Defeating Ugh Ideas

by falenas1081 min read25th Mar 20125 comments


Personal Blog

Related to: Ugh Fields

Ugh Fields are internal negative reactions that occur before the conscious mind has an opportunity to process the information, often resulting in less than optimal decision making.

We have previously discussed Ugh Fields that involve performing tasks, but as far as I can tell we haven't had any posts on Ugh Fields about ideas.  Ugh Fields towards ideas can be experienced both while trying to weigh the merits of an argument, or after one's opinion has altered.

On Less Wrong, many ideas are accepted as true that, in some places, have negative connotations.  And if someone has an Ugh Field towards an idea because of this, it can be difficult to change this to a neutral or positive position. This can cause problems while trying to think about these ideas rationally.

For example, I grew up in a heavily liberal household.  And because of this, when I was young I had a negative view on libertarianism. This caused problems, to the point where in my early teenage years I didn't weigh someone's economic views as highly just because they identified as a libertarian.  But, once I actually looked into the policies of libertarianism and the results of these policies, my views shifted.  And although my reaction improved over time, I still flinch away when I hear the word "libertarian," despite considering myself one!

And there are many other topics on Less Wrong someone could have this reaction for, including AI, FAI, atheism, transhumanism, cryonics, immortality, alternative diets, optimizing utility for charities, and metaphysics.  An Ugh Field towards any of these ideas can hinder one's ability to update properly on hearing information about it.


Some techniques I have used that have helped include:

  • Mentally correcting myself whenever I notice that I'm flinching away from an Ugh Field.
  • Actively think about why my view should change when I'm far (Which may be supplemented by reminders from an Anki deck).
  • Going through the arguments that convinced me that I should think differently in the first place.
  • Considering myself one of them, e.g. calling myself a libertarian rather than merely saying I support libertarian views.  Caution should be taken with this to prevent too much in-grouping.
  • Getting into a discussion with someone who holds the view I previously held (Essentially a combination of the last two).
  • Trying to imagine positive outcomes as a result of updating in the right direction, or the negative results of not updating.
  • Reading more about the position to normalize it in my brain.

Things I have not done, but might work:

  • Reciting the Litany of Tarski.
  • Writing down a list of ideas I have Ugh Fields, and reminding myself that these are problems (Could also use Anki).

Does anyone else have suggestions?

Personal Blog