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We might also need an exercise just for getting people to understand the concept of motivated cognition at all.

"Motivated cognition" in the first place seems like a poor label because most thinking is motivated. It's redundant and arguing against "motivated cognition" at first glance sounds like arguing against any kind of motivated thinking. That's problematic because good thinking is also motivated, i.e. "I'll invent FAI because it would help the world."

One interesting thing I've heard repeated and found to be true about rationalizations is that you can usually get the truth out of someone by asking them a canned line: Is there any other reason? I'm sure this is from some Dale Carnegie book or something, but my guess is that most people don't feel the need to come up with multiple rationalizations. They usually come up with one "good" one and try to stick with it. "Is there any other reason why you want the cake?" "Well, I also really love chocolate cake." "Is there any other reason you don't want to go to [Event] besides being busy?" "Well, my ex will be there, too." By no means an airtight method but still useful for getting other people to tell you what they're really thinking.

"If the sky is blue, I want to believe the sky is blue[.]" The question is why people don't want to believe what is true, and the areas of focus here should be the same as with self-deception and procrastination. Irrational people believe that if they can't see/hear/feel/recognize/know it, it can't hurt them -- self deception -- and even in those moments where some thought tells them this is irrational or that they must eventually face the truth, they put it off -- procrastination, preferring the short term over the long.

As kids, I think the experience of "unseeing" or "trying not to see" is common, as we thought of the monster in the dark shadows. On nights when we just shut our eyes and go to sleep there is no monster. On nights where we keep our eyes open and look around, there suddenly is one. So the most important factor in this pre-rational understanding of the world is association -- "I looked, there seemed to be a monster; I didn't look, there didn't seem to be a monster. Therefore looking determines whether there is a monster." At some level we recognize that "the monster" is not a monster, but a trick of shadows, a trick of perception. If we don't look, we also undo the monster itself. This is a detrimental lesson, at this level of understanding. But basically everyone, even kids, recognize this as self-deception. If there is a monster in your closet, crawling under the covers is like making a tasty kid-burrito. If you had actually seen, rather than suspected, a monster, you would run/fight/scream.

Even though someone might logically reason that there isn't a monster or that there isn't a god or that their moral views are contradictory, there will still be a compulsion to lie to themselves because it's easier in the short term. People procrastinate against facing the truth like they procrastinate against writing essays. The kid doesn't turn on the light because what if the monster is actually real even though he knows it isn't? He'll be more scared than he is inside the shelter of covers, even if the monster turns out to be fake, so he prefers to sit right where he is.

The way to deal with this situation is to apply the methods against self-deception and then procrastination. The unfortunate part of that is, it seems some people never get over the hurdle of procrastination.

"Uploading every single drawing is probably impractical (we're talking 30 second gesture drawings... you do the math), not only because it's a lot for one person to upload, but it's a lot for people on the interwebs to bother rating."

True, a few drawings from each time period will suffice. I plan to work digitally, since digital drawing is my end-goal, so uploading each drawing is more realistic for me than for pencil and paper practicers.

"What methods are you using?"

I'm planning on following The Natural Way To Draw by Kimon Nicolaides, which advises the first 15-20 hours to be split mostly between contour drawing and gesture drawing.

"Six to eight hours of solid work before you start showing improvement, and about twenty hours total before you start to exhaust the low hanging fruit."

Can we put this to the test? I'd like to see some people keep every drawing they make in the first twenty hours, scan them, and let us see how much improvement there is.

I'll volunteer for this, but I'm likely going to do my first 20 hours this week, using different practices than yours, or I will have to do it much later. The reason being that my previous learning experiences tell me that spread out, divided practice is diluted practice. I'm on break from school, so now would be a good time to do this.

This reminds me of a book I've just finished, Lawrence Becker's A New Stoicism. He modifies the ancient philosophy, updating it to be in line with current knowledge (i.e. the old Stoic slogan "follow nature" means "follow the facts" rather than "do what Zeus wants", etc.). The end result of accepting it means we should be pursuing what he calls Ideal or Perfect Agency. And we shouldn't just be pursuing it, but it is the purpose of life, tied to completing our goals. (For the curious, Ideal Agency entails pursuing virtuous behavior, just as it did for the ancient Stoics.)

Excerpt: "Happiness considered as an affective mental state—pleasure, contentment, pleasant excitement, euphoria, ecstasy, a richly varied succession of such states, or whatever—is clearly not the end for the sake of which healthy agents do everything else that they do. It is not our final end. This is clear because achieving a given affective state is only one of the many powerful and persistent aims of healthy primal agency, and one that even young children regularly sacrifice (not merely postpone) in order to pursue other things. For an ideal agent, the appropriate exercise of healthy agency proper is her most comprehensive and controlling endeavor. That is, her controlling aim in every circumstance is to “get it right”—where that means ordering and defining the norms of whatever “it” she faces with respect to all of her endeavors, so as to achieve optimal integration and success over a whole life replete with projects and beset by difficulties. Moreover, she will have come to value “getting it right” for its own sake, and not just for its instrumental value, and because it is her most comprehensive and controlling aim, it will have a comparable (comparative) value for her. It will be supremely valuable, for its own sake. Thus, for an ideal agent, any other given aim or endeavor (other than acting appropriately; getting it right) will be a subordinate one. The virtuosic exercise of agency will be her final end, not because every (or even any) other endeavor is aimed at achieving it, but because every other endeavor is intentionally pursued only in ways that are compatible with achieving it."

Another idea (in Stoicism generally, but also) from the book is that we should strive to have beliefs that are in alignment. For example, Stoics resolve akrasia by deciding what is appropriate or virtuous vs. not appropriate or vicious. There is also the third alternative that your choice doesn't matter (how often have you spent three minutes wondering whether to watch one cheap entertainment versus another), in which case just choose something. If we are confused , our beliefs are conflicting with each other. And if our beliefs are in conflict, then (at least) one of them must be incorrect. (Assuming the universe doesn't contradict itself, which I shall do here.)

I've been both a reader of LW and a Stoic for approximately two years, and I see the ideas represented here reflecting a lot of what I see in Stoicism.