Change Your Mind

Is it possible to change your mind too much? I am generally trying to be actively aware of confirmation bias, that is fitting every new bit of information into one's existing set of opinions. Plus I like the feeling of novel thoughts and how they tickle your brain.

This sometimes manifests in an instinct to run in the opposite direction when everyone agrees on something. Everyone thinks climate change will be catastrophic soon? Sure, but what about other solutions than admonishing people to behave differently? And aren't some the activists claims exaggerated? (Apocalypse Never by Michael Shellenberger is a book that tries to distinguish the science from the hyperbole; I should finish it some day.)

That same gut reaction seems to be my default in many areas. If I wanted to flatter myself, I would call it a "scientific mindset", to always question common wisdom, but I am not sure it really is that. Also it becomes potentially "dangerous" socially, in the sense that one can easily come across as obnoxious and unnecessarily crontrarian. And in the wrong context it can send the wrong signals as to how one gets sorted into the bins labelled good guy or bad guy.

Thus I am genuinely unsure whether I tend overcompensate when trying to correct my confirmation bias. After all, there often are good reasons that there is a widely accepted view, and quickly throwing out a strong prior is bad Bayesian thinking. In an extreme case, it would make me gullible, accepting new arguments or framings without weighing them properly against what I thought before.

Coincidentally, Scott Alexander wrote about the exact opposite today, trapped priors. Quite likely I have some of these, too, and I see no immediate reason why one cannot have too weak priors concerning one subject matter, and too strong ones in another.

Added 2021-03-12: Also closely related, I just heard Rob Wiblin in his podcst say the following, which gave me a chuckle:

I feel like I can notice a perverse aspect of this in myself when [...] you’ve kind of settled on what is kind of probably the true boring thing, the unexpected boring real conclusion just to some issue that has been controversial to you in the past. Then you’re like, “I’m bored of this. I have to find new takes, something new to say about this issue. [.. ] But what’s left?” What’s left is just bad takes, like dumb, unexpected contrarian takes.

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