Experiment: Psychoanalyze Me

by Wei_Dai 8y17th Jul 201112 comments


From Yvain's latest post:

These studies suggest that people do not have introspective awareness to the processes that generate their behavior. They guess their preferences, justifications, and beliefs by inferring the most plausible rationale for their observed behavior, but are unable to make these guesses qualitatively better than outside observers.

I guess this probably applies to beliefs as well as behavior. That is, the reasons people give for their beliefs are probably not based on real introspection either, which would explain why it's often so hard to find one's true rejection.

If I do not have highly privileged access to my own reasoning and decision making processes, it stands to reason that other people should sometimes be able to tell me things about my goals or beliefs that I myself have missed. But apparently it's not that simple. In the True Rejection post, Eliezer wrote

However, attempts to directly, publicly psychoanalyze the Other may cause the conversation to degenerate very fast, in my observation.

This seems important enough to gather more data on. How and why do such conversations degenerate? Can we do something to prevent degeneration while still providing useful psychological insights to each other? So, as a first step, I hereby extend an open invitation to LW: tell me, whenever my stated goals and/or reasons do not seem to match up with my actual goals/reasons, what you think they really are.

(Presumably, the degeneration has to do with status and offense. But perhaps in our community, one can gain status by conspicuously not taking offense to such analyses, and instead taking them seriously?)