Do We Really Know What We Think We Do?

Check out this experiment from psychologist P.C. Wason.  I won’t explain the whole experiment here, but the idea is that we are inclined to look only for corroboration.  This error is more commonly called the confirmation bias.

Two Ways to Test a Rule

We can either look at instances where the rule works (direct route) or we can explore instances where it does not work (indirectly).  Which do you suppose to be more powerful (if you read the experiment linked above, you’ll know).  It turns out that disconfirming instances are better at getting us to the truth.  However, we struggle with recognizing this.

Think of someone you admire.  A relative, a public figure, anybody.  Now examine whether or not you admire him because of his accomplishments or because of what he may have tried and failed to do?  Anyone trying to convince you of anything will gladly show you evidence that supports the truth of their hypothesis.  Rarely will they show you the failures along the way, or reveal the negative inferences of something ultimately positive.

We can easily find confirmation.  It is everywhere.  So is there a workaround that will enable us to use inference of disconfirming information to identify rules?  Well……..perhaps.

Lets make the distinction that a series of corroborative facts isn’t necessarily evidence.  For instance, if I live in southern California and experience 100 days without an earthquake does this confirm that earthquakes don’t exist?  Or think about cancer for a moment.  If a cancerous tumor is discovered in my body, I’ve got cancer.  But the absence of the discovery of said tumor does not guarantee I’m cancer free.

Looking at Data

I’m guilty of too readily believing data.  Someone in the health and fitness world produces a study with good data and I’m inclined to confirm they must be right!  Often times vast amounts of data can be meaningless and other times one single piece of information can be immensely meaningful.  In other words if I predict there are no earthquakes and we go 100,000 days without one but on day 100,001 there is one, I’m still wrong.

So What Does This Mean?

It means we should be semi-skeptics.  Especially when it comes to our health and fitness.  I challenge us all to approach health/fitness information and especially any fads/trends/styles as follows: first, formulate a strong conjecture and then seek out the observation that proves you to be wrong.

This is the equivalent of doing the exact opposite of what comes naturally to us (to seek confirmation), so beware that it is not easy.  I have a terrible time applying this in my own life.  But others have applied this to their lives (chess grand masters and “gold medalist” level financial traders), so I know it is possible to develop.

Seek out the rules that get you to your health and fitness goals not by “seeing” things that confirm your theories, but by finding instances that prove your initial theory wrong.

All That Being Said

Can anyone think of an instance where pullups, farmer carries, rowing, pushups, jump rope, and double unders aren’t a good idea???????

See the power of recognizing the confirmation bias?  I thought you would 🙂

The Oboard Says…

2 Rounds Through

AMRAP 3 Minutes
100m Farmer Carry
15 Pullups / Ring Rows
….Rest 90 sec….
AMRAP 3 Minutes
500m Row
Max pushups
…..Rest 90 sec…..
AMRAP 3 Minutes
40 Doubles
4 Clean & Jerk
…..Rest 90 sec….

Posted by: Stets