methods don't count...(Oh, wait. I think I touched on that when talking about Tourney Win = Street Cred)

Probability Biases
Availability Heuristic: Your memory of the data/odds is more relevant than the actual odds

Belief Bias: Well, conclusion > logic of an argument, in your mind. Basically, doing your homework is not as important to you as liking the answer.

Gambler's Fallacy: You think that the previous dice rolls have a damned thing to do with future dice rolls. (Look, rolling a bunch of 6's in a row has NO IMPACT on your ability to roll another heap of 6's. You are never 'DUE' more results)

Hindsight Bias: Hindsight's 20/20, but you did not necessarily know it all along. Sometimes it just HAPPENS, ok? Ok.

Observer-Expectancy Effect: Not only do you have an expectation, but you actively manipulate an experiment to produce the results you want.

Ostrich Effect: You just might ignore an obvious negative

Positive Outcome Bias: wishful thinking about how things will turn out for you. You think your odds are better, just because it's YOU you're talking about, and not that guy...

Regression to the mean, and ignoring it: Thing is, on a long enough time line things will go average. But, some people keep expecting extreme performance

Selection Bias: The conclusion gets distorted because you chose data in an odd way. Kind of like the tourney thing. Just take ALL the data and analyze it; do your homework

Closing Rambling
This is meant to be food for thought, largely. It's important to realize that there are lots of ways that you can botch an analysis of a situation. A lot of these ways may very well be unconscious, and hard to catch. In a sense, that's why I do some blogging; it helps me write things down and then come back to them. Frankly, it helps when you go back and try to pour over things once you've got some distance from them; you gain emotional distance through time. It also helps to have a clear record of the events.

Or, the short version: people have blind spots in the way they think. Some folks I talk to will pick something because "It Always Happens To Me." No, it doesn't. It happens to everyone. You're just being selective about interpreting the information. Honestly, strings of bad luck DO happen; one of my buddies was against MM/HF speeders 'because his meltas always miss.' No, you just tend to remember the extremes more often than you remember the good stuff. The thing is? That's a perfectly human reaction, and perfectly legitimate if not exactly logical.

Bottom line? Logic and impartiality are difficult things to pull off. You're human, you make mistakes. Admit it, try to compensate, and move on. Hopefully this list provides some insight into mistakes.

*NaNoWriMo's goal is to rough-draft a 50,000 word story, just to get people writing. It's followed by the Editing Month, go figure. I have about 5,000 words down. Not quite banking on making the other 45,000 by the end of the month.


jabberjabber said...

Good round up! Out of all of them, it has to be the Gambler's Fallacy that I see and hear a great deal of.

duo337 said...

You do make good points over general problems in selection and bias within army building and using. The execution of the win is just as important as winning itself. Always seek second, third, fourth, and many more opinions about the army before/after you play it.

Chumbalaya said...

Nice write up, covers a lot of the bases.

It would be nice if people were capable of stepping back and really making a good argument with logic and proper analysis, but those short cuts are so much easier. It drives me up the wall when people say "well it always works for me" or something similar, anecdotal evidence doesn't prove much beyond you being capable of selective remembering. Grr.

I'm sure I'm guilty of them at one point or another, though I do try to do my homework before making a statement. I can make articulate, well-reasoned arguments, but sometimes it's just more fun to beat people over the head with their own stupidity :P