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Positive Bias: Look Into the Dark

As my group's usual Zendo Master, I have a lot of players fall into this trap. I like to train new players with one easy property like "A Koan Has The Buddah Nature If (and only if) it contains a red piece." Once they understand the rules, I jump to something like "A Koan Has The Buddah Nature Unless It contains exactly two pieces."

Switching from a positively-marked property (there is a simple feature which all these things have) to a negatively-marked property (there is a simple feature which all these things lack) can be pretty eye-o... (read more)

Maybe this provides some insight into the nature of positive bias. In the game, the only goal is to find the rule; there is no punishment for asking a wrong sequence. But I guess the real life is not like this. In real life, especially in the ancient environment, making a wrong guess is costly; and our cognitive algorithms were optimized for that. For example, imagine that the rule is some taboo, punishable by death. It is better to avoid the punishment, than to find the boundaries precisely. Avoiding a superset of the taboo also has some cost, but that cost is probably cheaper than being stoned to death. If you know that the sequence "2-4-6" does not get you killed (unlike some other sequences, not explicitly known which ones), it may be wise to guess "2-4-6" over and over again.