Unchanging opinions

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stvchang
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Unchanging opinions

Post by stvchang » Mon Sep 17, 2018 9:03 am

Please comment on today's WSJ Real Time Economics posting:

"Who said a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds?* "We find that after committing to a first belief, individuals are reluctant to incorporate new information. This reluctance causes lower belief accuracy and also generates higher belief divergence among subjects. Our findings are in line with the notion that people want to behave consistently," Armin Falk and Florian Zimmermann write in the Royal Economic Society's Economic Journal.
*Ralph Waldo Emerson"

http://www.res.org.uk/details/mediabrie ... =djemRTE_h

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KlingKlang
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Re: UNCHANGING OPINIONS

Post by KlingKlang » Mon Sep 17, 2018 9:19 am

It is difficult to evaluate the results of this 'study' without any details on what type of information was being presented.

For example, if last night's weather report said that it would start raining at 3:00 pm today and this morning's changed that to 11:00 am I would certainly incorporate the new information into my plans for the day.

On the other hand if I believed that investing on margin was a bad idea and someone posted how they had tripled their investment returns using margin in 2017 I would not change my investment plans because of that.

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nedsaid
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Re: UNCHANGING OPINIONS

Post by nedsaid » Mon Sep 17, 2018 9:28 am

I can't tell you how many times "new information" from studies turned out to be just plain wrong. I think of the studies that told me that coffee was bad for you. Not too long afterwards, you would learn that coffee was good for you. Same with eggs. There is a surprising number of scientific studies whose results cannot be duplicated, it might be as high as 40%. Garbage in, garbage out. This might be a good reason for the results of the study referenced in the initial post, people got burned by flawed or faked studies and are just skeptical. I am not going to change my entire lifestyle based upon a stupid study.

Another example was the "fat makes you fat" meme that was going around maybe 15 years ago. So people cut fat and loaded on carbs and became fatter than ever. It was just a fad. Instead of improving health, certain diets compounded the problem they were supposed to solve.
A fool and his money are good for business.

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Re: UNCHANGING OPINIONS

Post by jminv » Mon Sep 17, 2018 10:04 am

This is not a new finding and is consistent with the publish or perish mentality that exists in academia. 'It's hard to change someone's beliefs/opinions/worldview' is not a new discovery and, incidentally, is also common sense. At least it agrees with past findings unlike some of the other constant flip flops (in which the academic exists in a symbiotic relationship with the popular press) that another poster notes above (eggs are good or bad, fat is good or bad, coffee is good or bad).

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nisiprius
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Re: UNCHANGING OPINIONS

Post by nisiprius » Mon Sep 17, 2018 11:15 am

I don't think generic statements about whether it is good or bad to change your mind mean much.

For example, I don't think the behavior of these students in this particular experiment has "important implications for the design of institutions such as the procedures used by ... juries." Our system of jurisprudence has elaborate sets of rules about how juries are selected and trials are conducted: what can and can't be introduced as evidence, what can or can't be said, what order things are presented in. They the result of centuries of sophisticated folk wisdom intended to deal with the obvious observation that people don't like to change their minds, are influenced by what they know before the trial, and by the order of things presented during the trial.

In the real world, we know that the "information" we receive is not perfectly reliable, and we do Bayesian inference on it when it conflicts with what we already believe. We also weigh our opinions against the personal consequences of being right or wrong. This isn't necessarily improper or irrational. If someone presents me with "new information" about fairies, such as these photographs taken in 2017 by someone by a "university lecturer"*

Image

and asks me whether or not I am going to change my mind, it is rational for me to be influenced by what I know about past hoaxes.

Normally I believe what I see in my Vanguard statement, but if I log on and see a balance of billions of dollars--or a balance of zero--rather than change my mind about my balance, I will say "computer error."



*"Director of Research and Innovation in Art and Design at Manchester Metropolitan University"
Last edited by nisiprius on Mon Sep 17, 2018 1:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Turbo29
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Re: UNCHANGING OPINIONS

Post by Turbo29 » Mon Sep 17, 2018 11:35 am

nedsaid wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 9:28 am
I can't tell you how many times "new information" from studies turned out to be just plain wrong. I think of the studies that told me that coffee was bad for you. Not too long afterwards, you would learn that coffee was good for you. Same with eggs. There is a surprising number of scientific studies whose results cannot be duplicated, it might be as high as 40%. Garbage in, garbage out. This might be a good reason for the results of the study referenced in the initial post, people got burned by flawed or faked studies and are just skeptical. I am not going to change my entire lifestyle based upon a stupid study.

Another example was the "fat makes you fat" meme that was going around maybe 15 years ago. So people cut fat and loaded on carbs and became fatter than ever. It was just a fad. Instead of improving health, certain diets compounded the problem they were supposed to solve.
Why Most Published Research Findings Are False
https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/ ... ed.0020124

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One Ping
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Re: UNCHANGING OPINIONS

Post by One Ping » Mon Sep 17, 2018 11:46 am

nisiprius wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 11:15 am
In the real world, we know that the "information" we receive is not perfectly reliable, and we do Bayesian inference on it when it conflicts with what we already believe. We also weigh our opinions against the personal consequences of being right or wrong. This isn't necessarily improper or irrational. If someone presents me with "new information" about fairies, such as these photographs taken in 2017 by someone by a university lecturer.*

and asks me whether or not I am going to change my mind, it is rational for me to be influenced by what I know about past hoaxes.
Agree. When the facts on the ground change I can/will change my mind if necessary, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
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Re: UNCHANGING OPINIONS

Post by PVW » Mon Sep 17, 2018 11:57 am

Turbo29 wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 11:35 am
nedsaid wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 9:28 am
I can't tell you how many times "new information" from studies turned out to be just plain wrong. I think of the studies that told me that coffee was bad for you. Not too long afterwards, you would learn that coffee was good for you. Same with eggs. There is a surprising number of scientific studies whose results cannot be duplicated, it might be as high as 40%. Garbage in, garbage out. This might be a good reason for the results of the study referenced in the initial post, people got burned by flawed or faked studies and are just skeptical. I am not going to change my entire lifestyle based upon a stupid study.

Another example was the "fat makes you fat" meme that was going around maybe 15 years ago. So people cut fat and loaded on carbs and became fatter than ever. It was just a fad. Instead of improving health, certain diets compounded the problem they were supposed to solve.
Why Most Published Research Findings Are False
https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/ ... ed.0020124
and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Replication_crisis

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bottlecap
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Re: UNCHANGING OPINIONS

Post by bottlecap » Mon Sep 17, 2018 12:01 pm

I'm not shocked. It has to be this way. We make too many decisions on a daily basis to constantly reevaluate them every time some new bit of information becomes available.

JT

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Re: UNCHANGING OPINIONS

Post by livesoft » Mon Sep 17, 2018 12:07 pm

This is very old news and I'm not going to change my opinion about it.

Many people would rather die than admit they were wrong. Just look at storm evacuations.

Just look at all the "Invest now or wait?" questions. No minds are ever changed, are they?
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Re: Unchanging opinions

Post by PVW » Mon Sep 17, 2018 12:33 pm

stvchang wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 9:03 am
Please comment on today's WSJ Real Time Economics posting:

"Who said a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds?* "We find that after committing to a first belief, individuals are reluctant to incorporate new information. This reluctance causes lower belief accuracy and also generates higher belief divergence among subjects. Our findings are in line with the notion that people want to behave consistently," Armin Falk and Florian Zimmermann write in the Royal Economic Society's Economic Journal.
*Ralph Waldo Emerson"

http://www.res.org.uk/details/mediabrie ... =djemRTE_h
Commitment bias. A well-known and well-studied human behavior. It can be beneficial when the quality of new information is questionable, but we often use this as justification for commitment bias. It is tough to judge the quality and relevance of new information.

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Re: Unchanging opinions

Post by nisiprius » Mon Sep 17, 2018 1:24 pm

By the way, who said "Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes?" For answer, drag mouse from here >>>>>>>> Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself" <<<<<<<< to here.
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness; Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

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nedsaid
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Re: UNCHANGING OPINIONS

Post by nedsaid » Mon Sep 17, 2018 6:42 pm

PVW wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 11:57 am
Turbo29 wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 11:35 am
nedsaid wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 9:28 am
I can't tell you how many times "new information" from studies turned out to be just plain wrong. I think of the studies that told me that coffee was bad for you. Not too long afterwards, you would learn that coffee was good for you. Same with eggs. There is a surprising number of scientific studies whose results cannot be duplicated, it might be as high as 40%. Garbage in, garbage out. This might be a good reason for the results of the study referenced in the initial post, people got burned by flawed or faked studies and are just skeptical. I am not going to change my entire lifestyle based upon a stupid study.

Another example was the "fat makes you fat" meme that was going around maybe 15 years ago. So people cut fat and loaded on carbs and became fatter than ever. It was just a fad. Instead of improving health, certain diets compounded the problem they were supposed to solve.
Why Most Published Research Findings Are False
https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/ ... ed.0020124
and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Replication_crisis
Wow. It was worse than I thought. 70% of studies that cannot be replicated? Even a coin toss is 50%. My skepticism about studies is well founded. Plus if you spend lots of money for research, are you going to pay for an adverse result? It seems that you just have to follow the money in the old days.

I remember the days when basic research would be done and we would just let it go where ever the facts would lead. Today, it seems that research must have a predetermined result.
A fool and his money are good for business.

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Re: UNCHANGING OPINIONS

Post by livesoft » Mon Sep 17, 2018 7:01 pm

nedsaid wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 6:42 pm
I remember the days when basic research would be done and we would just let it go where ever the facts would lead. Today, it seems that research must have a predetermined result.
There were never days when basic research would be done and let it go where ever the facts would lead. Never. Sure, some research is untainted, but most has been done by human beings who have an agenda. People may not like how messy things are and how every experiment and fact needs multiple tests by different labs to help establish the fact.

If you have noticed how skeptical I am of everything stated as fact at bogleheads.org, then imagine me being 10 times more skeptical in my own field over the past 40 years. Nevertheless, truth wins out ... most of the time.
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nedsaid
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Re: UNCHANGING OPINIONS

Post by nedsaid » Mon Sep 17, 2018 7:09 pm

livesoft wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 7:01 pm
nedsaid wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 6:42 pm
I remember the days when basic research would be done and we would just let it go where ever the facts would lead. Today, it seems that research must have a predetermined result.
There were never days when basic research would be done and let it go where ever the facts would lead. Never. Sure, some research is untainted, but most has been done by human beings who have an agenda. People may not like how messy things are and how every experiment and fact needs multiple tests by different labs to help establish the fact.

If you have noticed how skeptical I am of everything stated as fact at bogleheads.org, then imagine me being 10 times more skeptical in my own field over the past 40 years. Nevertheless, truth wins out ... most of the time.
What I am thinking of are the benefits of such things as the space program, lots of technology spin-offs. I am also thinking of the Bell Labs. Government did a lot of basic research as I recall.
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Re: Unchanging opinions

Post by triceratop » Mon Sep 17, 2018 7:18 pm

In my field replication is not an issue. If I need to replicate a simulation, I can re-run the program or tweak some parameter to show robustness and that the idea I had is not a coincidence. Most code ends up open source, and in any case the ideas are all there to be evaluated in the paper. A lot of what Bell labs did has little overlap with Nature. Does this mean the poll is not replicable? ;) Hmmm.

In other fields, like livesoft's, replication may be an issue. I am thankful my interests lie elsewhere.
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Re: Unchanging opinions

Post by nisiprius » Mon Sep 17, 2018 7:45 pm

We will have an interesting real-world text the next time I see my doctor. A few years ago, due to another issue, I said to her "I wonder if I really should be taking 81 mg. of aspirin per day? My doctor told me to do it about twenty years ago, but not for any specific problem I had." She said "hmmm..." and glanced over my history and said, "No, go on taking it because you do have two risk factors."

Well, the papers are now full of news stories about three (!) papers in NEJM saying, more or less, that in the healthy elderly the risks exceed the benefits.

I'll be interested to see if she changes her recommendation.
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Re: Unchanging opinions

Post by Fallible » Mon Sep 17, 2018 7:48 pm

stvchang wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 9:03 am
Please comment on today's WSJ Real Time Economics posting:

"We find that ... individuals are reluctant to incorporate new information. ...
OP, my comment is that this reveals - at long last and not a moment too soon -the source of confirmation bias.

What is your comment?
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Re: Unchanging opinions

Post by triceratop » Mon Sep 17, 2018 7:53 pm

Fallible wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 7:48 pm
stvchang wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 9:03 am
Please comment on today's WSJ Real Time Economics posting:

"We find that ... individuals are reluctant to incorporate new information. ...
OP, my comment is that this reveals - at long last and not a moment too soon -the source of confirmation bias.

What is your comment?
My comment is that it makes perfect sense to me that you'd say that! ;)
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Re: Unchanging opinions

Post by Fallible » Mon Sep 17, 2018 8:05 pm

triceratop wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 7:53 pm
Fallible wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 7:48 pm
stvchang wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 9:03 am
Please comment on today's WSJ Real Time Economics posting:

"We find that ... individuals are reluctant to incorporate new information. ...
OP, my comment is that this reveals - at long last and not a moment too soon -the source of confirmation bias.

What is your comment?
My comment is that it makes perfect sense to me that you'd say that! ;).
I was hoping for perfect nonsense. :-)
Bogleheads® wiki | Investing Advice Inspired by Jack Bogle

livesoft
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Re: UNCHANGING OPINIONS

Post by livesoft » Mon Sep 17, 2018 8:08 pm

nedsaid wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 7:09 pm
What I am thinking of are the benefits of such things as the space program, lots of technology spin-offs. I am also thinking of the Bell Labs. Government did a lot of basic research as I recall.
I never said funding basic research was bad. Most of my career was doing NIH-funded basic research. A lot of basic research is bad and it does not lead to grant renewals nor good stories in the popular press. So there is a lot of representation bias. But bad basic science is part of the price for funding good basis science.
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Re: Unchanging opinions

Post by Turbo29 » Mon Sep 17, 2018 9:15 pm

nisiprius wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 7:45 pm
We will have an interesting real-world text the next time I see my doctor. A few years ago, due to another issue, I said to her "I wonder if I really should be taking 81 mg. of aspirin per day? My doctor told me to do it about twenty years ago, but not for any specific problem I had." She said "hmmm..." and glanced over my history and said, "No, go on taking it because you do have two risk factors."

Well, the papers are now full of news stories about three (!) papers in NEJM saying, more or less, that in the healthy elderly the risks exceed the benefits.

I'll be interested to see if she changes her recommendation.
My doctor and I were discussing a medication and he kept pushing the absence of side effects. I replied, "Medicine is full of things that turned out to be disasters. They used to put radium pellets up kid's noses." He just glared at me.
The treatment, called nasopharyngeal irradiation, was pioneered by Johns Hopkins physicians. They threaded radium-tipped probes up through the nostrils to shrink swollen lymphoid tissue at the back of the nose. Doctors prescribed the therapy to treat hearing loss, tonsillitis, allergies and even colds
"I had confidence in the nasal radium treatment because I had confidence in the doctor, and I'm sure he was confident in it because it came from Hopkins," said Eleanore DiPietro, a registered nurse. The Catonsville woman's son, Victor, died at 31 in 1991 from a malignant tumor that started inside his cheek and spread to his eye and other organs. The oncologist told her the radiation was most likely to blame.
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Re: Unchanging opinions

Post by Darwin » Mon Sep 17, 2018 10:15 pm

stvchang wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 9:03 am
Please comment on today's WSJ Real Time Economics posting:

"Who said a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds?* "We find that after committing to a first belief, individuals are reluctant to incorporate new information. This reluctance causes lower belief accuracy and also generates higher belief divergence among subjects. Our findings are in line with the notion that people want to behave consistently," Armin Falk and Florian Zimmermann write in the Royal Economic Society's Economic Journal.
*Ralph Waldo Emerson"

http://www.res.org.uk/details/mediabrie ... =djemRTE_h
I'm surprised at how strongly negative many of the comments are concerning this. I've always seen this closed-viewpoint in the folks around me, so personally my reaction was "duh". Seems to me that being able to be one's own "Devil's Advocate" is both insanely useful, and also helps to always be "of two minds". Life is a vast "grey area" Not a big deal to change direction if you've already been aware of the advantages of that alternative view...

PVW
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Re: UNCHANGING OPINIONS

Post by PVW » Tue Sep 18, 2018 8:06 am

nedsaid wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 7:09 pm
livesoft wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 7:01 pm
nedsaid wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 6:42 pm
I remember the days when basic research would be done and we would just let it go where ever the facts would lead. Today, it seems that research must have a predetermined result.
There were never days when basic research would be done and let it go where ever the facts would lead. Never. Sure, some research is untainted, but most has been done by human beings who have an agenda. People may not like how messy things are and how every experiment and fact needs multiple tests by different labs to help establish the fact.

If you have noticed how skeptical I am of everything stated as fact at bogleheads.org, then imagine me being 10 times more skeptical in my own field over the past 40 years. Nevertheless, truth wins out ... most of the time.
What I am thinking of are the benefits of such things as the space program, lots of technology spin-offs. I am also thinking of the Bell Labs. Government did a lot of basic research as I recall.
I get what you're saying. Applied research has to be reproducible, or it won't get applied.

I think it's the case that we (the general public) are more aware of fundamental research that is an end to itself. There is no proof in the pudding. But it has always been there, we just didn't hear about it. And it always had problems with reproducibility.

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Re: Unchanging opinions

Post by mak1277 » Tue Sep 18, 2018 8:47 am

This is completely unsurprising. Think about how politicians are punished (in the polls) for changing their minds on things...when in reality, the very fact that someone is intelligent and flexible enough to change their mind on something is a positive, not a negative.

I think most people just want to feel superior to others, and if they admit they changed their mind, they're admitting they were once wrong.

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Re: UNCHANGING OPINIONS

Post by staythecourse » Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:12 am

bottlecap wrote:
Mon Sep 17, 2018 12:01 pm
I'm not shocked. It has to be this way. We make too many decisions on a daily basis to constantly reevaluate them every time some new bit of information becomes available.

JT
Agreed.

My wife is an oncologist (cancer doctor) and it is AMAZING how true this is in their clinical practice. They can be doing x for YEARS and then a new study comes out saying it is better to do y. Then all of the sudden EVERYONE stops doing x and starts doing y. That seems pretty irrational. The answer should be to say, "Hey this is so odd that y does better we should do MORE studies to see if it is true" and not "Hey, lets forget about all the data before y study and just assume the newest article is better then the ones before it just because it was published last week". Many in the field of science REEK of recency bias.

In my own field of medicine, there is a procedure that has been shown over 100 articles that it is very successful. Then one article showed it didn't matter and published in the New England Journal and there we go everyone now says it doesn't help. I trained at Harvard and my attending was the editor and chief of the NEJM at the time and it was interesting to see his take. He confirmed, which is not too surprising, the NEJM will not publish something that is not ground breaking (so in this example showing another article that x is useful), but loves to publish ground breaking articles (in this case that x is not useful) which is against current trends of treatment.

There is a LARGE bias in performing studies, those that fund the studies, the folks that benefit and are looking for increasing their visibility in their fields, and the mags that publish the studies to increase their circulation.

Good luck.
"The stock market [fluctuation], therefore, is noise. A giant distraction from the business of investing.” | -Jack Bogle

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