Then on to matters more weighty in the shape of Aristotle. Here's a useful flying overview of the man and his work:
We then discussed the concept of 'gnothi seauton', or self-knowledge, which is a concept of fundamental importance to Aristotle's philosophy. Seneca (a Roman philosopher) claims, "Other men's sins are before our own eyes; our own are behind our backs" - a statement that the class confessed was true. So in the spirit of Aristotelean self-knowledge, we explored the idea of cognitive bias (i.e. irrational thinking), a notion mentioned by Ken Taylor in last week's lesson, and which we discussed in the context of Milgram's 'electric shock' obedience experiments.
We took part in a quiz that sneakily demonstrated the following biases from which humans unknowingly tend to suffer:
Attribution bias (science test question)Using internal personality characteristics to explain others’ actions, but to ascribe our own failure to external factors only. It was interesting to see how many of you didn't succumb to this bias, but instead showed insightful (maybe overly-harsh!) levels of self-criticism.
Overconfidence bias (Jakarta question)The mistake of being more confident in your actions than experience or logic would dictate to be appropriate. A useful bias, which helps us get out of bed in the mornings and face a day packed with problems.
Ingroup bias (debating team question)The tendency to favour or think better of members of one’s own perceived social groupings. The root of much prejudicial thinking, but also a bias that helps us form strong social bonds.
Primacy/recency bias (list question)
The tendency to remember the first and last things in a list/narrative. Unless you have a photographic memory!
Aristotle advocates understanding our weaknesses and excesses in order to correct them: fortunately, the last century has seen an explosion in psychological research to provide evidence of these. If you're interested in this kind of thing, you can read more about them here.