So you think you want to be rational, to believe what is true even when sirens tempt you? Great, get to work; there's lots you can do. Do you want to justifiably believe that you are more rational than others, smugly knowing your beliefs are more accurate? Hold on; this is hard. Humans nearly universally find excuses to believe that they are more correct that others, at least on the important things. They point to others' incredible beliefs, to biases afflicting others, and to estimation tasks where they are especially skilled. But they forget most everyone can point to such things. But shouldn't you get more rationality credit if you spend more time studying common biases, statistical techniques, and the like? Well this would be good evidence of your rationality if you were in fact pretty rational about your rationality, i.e., if you knew that when you read or discussed such issues your mind would then systematically, broadly, and reasonably incorporate those insights into your reasoning processes. But what if your mind is far from rational? What if your mind is likely to just go through the motions of studying rationality to allow itself to smugly believe it is more accurate, or to bond you more closely to your social allies? It seems to me that if you are serious about actually being rational, rather than just believing in your rationality or joining a group that thinks itself rational, you should try hard and often to test your rationality. But how can you do that? To test the rationality of your beliefs, you could sometimes declare beliefs, and later score those beliefs via tests where high scoring beliefs tend to be more rational. Better tests are those where scores are more tightly and reliably correlated with rationality. So, what are good rationality tests?
Play poker for significant amounts of money. While it only tests limited and specific areas of rationality, and of course requires some significant domain-specific knowledge, poker is an excellent rationality test. The main difficulty of playing the game well, once one understands the basic strategy, is in how amazingly well it evokes and then punishes our irrational natures. Difficulties updating (believing the improbable when new information comes in), loss aversion, takeover by the limbic system (anger / jealousy / revenge / etc), lots of aspects that it tests.
The thought occurs to me that the converse question of "How do you know you're rational?" is "Why do you care whether you have the property 'rationality'?" It's not unbound - we hope - so for every occasion when you might be tempted to wonder how rational you are, there should be some kind of performable task that relates to your 'rational'-ness. What kind of test could reflect this 'rationality' should be suggested from consideration of the related task. Or conversely, we ask directly what associates to the task.
Prediction markets would be suggested by the task of trying to predict future variables; and then conversely we can ask, "If someone makes money on a prediction market, what else are they likely to be good at?"
Are there cognitive scientists creating tests like this? If not, why not?
This almost seems too obvious to mention in one of Robin's threads, but I'll go ahead anyway: success on prediction markets would seem to be an indicator of rationality and/or luck. Your degree of success in a game like HubDub may give some indication as to the accuracy of your beliefs, and so (one would hope) the effectiveness of your belief-formation process.
This is the fundamental question that determines whether we can do a lot of things - if we can't come up with evidence-based metrics that are good measures of the effect of rationality-improving interventions, then everything becomes much harder. If the metric is easily gamed once people know about it, everything becomes much harder. If it can be defeated by memorization like school, everything becomes much harder. I will post about this myself at some point.
This problem is one we should approach with the attitude of solving as much as possible, not fee... (read more)
Prediction markets seem like the obvious answer, but the range of issues currently available as contracts is too narrow to be of much use. Most probability calibration exercises are focus on trivial issues. I think they are still useful, but the real test is how you deal with emotional issues, not just neutral ones.
This might not be amenable to a market, but I would like to see a database collected of the questions being addressed by research in-progress. Perhaps when a research grant is issued, if a definite conclusion is anticipated, the question can be ... (read more)
ISO quality certification doesn't look primarily at the results, but primarily at the process. If the process has a good argument or justification that it consistently produces high quality, then it is deemed to be compliant. For example "we measure performance in [this] way, the records are kept in [this] way, quality problems are addressed like [this], compliance is addressed like [such-and-so]".
I can imagine a simple checklist for rationality, analogous to the software carpentry checklist.
Set up a website where people can submit artistic works - poetry, drawings, short stories, maybe even pictures of themselves - and it's expected rating on a 1-10 scale.
The works would be publicly displayed, but anonymously, and visitors could rate them ("nonymously" is to make sure the ratings are "global" and not "compared to other work by the same guy" - so maybe the author could be displayed once you rated it).
You could then compare the expected rating of a work to the actual ratings it received, and see how much the author... (read more)
Anyone up for some Rational Debating?
Find out the general ideological biases of the test subject
Find two studies, one (Study A) that supports the ideological biases of the test subject, but is methodologically flawed. The other (Study B) refutes the ideological biases of the subject, but is methodologically sound.
Have the subject read/research information about the studies, and then ask them which study is more correct.
If you randomize this a bit (sometimes the study is both correct and "inline with one's bias") and run this multiple times on a person, yo... (read more)
Keep track of when you change your mind about important facts based on new evidence.
a) If you rarely change your mind, you're probably not rational.
b) If you always change your mind, you're probably not very smart.
c) If you sometimes change your mind, and sometimes not, I think that's a pretty good indication that you're rational.
Of course, I feel that I fall into category (c), which is my own bias. I could test this, if there was a database of how often other people had changed their mind, cross-referenced with IQ.
Here's some examples from my own past... (read more)
How about testing the rationality of your life (and not just your beliefs)?
Are you satisfied with your job/marriage/health-exercising?
Are you deeply in debt?
Spent too much money on status-symbols?
Cheating on your life-partner?
Spending too much time on the net?
Drinking too much?
I am sure there are many other life-tests.
I am 95% confident that calibration tests are good tests for a very important aspect of rationality, and would encourage everyone to try a few.
An ideal rationality test would be perfectly specific: there would be no way to pass it other than being rational. We can't conveniently create such a test, but we can at least make it difficult to pass our tests by utilizing simple procedures that don't require rationality to implement.
Any 'game' in which the best strategies can be known and preset would then be ruled out. It's relatively easy to write a computer program to play poker (minus the social interaction). Same goes for blackjack. It takes rationality to create such a program, but the program doesn't need rationality to function.
"Do you want to justifiably believe that you are more rational than others, smugly knowing your beliefs are more accurate?"
Is this what people want? To me it would make more sense to cultivate the belief that one is NOT more rational than others, and that one's beliefs are no more likely than theirs to be accurate, a priori. Try to overcome the instinct that a belief is probably correct merely because it is yours.
Now I can understand that for people at the cutting edge of society, pushing into new frontiers like Robin and Eliezer, this would not ... (read more)
Jim Randomh makes some suggestions here.
Karma-score (and voting up/down) could also be a measure of rationality contra affiliation. Movement in itself being more important than the direction of the movement as a clue to your affiliation drive or rationality drive - given a little context and some scrupulous introspection.
Just a personal problem that seems to me to be a precursor to the rationality question.
Various studies have shown that a persons 'memory' of events is very much influenced by later discussion of the event, when put into situations such as the 'Stanford Prison Experiment' or the 'Milgram Experiment' people will do unethical acts under pressure of authority and situation.
Yet people have a two-fold response to these experiments.
A) They deny the experiments are accurate, either in whole, or in degree
B) They deny that they fall into the realm of those that... (read more)
There is quite a gap between wanting to be rational and wanting to know how unbiased you are. Since the test is self-administered, pursuing the first desire could easily lead to a favourable, biased, seemingly rational test result. This result would be influenced by personal expectations, and it's reliability is null according to Löb's Theorem. The latter desire implies one being open to his biased state and states his purpose of assessing some sort of bias/rational balance. This endeavour is more profitable than the previous because, hopefully, it offers... (read more)
it seems that the the relevance of the calibration tests are that the better calibrated you are the better you will perform on predicting how happy various outcomes will make you. being good at this puts you at a huge advantage relative to the average person.
My concern is less with the degree to which I wear the rationality mantle relative to others (which is low to the point of insignificance, though often depressing) and more with ensuring that the process I use to approach rationality is the best one available. To that end, I'm finding that lurking on LessWrong is a pretty effective process test, particularly since I tend to come back to articles I've previously read to see what further understanding I can extract in the light of previous articles. SCORING such a test is a more squiffy concept, though cor... (read more)