Ed Driscoll

Gettin' Siggy With It

Speaking of Sigmund, Carl And Alfred, here’s an article and two blog posts with some interesting psychological takes.

First up, in the middle of a longer piece on the negative impact that Maryland’s legislature singling out Wal-Mart will have to the state’s economy as a whole, Arnold Kling looks at confirmation bias:

Chances are, you will look for some errors in my reasoning, so that you can dismiss everything that I have to say. All of us tend to read this way. We overlook flaws in the arguments of sympathetic writers, and we go all-out to find the flaws in arguments of others. In psychology, this double standard is known as confirmation bias. What it means is that we tend to seek support for what we already believe, rather than to seek out information that might undermine our beliefs. Confirmation bias helps to account for the persistence of disagreement.

Meanwhile, in a post titled, “Identification With The Aggressor“, Dr. Sanity looks at just that, or as it’s commonly known today, Stockholm Syndrome. (Read the whole thing, as all the cool psychbloggers say…)

And finally, Neo-Neocon looks at those who think Bush lied concerning WMDs in Iraq, and debates the problem of the false negative vs. the false positive:

They are both bad. But in the case of self defense, the false negative is, as Callimachus points out, a good deal more dangerous, if one is looking at it from the point of view of the need to prevent a threat from becoming a reality.

In the case of the “Bush lied” or “Bush cherry-picked the information” people, however, they seem to act as though a false (or partly-false) positive is far worse than a false negative would be. Is this because they feel this country is so invincible that they don’t believe any threats are real? Or is it because, in their hearts, the most important thing is to keep their own hands clean? Or is it some combination of the two? Sometimes it even seems to me as though they think the function of prewar intelligence was to have acted as defense attorney for Saddam—to make sure he was considered innocent till proven guilty.

Actually, I’m probably being too kind to them–or, at least, to some of them. For a certain number, if in fact Bush’s intelligence-gathering had been guilty of a false negative rather than the false positive that appears to have been the case, they’d be saying the false negative was worse, instead (just look at the 9/11 Commission for examples). The bottom line seems to be, at least for some, that whatever Bush happens to have done is defined as worse–false negative or false positive. And unrealistic perfection is the standard by which he is to be judged.

In this respect, those who act this way are very fortunate to have been out of power during these trying post-9/11 times. As such, they have the wonderful luxury of constant Monday-morning quarterbacking. They get to criticize errors, whether those be of the false negative or the false positive variety. They get to pretend they had nothing to do with the situation that built up to those errors, such as 9/11. They get away with being altogether vague about what they could do differently to prevent such errors, if they were in power. Or, if they are specific, they get the luxury of knowing that, at least for now, their suggestions will not be tried and found wanting in the field of reality (this is always true of a party out of power, by the way).

And, most importantly, they get to enjoy whatever the Bush Administration may have actually done to prevent further attacks on this country, and thus to have preserved their right to speak out in any way they see fit. And this, of course, is as it should be.


Meanwhile, Hugh Hewitt eschews Freudian theory for a extraterrestrial assumption as to the reason why so many of the usual suspects appear extra stuck-on-stupid this week.