Most of us have many conversations each day: a quick “good morning” to our cohabitants, small talk at the office water cooler, a phone call to your mother to catch up, chatting with your children about their day over dinner, haggling with a client over price, a tax meeting with your accountant, some flirtatious banter … Read more
Why are people naturally inclined to be thoroughly convinced by confirming anecdotes, while also being naturally inclined to ignore falsifying ones? … I want to propose that we can explain this epistemically vicious reception of anecdotes by appealing to two phenomenal features of information channels.
People share memes all the time, even when those memes have tell-tale signs that they are inaccurate, incomplete, or in some way are trying to mislead. Similarly, people fall for advance-fee and password reset email scams all the time, despite these emails being formulaic and easy to spot. Why? I suggest here that it’s in part because of the way in which representations are transparent to us. We normally notice the message, not the medium, including tell-tale signs of falsity in the medium. I also suggest that transparency is part of why people often struggle to distinguish representation from reality.
Some people are normally only ever very confident about what’s true and false. Others find it hard to make up their minds. Both are bad, and lead to interesting (but epistemically vicious) dynamics in how these people form and assign credences.