Am I right?

How right are you about what you think and believe? Seth Roberts suggests you are less right than you think:

What’s interesting is that logarithmically right is a good way of describing how one’s beliefs should be transformed to be a fair approximation of the truth. When you think you are right, you probably are — but logarithmically. Much less than you think.

Yes, you are almost certainly wrong in many of your beliefs in some way or another. You are likely much less right than you think,* which means you are more wrong. So maybe a better question than asking yourself, “am I right?” is to ask, “in what ways am I wrong?”

This is especially important for researchers, because there are so many ways you can go wrong, even with a well-designed, well-controlled experiment. It’s even more critical for those who do observational studies. I do observational studies because you can’t randomize students to live in different cultures. Any explanation I come up with for why we see the outcomes we do must be considered in the context of the myriad other explanations that might give rise to the exact same correlational patterns.

Not all researchers want to try to see how they’re wrong. For example, T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, doesn’t seem interested in how he might be wrong. He just wants to prove that he’s right.

*Why do I say you are likely much less right than you think? Cognitive biases drag you away from objective understanding.


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