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Monday
Mar232015

Professional judgment--in risk perception & in law: Dual process reasoning and science communication part 3...

This is from something I've been working on.  For a long time.  The paper of which it is a part will be posted soon.  

But for now I am treating it as the final installment of a 3-part series on the relevance of dual-process reasoning theories to science communication. As I'm sure all 14 billion regular readers of this blog recall, the first installment appeared on July 19, 2013, and the second on July 24, 2013.  

Even as of that period, I had been working on this project for a long time. . . .

II. Information Processing, Pattern Recognition, and Professional Judgment

Legal training and practice can reasonably be understood to cultivate proficiency in conscious, analytical forms of reasoning. Thus, the work on “motivated System 2 reasoning”—the tendency of conscious, effortful information processing to magnify identity-protective cognition—might in fact be regarded as supplying the strongest support for the conjecture that unconscious cultural partisanship can be expected to subvert judicial neutrality.

Nevertheless, when judges decide cases, they are not merely engaging in conscious, effortful information processing: they are exercising professional judgment. Professional judgment consists, essentially, in habits of mind—conscious and effortful to some degree, but just as much tacit and perceptive—that are distinctively fitted to reasoning tasks the nature of which falls outside ordinary experience. Indeed, it is characterized, in many fields, by resistance to all manner of error, including ones founded on heuristic information processing, that would defeat the special form of decision that professional judgment facilitates.

The dominant scholarly account of professional judgment roots it in the dynamic of pattern recognition. Pattern recognition consists in the rapid, un- or pre-conscious matching of phenomena with mentally inventoried prototypes. A ubiquitous form of information processing, pattern recognition is the type of cognition that enables human beings reliably to recognize faces and read one another’s’ emotions. But it is also the basis for many forms of highly specialized forms of expert decisionmaking. Highly proficient chess players, for example, outperform less proficient ones not by anticipating and consciously simulating a longer sequence of potential moves but by more reliably perceiving the relative value of different board positions based on their prototypical affinity to ones learned from experience to confer an advantage to one player or another. Likewise, the proficiency of aerial photography analysts consists in their tacit ability to discern prototypical clusters of subtle cues that allow them to cull from large masses of scanned images ones that profitably merit more fine-grained analysis. Forensic accountants must use the same form of facility as they combing through mountains of records in search of financial irregularities or fraud.

Expert medical judgment supplies an especially compelling and instructive example of the role of pattern recognition. Without question, competent medical diagnosis depends on the capacity to draw valid inferences from myriad sources of evidence that reflect the correlation between particular symptoms and various pathologies—a form critical reasoning that figures in System 2 information processing. But studies have shown that an appropriately attuned capacity for pattern recognition plays an indispensable role in expert medical diagnosis, for unless a physician is able to form an initial set of plausible conjectures—based on the match between a patient’s symptoms and an appropriately stocked inventory of disease prototypes—the probability that the physician will even know to collect the evidence that enables a proper diagnosis will be unacceptably low.

The proposition that pattern recognition plays this role in professional judgment generally is most famously associated with Howard Margolis. Focusing on expert assessment of risk, Margolis described a form of information processing that differs markedly from the standard “System 1/System 2” conception of dual process reasoning. The latter attributes proficient risk assessment to an individual’s capacity and disposition to “override” his or her unconscious System 1 affective reactions with ones that reflect effortful System 2 assessments of evidence. Margolis, in contrast, suggests an integrated and reciprocal relationship between unconscious, perceptive forms of cognition, on the one hand, and conscious, analytical ones, on the other. Much as in the case of proficient medical diagnosis, expert risk assessment demands reliable, preconscious apprehension of the phenomena that merit valid analytical processing. Even then, the effective use of data generated by such means, Margolis maintains, will depend on the risk expert’s reliable assimilation of such evidence to an inventory of prototypical representations of cases in which the appropriate data were given proper effect. Of course, the quality of an expert’s pattern recognition capacity will depend heavily on his or her proficiency in conscious, analytical reasoning: that form of information processing, employed to assess and re-assess successes and failures over the course of the expert’s training and experience, is what calibrates the experts’ perceptive faculty.

To translate Margolis’s account back into the dominant conception of dual-process reasoning, System 2 gets nowhere—because it is not reliably activated—without a discerning System 1 faculty of perception. The reliability of  System 1, however, reflects the contribution System 2 makes to the process of continual self-evaluation that imparts perceive judgments with their reliability.

Karl Llewellyn suggested an account of the reasoning style of lawyers and judges very much akin to Margolis’s view of the professional judgment for risk experts. Although Llewellyn is often identified as emphasizing the indeterminacy of formal legal rules and doctrines, the aim of his most important works was to explain how there could be such a tremendously high degree of consensus among lawyers and judges on what those rules and doctrines entail. His answer was “situation sense”—a perceptive faculty, formed through professional training and experience, that enabled lawyers and judges to reliably assimilate controversies to “situation types” that include within them their own proper resolutions. Llewellyn discounted the emphasis on deductive logic featured in legal argumentation. But he did not dismiss such reasoning as mere confabulation; in his view, lawyers and judges (legislators, too, in drafting rules) employed formal reasoning to prime or activate the “situation sense” of other lawyers and judges—the same function that Margolis sees it as playing in professional discourse among risk experts and indeed in any setting in which human being resort to it.

Margolis also identified the role that pattern recognition plays in professional judgment to explain expert-public conflicts over risk. Lacking the experience and training of experts, and hence the stock of prototypes that reliably guide expert risk assessment, members of the public, he argued, were prone to one or another heuristic bias. By the same token, the experts’ access to those prototypes reliably fixes their attention on the pertinent features of risks and inure them to the features that excite cognitive biases on the part of the lay public.

Based on the role of pattern recognition in professional judgment, one might make an analogous claim about judicial and lay judgments in culturally contested legal disputes. On this account, lawyers’ and judges’ “situation sense” can be expected to reliably fix their attention on pertinent elements of case “situation types,” thereby immunizing them from the distorting influence that identity-protective cognition exerts on the judgments of legally untrained members of the public. It is thus possible the professional judgment of the judge, as an expert neutral decisionmaker, embodies exactly the form of information processing most likely to counteract identity-protective reasoning, including the elements of it magnified by System 2 reasoning.

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Reader Comments (41)

I haven't rambled here for a while (heh, or maybe that's my motivated reasoning speaking there)...

When I read this post, I thought about a couple of things.

The first related to often-held assumptions about the transfer across domains of "problem-solving skills" or logic skills as some generic and distinct skillset. The thinking, for example, that lay below the belief that you could train your brain to think logically in other contexts by studying Latin (in much the same way that you could train yourself to perform a variety of physical tasks by strengthening your muscles).

I think that much is often overlooked about the important domain-specific aspects and limitations of problem solving. To the extent that problem solving skills do transfer across domain, I think it is important to include a focus on the psychosocial elements related to problem solving. Indeed, I see the recent focus on the core skills of "grit" as being relevant to my point. Along similar lines, I think that there is a "core skill"' that is transferable through an exploration of the practice and theory related to "motivated reasoning." Without an acceptance of, and understanding of the pervasiveness of, and openness to exploring one's own susceptibility to, motivated reasoning, IMO, the hope of transferring some distinct set of skills such as "situation sense" or "professional judgement" are mitigated. Domain-specific knowledge of "situation types" has the potential to both enhance and detract from professional judgement. What may be most important is developing the skill to evaluate how to distinguish between those contrasting effects.

I"m thinking here of the recent focus on how many doctors misdiagnose problems because they too readily reduce complex scenarios to simplistic models that they've already encountered through their experiences. There is a fundamental paradox at play - as domain-specific experience is necessary to develop situation sense but it can lead to overconfidence that one has understood a situation. One of the patterns that I think that people see too readily is, ironically, the belief that domain-specific (or "situation sense") skills smoothly transfer across relatively tightly circumscribed situations.

March 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Here's some fun data you might enjoy collecting on the legal front.

A week or two ago several students were expelled from the University of Oklahoma because they sang a racist song in private in their frat house (someone recorded them and put the video on the internet).

Without question the university's actions violate the First Amendment (google "viewpoint discrimination"). It's debatable whether it's in the students' best interest to file a lawsuit (it will be expensive and draw attention to them for little concrete benefit), but if they filed they would certainly win.

So, do your standard survey questions.

- Questions which identify left leaning vs. right leaning
- "Did the University violate the First Amendment?"
- "Do experts in Constitutional law think the University violated the First Amendment?"

Or some such phrasing, you're getting good at this.

I predict you'd get exactly the results you'd predict. Yes that violated the first amendment will correlate with right leaning politics, no will correlate with left. And if you can find a way to make a quantifiable question, maybe something about "should the university's actions be held to violate the first amendment, scale of 1 to 10," then the people who know the most about what constitutional law professors think will have more intense views (in both directions, correlating with political views generally).

March 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

==> "Without question the university's actions violate the First Amendment (google "viewpoint discrimination")."


My guess is that your certainty about the unconstitutionality of the UoO's actions could easily have been predicted based on your political orientation. :-)

So Boren was saying that the students are being expelled not for their opinions per se, but because their speech was a form of discriminatory conduct that would create a hostile educational environment for black students. Given that the speech was literally designed to inculcate the value of racial discrimination by making pledges recite their commitment never to admit a black member to the fraternity, this conclusion seems plausible.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-wp-blm-news-bc-fraternity-expel-comment11-20150311-story.html

March 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua & @Ryan--

what would you predict my opinion is on constitutinality of expelling the students? Would your prediction be bsed on view of my political outlooks?

What would you predict that I'd predict a court would say? Do you think in making the prediction I'd be trying to guess the likely political outlooks of the judges deciding the case?

March 23, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

@Joshua

Dude, when the ACLU and Eugene Voloch agree, it's just fact:

http://acluok.org/2015/03/aclu-of-oklahoma-statement-in-response-to-the-university-of-oklahomas-announcement-of-vp-of-diversity-position/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/03/10/no-a-public-university-may-not-expel-students-for-racist-speech/

@Dan

Yes, the best possible basis I have for predicting your viewpoint is what I perceive to be your left leaning politics. So I would predict you would come down on "first amendment no."

However, I would readily hedge my guess with "maybe the normal predictors don't work in this case and Dan will err on the side of 'say what you like' regardless of political affiliation. Because "say what you like" is also a liberal value, so there are conflicting interests.

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

Dan -

If you held a gun to my head, probably based on what you wrote about college policies related to rape, and guessing from what I've read between the lines to get a sense of your political leanings, I'd guess that you'd say that the expulsion of the students was probably unconstitutional.

Having at least some broad stroke outlines of your background, I'd guess that you have some domain specific experience related to the legal issues at hand, and thus to the extent that you have some of what might be called "professional judgement" and "situational sense" - you'd most likely fall in with how, from what I've read at least, the majority of constitutional law experts see the case, which would be that UofO's actions are probably unconstitutional.

Not knowing Ryan's background, but guessing that it's unlikely to be one that includes domain specific experience related to the legal issues at hand, and based on what I've seen of his strong (I'd say "extreme," but NiV might object) ideological orientation, I'd say that his confidence that it's "without question" that UofO's actions were unconstitutional, expresses his reliance on the "expert" judgement of "experts" who line up ideologically in a way similar as he, and thus based almost entirely on a criterion of selecting "expertise" that has been run through his ideological filter.

While from what I've read, the majority of legal experts think that U of O probably violated the students' first amendment rights - but only those who have a stronger ideological bent seem to argue that their rights were violated "without question."

Re: professional judgement.

In a break with most legal experts, Daria Roithmayr, a law professor at the University of Southern California who has written about the interplay of law and racism, said that a plausible argument could be made that the students’ action caused a “material disruption” in the university’s educational mission and was not protected by the First Amendment.

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Ryan -

As I was writing my most recent comment, your most recent one went up.

==> "Dude, when the ACLU and Eugene Voloch agree, it's just fact:"

So it seems that indeed, your judgement for determining what is or isn't "fact" is based on running "expertise" through an ideological filter. In this case, because the ACLU lines up with your ideological orientation on the issue, their status has been elevated, and you can make an exception to what would normally be the case - that you'd reject their views as being ideologically biased.

IMO, the very notion of it being a "fact" that the actions were unconstitional, similar to your assertion that the students first amendment rights were violated "without question" is a very strange way to look at a fairly complex issue.

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Ryan -

Thanks for that ACLU link - as it reinforces my point:

Absent information that is not at our disposal, it is difficult to imagine a situation in which a court would side with the university on this matter.

Now maybe you read it differently, but as I read it, their statement is not the same as saying that the students first amendment rights were violated "without question," or that it is a "fact" that their rights were violated.

Any sanction imposed on students for their speech must therefore be consistent with the First Amendment and not merely a punishment for vile and reprehensible speech;

The university administrators made the argument that their actions taken were not punishing the students for reprehensible speech. Now of course their argument might not hold up in court, but "without question" it is a "fact" that their argument would fail? Hmmm.

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua-- thanks!

curious: how did your assessments of my research/commentary on rape contribute?

March 24, 2015 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Dan -

==> "curious: how did your assessments of my research/commentary on rape contribute?

Not your research...your commentary.

My vague recollection (if I went back and looked more closely I might come to a different conclusion) was that you were more categorical in your views than made sense for me, in a way which suggested to me a bit of a "libertarian" flavor (at least relative to my views)... Not that I don't think that (what I see as) libertarianish viewpoints don't serve as a good check against potential civil rights infringements - I think that they do...

BTW, to continue to ramble, and to connect the theme of this top post a bit w/ the topic of the discussion thread, here's wikipedia excerpt that gets to some of what I commented on upstairs

Constructivism is a theory of knowledge[1] that argues that humans generate knowledge and meaning from an interaction between their experiences and their ideas. It has influenced a number of disciplines, including psychology, sociology, education and the history of science.[2] During its infancy, constructivism examined the interaction between human experiences and their reflexes or behavior-patterns. Jean Piaget called these systems of knowledge schemata. Constructivism is not a specific pedagogy, although it is often confused with constructionism, an educational theory developed by Seymour Papert, inspired by constructivist and experiential learning ideas of Piaget. Piaget's theory of constructivist learning has had wide ranging impact on learning theories and teaching methods in education and is an underlying theme of many education reform movements. Research support for constructivist teaching techniques has been mixed, with some research supporting these techniques and other research contradicting those results.

I come to all of these discussions through my time spent straddling the line between PIaget's theories/developmental psychology, and educational practice (along with training as a Montessori teacher and being fan of Vygotsky), (which included some time working with students programming in Logo - a computer languages that was the direct outgrowth of Seymour Papert's work).

So here's the tenuous connection I'm trying to draw: "Strict constuctionism" like much of what I see that I think is libertarianish, IMO, tends to underestimate the importance of subjective human experience in mediating/moderating beliefs, professional judgement, situational sense, etc.

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

hmmm. "not that I don't think that [they] don't..."

Looks like I triple-negatived when I only meant do double-negative...

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua

My initial response to hearing about the expulsions was "wow, what an obvious case of viewpoint discrimination" not because a right or left leaning expert told me, but rather because I learned about viewpoint discrimination in law school, and was a bit taken aback by how blatantly the university's action ran afoul of it. The reason legal experts of all political leanings are in agreement is that the law is clear and the university's actions violate it.

There is another issue though, which is that the US constitution is nearly impossible to amend, and most changes (there have been a lot of them) have come in the form of reinterpreting the constitution to mean something different. It's an interesting situation. From an ordinary political perspective, if someone wanted viewpoint discrimination to be legal, as in "yeah, the university expelled you for expressing an unpopular opinion, that's not a violation of the constitution" they could try to pass an amendment modifying the first amendment to not protect expression of unpopular or offensive opinions.

However for a lawyer trying to get a court to change the first amendment by reinterpreting it to not protect unpopular or offensive speech, they can't just say "you have the power to change it, wield it like a blunt instrument." Instead they have to come up with some plausible-ish argument which will give a court cover to change the law while acting like they're not.

So say you're Daria Roithmayr. You certainly want to change the first amendment such that people can be punished for saying racist things:

"Daria Roithmayr teaches and writes about the dynamics of law and social systems, focusing on the way that legal regulation and social behavior evolve in response to each other. Her recent book, Reproducing Racism: How Everyday Choices Lock In White Advantage (NYU 2014), explores the self-reinforcing dynamics of persistent racial inequality. Her work is heavily interdisciplinary, drawing from economics, sociology, political theory, history and complex systems theory."

It's your role to come up with ideas like "this isn't punishing unpopular speech, it's rectifying a material disruption to the educational mission." If enough judges from the district court on up want to change the first amendment to no longer protect racist speech, they might end up writing rulings which craft a 'material disruption' exception to first amendment protections.

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

Ryan -

I certainly understand that a court might (probably?) not accept the university officials' explanation for their actions, but as with Volokh, for this judge your argument doesn't hold up because you don't even address their claims, and instead argue that they're trying to do something that they say they weren't trying to do.

I dint see how simply ignoring their claims is convincing.

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua

It's not completely clear what claim you're referring to, though I'll throw this out as a response to my best guess:

In determining the school's motivations for the expulsions, we should simply trust university President Boren:

"To those who have misused their free speech in such a reprehensible way, I have a message for you. You are disgraceful. You have violated all that we stand for. You should not have the privilege of calling yourselves “Sooners.” Real Sooners believe in equal opportunity. Real Sooners treat all people with respect. Real Sooners love each other and take care of each other like family members.

Effective immediately, all ties and affiliations between the university and the local SAE chapter are hereby severed. I direct that the house be closed and that members will remove their personal belongings from the house by midnight tomorrow. Those needing to make special arrangements for positions shall contact the Dean of Students.

All of us will redouble our efforts to create the strongest sense of family and community. We vow that we will be an example to the entire country of how to deal with this issue. There must be a zero tolerance for racism everywhere in our nation."

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

Ryan -

=>> " It's not completely clear what claim you're referring to,"

Not sure how you got this far on the issue without knowing that - especially since i referenced it directly. From the Tribune article i inked above. <¡>

But Boren's explanation for the expulsion rests on a different theory. He said specifically that the students were being expelled for their "leadership role in leading a racist and exclusionary chant, which has created a hostile educational environment for others."

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua

Ah, OK, I see.

Even if we assume that "creating a hostile educational environment" means anything different from "saying something offensive" there is no first amendment exception for creating a hostile educational environment, any more than there is one for saying something offensive.

Also, a bus full of drunk kids on their way to a party is not an educational environment.

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

@Joshua

Also, one more thing. Even if we completely buy the story about a hostile educational environment, the university still has to give the same punishment for any infraction. So, say for example there are students on the OSU campus creating a hostile educational environment for Christians, OSU would have to show they were also expelled, or at least severely disciplined.

I don't go to OSU, but that doesn't stop me from being 1000% certain students on campus say nasty things about Christianity that put 10 seconds of drunken foulness to shame, all while not risking the slightest reprimand, let alone expulsion.

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

Ryan -

Clearly, (remembering that there is no right to privacy) :-), I'd say that the uni admin has an obligation to consider how videos of groups off students cheering prospective lynchings of black people might affect the educational atmosphere for black students.

Once again, the argument might not work, but i would hope that the judges would at least evaluate the actual argument before deciding the "fact" of unconstitutionality

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Ryan -

Clearly, (remembering that there is no right to privacy) :-), I'd say that the uni admin has an obligation to consider how videos of groups off students cheering prospective lynchings of black people might affect the educational atmosphere for black students.

Once again, the argument might not work, but i would hope that the judges would at least evaluate the actual argument before deciding the "fact" of unconstitutionality

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua

The point to remember, again, is there is no exception to the first amendment based on making the educational environment worse for others. So a judge would not need to inquire whether the chant on the bus made it more difficult for black students to learn.

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

Ryan -

Sorry, but I am simply not impressed by your categorical arguments by assertion. Of course, I recognize that I could be wrong. But I just do not find them impressive just because you say that I should.

I know that the right to free speech is not absolute. The chants promoting the hanging of "nggers," it seems to me, could be regarded as threatening by a "reasonable' black student, IMO. The Uni administrators could reasonably argue, IMO, that in their role as Uni administrators, they have an obligation to ensure a that the educational environment is not disrupted. Their authority to do that would be limited by constitutional restrictions, but if they aren't acting to limit speech as they claimed, then I can, at least, see a coherent argument being made.

For you to argue that the judge would not need to inquire whether the chants interfered with the educational environment for the black students is not a response to my point, which is that the judge would have to rule that the administrators' contention that they weren't acting to limit free speech, but instead were acting to ensure a safe educational environment, was false.


The students who were expelled were not merely chanting racist slurs. They were chanting about hanging black people. Now of course, they probably had no actual intent to do so, but it does seem to me that a "reasonable" black student could watch such a video and feel that their safety was threatened.

Of course, my opinion is not one based on any degree of legal expertise. But, IMO, again, if you're going to convince me that it is a "fact" that the expelled students' free speech rights were violated, you'd have to address the actual arguments that the defense would make.

Likewise, your concerns about how Christian students might be treated is totally irrelevant.

Of course, for your consideration since you do seem to be interested in that issue, I'll offer the thought experiment of a Youtube clip circulating around the Internet of a busload of Muslim Arab Society students chanting together about the possibility of strapping on suicide vests to blow up Christian school prayer services in order to ensure their group solidarity.

March 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua

The way first amendment law works is that speech is lawful unless it fits into a limited number of narrow exceptions. I don't know if you ever did any programing, but an analogy would be an array, or a set in mathematics. [a, b, c, d, e] contains 5 unique elements, 'q' is not one of them. The set of exceptions to first amendment protection contains about a dozen unique elements, speech that makes the educational environment worse for others is not one of them. That's just literally true.

Each exception has its own characteristics and elements. So to use an unrelated example, public performance of a work that another person has a copyright to is not protected. Dan has a first amendment right to publish papers on cultural cognition. You do not have a first amendment right to publish his papers, because he has a copyright to them.

Your analysis is getting toward three of the existing exceptions, threats, incitement and fighting words. But for each a key element is missing in the bus clip. To meet the threat or fighting words exception, the speech has to be directed at a particular individual. So if circumstances were different, black students came to the frat house looking to become pledges, and the student from the bus sang the chant in front of them, then we're well into fighting words territory.

To meet the definition of incitement, the call for violent action has to have the potential to produce imminent criminal activity. So in the Jim Crow period there were people who incited lynch mobs who then actually lynched black people. But what the kid on the bus said didn't have the potential to produce an actual lynching.

Long story short, it's really hard for speech in the US to not be protected by the first amendment. Say a group of Muslim students rallied after the Charlie Hebo attacks in support of the killers, holding up signs saying people who publish images of Mohammad deserve to be shot. If they just say this generally, it's protected. If a school newspaper was going to publish a Mohammad cartoon, and the Muslims students held a rally saying "if you do that we'll shoot you," it would not be protected.

A rule of thumb would be to ask "what particular individual's safety is in danger?" If you can't name them, the speech is protected.

March 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

Ryan -

Here's what matters, IMO.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/25/us/oklahoma-levi-pettit-apology/index.html

Class act.

March 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua

Here's the historical context:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Struggle_session

March 26, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

Good point, Ryan. I'm sure that he didn't actually mean anything he said, and that he isn't really ashamed of what he did. Nor his parents. In reality, there was nothing wrong with what he did. He was forced into this.

Yeah. It's the exact same thing - where people are forced to humiliate themselves for simply being out of step with the tyrannical ruling class . No difference at all between that charade in the left wing dictatorship of Oklahoma and what took place with the communist party in China. In fact, what took place is really just an extension of the vast, communist conspiracy that we have continuing in this country to this day.

Lol! You boyz really do crack me up sometimes.

March 26, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Ryan -

Just to offer you a ray of hope, there is evidence that some powerful folks are willing to stand up against the Chinese communist-like tyranny that is infesting the U.S.

==> "Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is set to sign into law a measure that allows businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers in the name of "religious freedom.""

March 26, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"Lol! You boyz really do crack me up sometimes."

You think the abolition of the human right to free speech is funny?!

March 26, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Yeah, that's it NiV. You got me pegged.

March 26, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua

My. God. Man.

You read and comment on a blog devoted to the honest study of human psychology, cultural allegiance and social conformation.

And yet somehow, despite that, you were able to type the following:

"I'm sure that he didn't actually mean anything he said, and that he isn't really ashamed of what he did. Nor his parents. In reality, there was nothing wrong with what he did. He was forced into this."

You actually believe the confessor of the struggle sessions did not feel real guilt? You actually think they didn't feel real remorse? You actually think they didn't authentically mean every word of their confession?

I know you are not insane, but I am yet tempted to inquire if it is otherwise.

March 26, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

Ryan -

I think that your comparison is absurd. That's why I laughed at it.

If that makes me insane in your eyes, I can live with that - no problem.

March 26, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Ryan and NiV - I've got more news to cheer you up:

Republican Arizona Senator Sylvia Allen suggested this week that lawmakers should debate forcing people to attend church services once a week.

Allen acknowledged such a law would never be allowed, but floated as an idea to create what she described as a much-needed “moral rebirth of this country.”

“How we get to back to a moral rebirth of this country, I don’t know, since we are slowly eroding religion at every opportunity that we have,” Allen said. “Probably we should be debating a bill requiring every American to attend a church of their choice on Sunday to see if we can get back to having a moral rebirth.”

Fortunately, Allen participated in the Agenda 21 EPA hearing - to fight the communist manifesto for the 21rst century, that "we have replaced our Constitution with."

https://youtu.be/c11pLXnXtEc


Don't give up hope, guys. Help is out there.

March 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"I think that your comparison is absurd. That's why I laughed at it."

What's absurd about it? Are you one of those who look at history and think "It could never happen here"?

Didn't you ever wonder how the people of the time could gradually come to hold such beliefs?

"Probably we should be debating a bill requiring every American to attend a church of their choice on Sunday to see if we can get back to having a moral rebirth."

That's probably a good idea - it's a good way to explain to people drifting away from it why freedom is better. You'll debate laws to stop people eating too much, or smoking, or drinking, or saying things you don't like and don't think ought to be said - but you'll scream blue murder over a law to get people to go to church more often?!

Casual Totalitarians are perfectly happy with taking away other people's freedoms to do the things that they themselves don't like, up until the point where they realise the same principle and precedent applies to all the things they do and other people don't like. The smarter ones get round that by also arguing that therefore only they should be in power, to stop perverse outcomes like that. But perhaps if people started proposing a few more laws and restrictions and speech codes that "liberals" didn't like, some of them might suddenly remember what the word "liberal" actually means.

March 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

NiV -

==> "What's absurd about it?"

If you don't see yourself why comparing this guy's entirely voluntary appeal for forgiveness in modern day Oklahoma in the US and forced persecution of enemies by the Communist Party in China in the 70s is absurd, then I'm quite sure that nothing that I could say would convince you otherwise.

We could find any number of way to compare just about anything. We could say that a 95-year old woman going into a Catholic Church confessional to ask forgiveness for taking the lord's name in vain is comparable to a 70s Chinese Communist Party struggle session, if we are motivated strongly enough to do so.

As so often, this is about pattern-finding to make sense of the world. It's a useful heuristic in general. If it is of use for you to make such a comparison and then ask why it's absurd, more power to you.

==> " but you'll scream blue murder over a law to get people to go to church more often?!"

I'm not screaming blue murder (is that a British expression - is it like "scream bloody murder?) about this, I'm laughing at it.

There will never be any such law in the U.S. And the reason is because there are a sufficient number of people who will view it as absurd. Again, if you don't see the difference between what this woman thinks would be a good idea and laws "to prevent people from smoking" then there's no reason for me to bother explaining. We might as well say that I also will scream blue murder that laws against murder are on the books.

==> "Casual Totalitarians"

That's cute. "Casual Totalitarians." Be careful, NiV - make sure to check under your bed at night to be sure that there aren't any "Casual Totalitarians" hiding there. They can be tricky fellas. And I also like how you switched from "Casual Totalitarians" to liberals later in the paragraph. Identity-protective behavior much, NiV?

March 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"If you don't see yourself why comparing this guy's entirely voluntary appeal for forgiveness in modern day Oklahoma in the US and forced persecution of enemies by the Communist Party in China in the 70s is absurd, then I'm quite sure that nothing that I could say would convince you otherwise."

Does that mean you admit you don't have any rational justification for it? That it's just an unquestionable part of your assumptions / preconceptions / cultural gestalt?

It's the 'entirely voluntary' appeal of the victim for the bully's forgiveness, in the hopes that the bullies will stop what they're doing to him. It's the appeal of the victim in the public pillory, or stocks: "I'm sorry! I'll do what you say!". He thought he had free speech, that he could say things opposed to the moral sentiments of the majority with no more consequence than that they say things back, and has now realised how very wrong he was. They can get him chucked out of college, or out of his job. He can be effectively barred from education, and the higher paid jobs it enables, for life.

"Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant—society collectively, over the separate individuals who compose it—its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself.

Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own."

"As so often, this is about pattern-finding to make sense of the world."

Indeed. We can see the pattern repeating. "The common interest before self interest" say the Socialists, but this is just another way of saying "You'll do what we tell you, not what you want", as it's always them who define what is and is not in the 'common interest'.

"Again, if you don't see the difference between what this woman thinks would be a good idea and laws "to prevent people from smoking" then there's no reason for me to bother explaining."

I agree. There is no difference, and there's no need for you to explain. We'll just impose mandatory religious worship on the grounds that "It's good for you" and let you stew for a bit.

"We might as well say that I also will scream blue murder that laws against murder are on the books."

Do you know about the Harm Principle?

"That's cute. "Casual Totalitarians." Be careful, NiV - make sure to check under your bed at night to be sure that there aren't any "Casual Totalitarians" hiding there."

They don't hide. They're out in the open.

They regard their totalitarianism as normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Totalitarianism is just the belief that society has the right to control all aspects of its citizens' public and private behaviour, and to restrict any type of behaviour it doesn't approve of. There is no private sphere from which society's right to intervene is excluded. It's normally justified as "for your own good" or "for the common good". It's very common, and has been historically. It's different from totalitarian government, which is what you get when such people have the political power to shape and run society along their preferred lines.

"And I also like how you switched from "Casual Totalitarians" to liberals later in the paragraph. Identity-protective behavior much, NiV?"

No. Simple identification. Socialists all follow the same pattern.

And I didn't switch to liberals, I switched to "liberals". The label got co-opted, like most newspeak terms, to mean its opposite. "Liberal" used to mean an advocate for liberty. People imposing speech codes are not liberals.

March 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

NiV -

I think that analogies can be useful to help further exchange between people with different views, as they can be explanatory. Or they can be rhetorical tools. I'm not a particularly big fan of using analogies for that 2nd reason.

As I see it, if we think of a Venn diagram, with the dude in OK as one circle and the Chinese Communist struggle sessions in another, I envision the diagram to be with the two circles touching tangentially with practically no overlap. There are, IMO, vastly more ways that the two situations are incongruent than there are similarities. And I think that the similarities that do exist are superficial and facile.

IMO, the degree to which their might be overlap with two phenomena being analogized is pretty closely associated with the value I get out of the analogy - and I think that the degree of overlap is also correlated to whether they're being used to illustrate or instruct, or to further a rhetorical goal. So I guess you see a lot of overlap between those circles, and that is certainly your right. I think that such a vision is absurd. Really, NiV. I think it is absurd. Not just wrong or mistaken. Absurd.

Obviously, you can feel free to write more on the topic to illustrate the similarities, but I think it is just further evidence of your willingness to make absurd arguments.

==> "They regard their totalitarianism as normal"

A tendency to want to control the behavior of others is a pretty normal tendency. It exists on the right (as we can see in the video clip I provided) and it exists on the left. What's important to me is how people manifest that tendency, and I think that finding a left/right association in how it is manifest is just another example of motivated reasoning/cultural cognition. I think that the basic human tendency is what's relevant, and there's not something about political ideology that drives the human tendency, or that the reversed direction of causality is manifest. Again, I think of Venn diagrams.

What I think is closer to the truth, is that people selectively reason to identify a causal mechanism - between ideology and manifestation of controlling others - as existing proportionately among those that they disagree with.


==> "And I didn't switch to liberals, I switched to "liberals". The label got co-opted, like most newspeak terms, to mean its opposite. "Liberal" used to mean an advocate for liberty. People imposing speech codes are not liberals."

Again, this is like when you repeatedly "instruct" me about how "skeptics" view my blog comments.

I don't know why you find it useful to repeat argument by assertion to present standard libertarian memes that I've probably read hundreds of times. It seems that you think that you're instructing me about something I haven't seen before, or that by adopting an self-appointed authority to teach me about these issues will have some effect of altering my perspective?

I don't find that form of discussion useful, NiV. Now maybe that's because of my own biases. But it's just how I am. What I find useful are mutual exchange of viewpoints. Having some dude lecture me about his beliefs and conflating them with facts or "truth" just doesn't register with me. I like evidence, prioritization of uncertainty, the examination of varying perspectives and applying them to a variety of hypotheticals, and shared exploration.

Anyway, I'm getting tired of this now. We frequently seem to evolve in these discussions to the point where i feel that further engagement is pointless. It's kind of a shame, because I think it doesn't have to be that way. But it is what it is.

March 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"I think that such a vision is absurd. Really, NiV. I think it is absurd. Not just wrong or mistaken. Absurd."

But you're not able to articulate why, yes?

"A tendency to want to control the behavior of others is a pretty normal tendency."

Agreed. The problem is that it normally causes trouble when those others don't like it.

"It exists on the right (as we can see in the video clip I provided) and it exists on the left."

The Political Compass puts it on an orthogonal axis. It's not about left/right, but about authoritarian/libertarian. There are people on the left who call for others to follow their social policies voluntarily, and I've got no problem with that. They have the right to their opinion, and to make their case for it, like everyone else.

The problem is that where individualism can be achieved by everyone doing their own thing in this way, egalitarianism cannot without it being imposed. It's not a natural outcome of the way people (or markets) behave, and a lot of people don't agree with it and therefore don't cooperate. So the left historically have a tendency to get frustrated by their lack of progress, and to start arguing that it's in everyone's best interests if we start to 'nudge' people in the right direction. The ends justify the means.

That's why all the great social movements in which the left got the power to bring about their dream turned to tragedy. The Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea. Or for that matter, Robespierre and his Jacobins in revolutionary France.

And we can see the signs of it starting to happen again. 'Political correctness' controlling the expression of ideas. Prohibitionist laws controlling people's private choices and behaviour. Groups being in or out of political favour, being protected in one and persecuted in the other. Restrictions on who you can trade with, who you can talk to or associate with. The erosion of rights to a fair trial. Public shaming and vilification of transgressors. Moral panics. Witch hunts. Moral bandwagons, where public figures leap to show their loyalty, how their opinions conform to the latest political fashion. Show trials where opponents are made to confess and apologise for their crimes against society. Anyone standing up for their own individual rights being held up as an enemy of the common interest: selfish, greedy, self-interested. Self-interest becomes a crime in itself, so you cannot make any argument to defend yourself without confessing.

It doesn't happen overnight, it happens by slow stages. Not one of them is serious enough to make a big fuss over. Not one of them tips society over a clear line. None of them happen without a genuine moral justification. But it's the road to serfdom.

"I don't know why you find it useful to repeat argument by assertion to present standard libertarian memes that I've probably read hundreds of times."

Because you always act as if you don't know about them, or understand them.

Why do you think it's useful to us to see a recitation of standard socialist/progressive/authoritarian/politically-correct memes that we've seen hundreds of times, and indeed argued against frequently? Do you think we don't know what the arguments and justifications put forward for politically correct speech codes are?

"What I find useful are mutual exchange of viewpoints."

Unless they're viewpoints you don't like? :-)

"I like evidence, prioritization of uncertainty, the examination of varying perspectives and applying them to a variety of hypotheticals, and shared exploration."

Good. Here's a different perspective, and a different variety of hypotheticals. What would you like to explore with it? :-)

"Anyway, I'm getting tired of this now."

Fair enough.

"I cannot praise a fugitive and cloister'd vertue, unexercis'd & unbreath'd, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortall garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat." Milton, Areopagitica, 1644.

Neither of us is going to persuade the other, but we at least remain aware and reminded of the other's position. This continued jousting is an essential part of the dust and heat of political debate.

March 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

==> "But you're not able to articulate why, yes?"

No. First of all, I have already articulated on just some of the reasons why I think it absurd. Secondly, I've also articulated why, IMO, further articulation on the subject of why I think it's absurd, would be absurd.


==> "The Political Compass puts it on an orthogonal axis. It's not about left/right, but about authoritarian/libertarian."

So you say. So you say repeatedly. I don't agree. I see hypocrisy in how people label, and how people see totalitarian tendencies, as an outgrowth of human psychology and cognition - not a function of a particular ideological outlook.

==> "Because you always act as if you don't know about them, or understand them."

Classic. No, NiV - it's because I don't agree with you. And, again, I don't accept your self-appointed authority. I respect you enough to not argue that when you disagree with me, it's because you don't know about or understand my views. If you don't choose to accord me the same respect, because you don't think I've earned it, so be it. I can live with that. But by definition the, IMO, we can't have a good faith exchange. So when you climb behind your lectern, I loose interest - except maybe as some kind of sociological study to watch how people can continue to make arguments that I think are absurd.


==> "Unless they're viewpoints you don't like? :-)"

I go to "skeptic" blogs, specifically, because I enjoy exchange my views with views I don't "like," - or to be more accurate, don't agree with.

This latest rhetorical flourish (also seen with "But you're not able to articulate why, yes?" and "Does that mean you admit you don't have any rational justification for it") is another of patterns of exchange that I find useless: Here, this is the pattern I see:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=61uWowYxzQ8

If you want to know what my opinion is about something, then ask, and I will do my best to try to communicate it, unless I come to think that trying to do so is futile. Now I think that the point of futility is reached when you stop listening and start lecturing - but obviously, these determinations are always subjective.

March 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Looks like that link I have early might not be working:

I'll try again:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61uWowYxzQ8&noredirect=1

March 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

"No. First of all, I have already articulated on just some of the reasons why I think it absurd."

Do you mean the Venn diagram? How is that a reason?

March 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

NiV -

I think I've been clear. Sometimes even I tire of wasting my (figurative) breath.

March 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua

It's an overlap between the Venn diagrams that both people in struggle sessions and bus man felt genuine remorse. That was my point of the previous post, which I made because I thought you were implying the remorse was only genuine in one situation.

Other overlaps:

- The idea that ideological transgression merits severe punishment. In a sane world the news report is "kid told a tasteless joke while drunk, in other news a puppy pissed on the carpet." In an insane world "kid caught on camera telling a demotically evil joke, his entire fraternity evicted with 1 day's notice."

- Lack of public awareness of the chasm between the crime and the punishment, "of course a hundred fellow frat members were evicted because one of them told a joke, that makes perfect sense."

- Public confession as justification for the immorality of it all. Bus man goes on TV and apologizes or the harm *he* caused his frat brothers, as if it was actually his fault they got kicked out, and not the fault of an ideologically zealous administration.

- The whole process is not about the particular transgression, but about demonstrating to the public generally who is powerful and who is weak, who can get someone expelled for dissent and who will get expelled.

March 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

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