Doug Garnett wrote a blog post titled Complexity: Bias and Reasoning (25 February 2023).

« The word “bias” is richly imbued with implications of censure.. Yet, to be human is to be biased. More accurately, to be human is to have limited or inaccurate knowledge in many ways — one of which is bias. Many of our knowledge limitations are not bias. For example, witnesses to an event each see only part of that event because each inhabits a different physical location. Thus, their limited knowledge is merely fact. And all observation and thinking is filtered within the human mind based on what we expect to see, what we have seen before, our experiences, and by the focus of our attention. Sometimes biases do that filtering but there are many other filters. »

« Merriam-Webster’s first definition starts with:
Bias:  an inclination of temperament or outlook.
especially : a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment : prejudice »

« I suspect the way the human mind makes sense — including arriving at bias — plays an important role for us as group animals and that this value continues today. While humans are more similar to each other than they are to other species, Mitchell’s book indicates that each human brain develops differently. Thus, each of us perceive different things from the same situations as our brains vary in the sense-making applied. This sense-making also, somehow, is influenced from our own experiences. »

« The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology observes “Where one error is consistently more damaging to fitness than the other… a bias toward making the less costly error will evolve — this is because it is better to make more errors overall as long as they are relatively cheap.” »

« Reasoning is a complex human activity searching for answers in situations of uncertainty by relying on our full human abilities. If we demand that reasoning be logic, we are eliminating many excellent, highly-evolved human abilities. Reasoning, then, is a process which pulls from logic as well as all our abilities including instinct, emotion, and observation as well as our ability to interpret in the context of the challenges or decisions we face. »

« Evolution is known today to find value in cooperative behavior and not merely competition. So the idea that behaviors and biology develop to help humans work together in groups is in line with evolutionary cooperation. That this is important arrives because “…all points of view on the situation are partial and informed by particular social positions.” Whether partial from bias or from viewpoint doesn’t matter as long as those in the group don’t allow bias to become entrenched. By discussing and arguing we build a much broader sense of the situation. »

« Yet there is a very positive alternative if we pay attention. When we work within groups where we are all committed to shared goals, our groups end up knowing far more — and knowing it more clearly — when they discuss and argue what they see. The resultant knowledge is more than any individual could ever know on their own. And, when facing uncertainty, a group will arrive at far better understanding and better decisions. Key to this process, though, is accepting that we need the viewpoints of others.

This does require both that we each argue with passion and that we do not argue to win the argument — but to expand our group’s knowledge leading to better decisions. »

Books mentioned:

Innate: How the Wiring of Our Brains Shapes Who We Are by Kevin Mitchell

Complexity: A Key Idea For Business and Society by Chris Bowles

The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, edited by David Buss

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