Saturday, February 17, 2018

Win Bigly (Part 2)

The other thing about Win Bigly that interested me was Scott Adams' analysis of human nature. He believes people make emotional decisions, nine times out of ten, and they rationalize their decisions afterwards. This is why the book's subtitle includes "A World Where Facts Don't Matter". On the face of it, facts don't matter that much in a Presidential election.

I know people who fit this caricature. That is, I know someone who voted against Trump, simply because they don't like Trump. Something about Trump just pushes their buttons. I know people who feel the same way about Clinton. These people like to pretend that they're rational voters, and if you ask them why they voted the way they did, they'll give you a long speech on policy details and whatnot. But that's just an excuse. The truth is, they just straight up didn't like one candidate, so they voted against them. There's also the opposite: people who voted for a candidate, just because they like them, not because of their policies.

Adams describes this in terms of confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance. Bias is pretty big in politics. Like I said about the tax reform negotiations, the main deciding factor was "what political party you're in". Republicans loved the Republican plan, and Democrats hated it. That happens all the time. The two parties will look at the same set of facts and draw opposite conclusions from them, which indicates that they're more convinced by what the party says, than by the facts of the matter.

Also, there have been many bias tests. You know, where you give someone a speech. If you tell them it's from a member of their party, they're more likely to like it. If you tell them it's from an opponent, they're more likely to dislike it. Adams thinks political bias, and bias in general, occurs at least 90% of the time. I disagree on how often it occurs, but I will agree that it occurs in politics a lot.

Adams explains that everyone has their own individual mindset. When someone gets new facts or information, bias kicks in. People twist facts, in order to support their pre-existing mindset. This is easier than changing your entire mindset, every time new information arises. Alternately, people will have cognitive dissonance, where they discount information that contradicts their pre-existing mindset. It's always easier to dismiss the truth, if it's a hard truth to accept. This happened a lot after the 2016 election; some people were quick to make excuses for Trump's victory, because it was easier than admitting they were dead wrong about Trump's chances for two whole years.

I especially liked how Adams admitted to his own bias, during the election. He was pre-disposed to support Trump, since they're both self-made businessmen from New York. But when the Trump Tapes scandal broke out, Adams didn't even try to make excuses for Trump. He acknowledged that it was awful, and it was likely to cost Trump the election. I like how Adams was honest about it, compared to some pro-Trump political commentators who tried to write it off. In an alternate universe, where the Trump Tapes weren't followed up with a weighty scandal on Clinton's side, Clinton probably would have won.

So, I liked the parts about the pervasiveness of confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance. It made me think.

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