Welcome to my first entry as your guest Skepchick blogger!
Rebecca is gadding about in Europe, and has inexplicably left me behind.
I first found out that I’d be the stand-in last Wednesday, and spent most of the week thinking about how to start.
Actually, that’s a lie. I spent most of the week freaking out.
Wednesday night: “OMG OMG OMG OMG, I’m going to kill Becca’s blog!”
I took a Xanax and went to sleep.
Thursday night: “I should write about…I have no idea what to write about.”
I took a Vicodan and went to sleep.
Friday night: “I should draft something out for Rebecca’s blog…but first, I’ll have a little drink.”
So, it’s Saturday morning.
And I thought I would start with a short story about cognitive bias.
As you can see from that list, there are a lot of ways to muck up your thinking.
People often see what they are expecting, not what is actually there.
There are some really great optical illusions that demonstrate this.
In fact, this particular optical illusion has been fooling people into thinking it’s a president for several years.
But.. I digress.
Recently, I had something digging big holes under my house. I switched on the light one night, and there was a raccoon on our front stairs. Raccoons are known to like burrows, and I had a lovely cistern perfect for living in. After 3 weeks of trying various ways of excluding or discouraging raccoons from digging, and unsuccessful live trapping, we finally called a professional. He set up some kill traps.
Two days later, there was a furry body under the stairs. Huzzah! No more raccoons!
The trapper didn’t come to collect his body right away, and since it was under our bedroom window, and a wee bit smelly, I decided to move it.
I picked up the corpse and moved it out into the drive way. In plain view. And went happily off to putter in the garden.
Hubby came home. I warn him not to step on the raccoon. As I’m helping him unload the groceries, I think: “Damn. That raccoon has one hell of an overbite.”
Couple hours later, I collect the mail. As I walk past the raccoon, I think: “What happened to that raccoon’s tail? It’s awfully short.
And that was how, a full 6 hours after actually picking up and carrying the animal and putting it in plain sight, I finally realized we had a woodchuck, not a raccoon. These animals are completely different–it’s like mistaking a rat for a bear.
My brain took the part of the information that fit my hypothesis and ignored all the contradictary information. Like, lack of a prominent ringed tail. Or the presence of big, pointy teeth.
Fluffy dead thing = raccoon.
The moral of my little story is that we must all be careful to constantly scrutinize our thinking and information gathering to make sure we don’t become careless.
I’m hoping that since you are visiting Rebecca’s blog to read witty, insightful commentary written by a total hottie, you will see exactly what you expect to see.