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Biotech Science

Monkeys and Cognitive Dissonance 229

Hugh Pickens writes "People deal with cognitive dissonance — the clashing of conflicting thoughts — by eliminating one of the thoughts. Psychologists have suggested we hone our skills of rationalization in order to impress others, reaffirm our "moral integrity" and protect our "self-concept" and feeling of "global self-worth." Now experimenters at Yale have demonstrated that other primates employ the same psychological mechanism. In one experiment, a monkey was observed to show an equal preference for three colors of M&M's and was given a choice between two of them. If he chose red over blue, his preference changed and he downgraded blue. When he was subsequently given a choice between blue and green, it was no longer an even contest — he was now much more likely to reject the blue. Rationalization is thought to have an evolutionary utility; once a decision has been made, second-guessing may just interfere with more important business. "We tend to think people have an explicit agenda to rewrite history to make themselves look right, but that's an outsider's perspective. This experiment shows that there isn't always much conscious thought going on," said one researcher."
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Monkeys and Cognitive Dissonance

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  • by phoebusQ ( 539940 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @10:03PM (#21276817)
    ...but frankly, I think these are some pretty heavy conclusions to draw from the discussed studies.
    • by Harmonious Botch ( 921977 ) * on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @10:06PM (#21276849) Homepage Journal
      You only say that because you said it last time.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by mrbluze ( 1034940 )

      ...but frankly, I think these are some pretty heavy conclusions to draw from the discussed studies.
      I hope his mentor doesn't get to read that comment. It might cost him his PhD.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I still think there's something to be said for the idea that people, and likely monkeys, become invested in their decisions on a less fundamental level than habit.
      That would be the desire to not be wrong.....

      if we make a choice, then are presented with the same choice, under the same circumstances (cravings, often based on current nutrient requirements don't count) we are prone to validate, rather than invalidate our previous choice by a very real urge to be "right"
      • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Thursday November 08, 2007 @11:17AM (#21282119)
        I see this all the time in the world.

        People make an arbitrary decision. And then they just stick with it.

        It's very hard to overcome their position with facts because it is not a logical decision. It is usually better to argue with the emotionally. If you can shift their emotions, they are more likely to shift their position.

        With facts they
        1) Request more facts
        2) Request impossible to gather amount of facts
        3) Keep forgetting or misunderstanding facts they do not "like"
        4) Discount facts (you have a total sales they dislike, they question the entire methodology for calculating the total).

    • by Cassius Corodes ( 1084513 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @10:29PM (#21277051)
      I agree with you, while the numerous studies have shown cognitive dissonance in humans - if all they have to prove it in monkeys is that study then they are not on solid ground. Having said that I do think that its highly likely that monkeys do use this process, simply because they share a lot of other behaviours with us as well.
    • by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @11:14PM (#21277393)

      ...but frankly, I think these are some pretty heavy conclusions to draw from the discussed studies.

      Yeah. I wish the monkey could tell them, 'You know what? Did it ever occur to you I just don't like blue fucking M&M's? They're just unnatural.'

      • by mcmonkey ( 96054 )

        Yeah. I wish the monkey could tell them, 'You know what? Did it ever occur to you I just don't like blue fucking M&M's? They're just unnatural.'

        The point is, since the monkey can't just tell us why they pick one M&M over another, the conclusion in TFA is a wild-ass guess. Perhaps the monkey prefers blue M&Ms and is saving them. He covets them.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      The thoughts I had after reading the article (yes, I did)... The thoughts we have and the decisions we make are not always initialized in the concious mind. They are running at the basic level, underneath our concious "windowing system" of thoughts. We are merely interpretting what the system is doing and displaying it in a fashion that is usable.

      From what I understood the monkeys were given three different colors to eat. They had all three to choose from at the start. Surely the monkeys would have eaten fr
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      They also don't seem to have taken into account some monkeys [wikipedia.org] drop all thought as a method of resolution. Obviously better equipped for survival.
    • Have you ever been in a waiting room with the usual set of old magazines. None of them seems particularly interesting. Then someone comes into a room and takes a magazine and starts reading it. Suddenly that magazine becomes very interesting, you might try to read some headlines over their shoulders if you can. I am not the only person who experiences this, frequently after I put down a magazine I took at random a couple of people will reach for it.

      It is just as likely that rather than the blue M&M b
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by dintech ( 998802 )
        Yes but that magazine had over 1001 high street bargains, the top 10 tips to get the man of your dreams and how to lose 14 pounds in one week. It's impossible no to look.
  • by explosivejared ( 1186049 ) <hagan.jared@gmailCHEETAH.com minus cat> on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @10:04PM (#21276819)
    I think we should all take the high road and not take a swing at the underhanded pitch thrown to us here. Bush administration references are just too easy. Save yourself the time and just laugh preemptively.
    • So what you're saying is... that the Bush administration is nothing but one big cognitive dissonance? *head exlpodes*
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Thursday November 08, 2007 @01:54AM (#21278359) Journal
      Bush administration references are just too easy.

      Indeed. I don't know whether this is a conscience effort or subconscious. Take a gander at the catch-phrases in it:

      * monkey
      * cognitive dissonance
      * the clashing of conflicting thoughts -- by eliminating one of the thoughts.
      * skills of rationalization in order to impress others
      * protect our "self-concept"
      * much more likely to reject the blue [as in "blue States"]
      * rationalization
      * once a decision has been made, second-guessing may just interfere
      * rewrite history to make themselves look right
      And the clincher:
      * isn't always much conscious thought going on
             
  • Surprised? (Score:3, Funny)

    by UncleTogie ( 1004853 ) * on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @10:05PM (#21276833) Homepage Journal

    This experiment shows that there isn't always much conscious thought going on.

    Heck, one look at drivers, TV, and movies today could've told ya that for a LOT less money.

    • This experiment shows that there isn't always much conscious thought going on.

      Heck, one look at drivers, TV, and movies today could've told ya that for a LOT less money.
      Erm.. shouldn't that read "for a LOT less monkey"?
    • What the heck do drivers have to do with this? Once someone writes one, everyone else uses it as a template?
    • ...people have an explicit agenda to rewrite history to make themselves look right, but that's an outsider's perspective. This experiment shows that there isn't always much conscious thought going on.

      That sure explains a lot about some managers I've known.

      Cheers,
      Dave

  • M&Ms (Score:4, Funny)

    by robvangelder ( 472838 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @10:06PM (#21276847)
    I'm sorry, but Blue M&Ms taste disgusting. Even a monkey knows that.
    • There you go ratonalizing it again!
  • Color vision... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @10:06PM (#21276853) Homepage Journal
    As a vision scientist, I have to ask if they controlled for trichromacy vs. dichromacy? In other words, like humans, some monkeys do not see the three colors that most humans do...

    • No, these are psychologists, not real scientists.
      • Re:Color vision... (Score:5, Informative)

        by WAG24601G ( 719991 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @11:26PM (#21277491)
        The irony of your reply is that a lot of the early work in animal color perception was done by psychologists. Operant conditioning experiments (with discriminative stimuli) reveal which colors an animal subject can effectively distinguish.

        Mods - if you must agree with the parent, rank it "Funny" or at least "Insightful"... but there is nothing informative about it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Abeydoun ( 1096003 )
      Very good point. I actually did some Googling to check this out and I found this abstract http://jp.physoc.org/cgi/content/abstract/528/3/573 [physoc.org]. What I got out of this is that apparently the genus of monkeys they used (Cebus, which are "New world" monkeys) are known to be highly varied in trichromacy (most females) vs dichromacy (all males(?)) among sexes. So I guess the easiest way for them to not have to worry about that is by using all male monkeys... but then again, as someone with a very incomplete know
    • Re:Color vision... (Score:5, Informative)

      by jpfed ( 1095443 ) <[jerry.federspiel] [at] [gmail.com]> on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @11:04PM (#21277327)
      I haven't worked in the vision lab for a few months (and I did only work with humans), so maybe I'm getting rusty :) but I thought that it would be easy for even a dichromat to distinguish between red and blue? I mean, what single cone, if disabled, would produce a difficulty in distinguishing red from blue?

      Did you mean maybe that these monkeys diverged from humans' evolutionary branch before the red and green cones differentiated from the older, yellow cone? If that were the case, they still should have no trouble distinguishing red from blue.
      • by Kaenneth ( 82978 )
        Or, they may have shuffled the colors around for different test runs, to eliminate simple color preferance.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Did you mean maybe that these monkeys diverged from humans' evolutionary branch before the red and green cones differentiated from the older, yellow cone? If that were the case, they still should have no trouble distinguishing red from blue.

        Yes, they would have no trouble distinguishing red from blue. But they would have trouble telling red and green apart, especially if not shown next to each other, as was the case in this experiment.

        After the first test, the monkey made the choice that he preferred yellow (in his eyes...) over blue.

        So, after the second test, it was perfectly logical for the monkey to prefer a slightly different shade of yellow (again, in his eyes...) over blue.

      • The most common form of dichromacy in humans is the inability to distinguish red from green. If these monkeys had that type of vision, in both the red vs blue case and the green vs blue case they thought they were choosing the same color. To reiterate TA: they had a choice between red and blue, they chose red; then they had a choice between green and blue, they chose green. If they had the same dichromacy that is common in humans, they would have thought that the green M&M was the same color as the red
    • by Ieshan ( 409693 ) <ieshan&gmail,com> on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @11:27PM (#21277493) Homepage Journal
      Not that I am in any way supporting or rejecting the claims made in the study, but your criticism is probably unfounded**.

      The M&M (and sticker choices) were different across subjects, so it is unlikely that a systematic bias could result from visual perception of the items. The M&M choices chosen for the subjects were determined by relatively equal preference in a pretraining phase of the experiment. Given the fact that they find an effect, it's unlikely that it's due to an inability to tell the items apart.

      Specifically:
      We first assessed the monkeys' existing preferences for M&M's of different colors by timing how long they took to retrieve individual M&M's. For each monkey, preferences for at least nine different M&M colors were assessed. As each preference test began, the monkey was inside its home cage, just outside a testing chamber, and was allowed to watch as the experimenter placed one colored M&M on a tray outside the other side of the chamber. The door to the testing chamber was opened, and the monkey was allowed to enter when it wished to retrieve the M&M. We measured how quickly the monkey entered the testing chamber to retrieve the M&M. Preferences for each color were assessed across 20 trials per monkey; trials for each color spanned two experimental sessions.

      After preference testing, we performed analyses of variance to determine whether each monkey had statistically significant preferences. We identified triads of equally preferred colors (all ps > .05), and designated the items within each triad as choices A, B, and C (choices were specific to each individual monkey); although there were no significant differences in preferences across the three M&M colors within a triad, we conservatively used each subject's least preferred color of the three (i.e., the one the monkey took longest to obtain during preference testing) as option C.

      **By the way, I've been reading your slashdot comments for quite some time, and so don't take this as a personal affront or anything. =) I think you're probably one of the better scientist/posters on the site. =)
      • The preference testing seems a bit weak. A sample of 20 is always going to be pretty small for testing a uniform distribution, but in fact the conclusion is that the monkeys adjust their preferences after eating each M&M, which means that the samples are not independent, so the effective sample size for guaranteeing "no preference" is going to be much less in case the hypothesis is accepted. In other words, it's unclear if the selected monkeys had a preference or not to begin with.

        Besides the above, i

        • by Ieshan ( 409693 )
          I'm not really sure what you mean here. On the one hand, you make a claim about the paucity of the sample and its insuffiency in determining a uniform preference. On the other, you claim that wondering about this is a waste of time because later bias to choose a particular color can be influenced by a choice procedure.

          Whether or not these things are true is somewhat orthogonal to the original question, which was essentially, "How do we know the effects are not caused by different color perception in monkeys
          • Whether or not these things are true is somewhat orthogonal to the original question, which was essentially, "How do we know the effects are not caused by different color perception in monkeys and humans?". (apologies for the poor paraphrase)

            Good point. My comment was not aimed at that question at all, sorry :(. I read the paragraph on methodology and must have been thinking of the article in general or some other comment.

            I'm not really sure what you mean here. On the one hand, you ma

          • Excellent discussion. Why not eliminate the whole color perception issue by using monochromatic custom M&Ms [mymms.com] with different simple symbols on them, say, squares, triangles, and circles?


            Or hearts, moons, stars, and clovers, if you're into old school Lucky Charms. 8-)

      • For each monkey, preferences for at least nine different M&M colors were assessed.
        Where can I get nine different colors of M&M's?

        Don't tell me Wal*Mart. I hate that store. I used to consider it on par with Biggs, Meijer, Kroger, Target, etc. But once I checked out Kroger, I can tell you that there's no comparison!

  • I pretty much live in a continual jumble of thoughts, and then somehow fit them all together into a single picture, where both hold together. Contradiction! I used to be horrified of internal inconsistency and contradiction, and now, I just don't care, and take the whole jumbled mess for what it is.
    • by gik ( 256327 )
      Maybe you've decided that accepting contradiction is the best course of action because it's a tactic you've chosen before... not because you've discovered it to be the best tactic. ...I'm just sayin' is all...
    • I pretty much live in a continual jumble of thoughts, and then somehow fit them all together into a single picture, where both hold together.

      If you don't already know about it, you may be pleased to know that philosophers have described this exact process. The original thought is called the Thesis, the thought that comes along and contradicts it is called the Antithesis, and the new insight gained from refusing to reject either out of hand but instead working toward a new understanding that takes both i

  • Unconvinced (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SpaceAmoeba ( 1159183 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @10:15PM (#21276943)
    I'm not so sure this is the same thing as what humans experience as cognitive dissonance, or it may only be a subset of the phenomenon. When people are employing cognitive dissonance there is actual work going on - they are not just making the same choice again, but rationalizing why that choice is the correct one and in the process deciding for it again. They are willful and not just sticking to a rut.
    • The question is, does the rationalization come before or afterwards? A possibility is that the choice is made essentially instinctively, for no reason other than consistency with the previous decision (as in the monkey experiment), and then we later rationalize the decision. Of course, 'later' can mean 'immediately after'; perhaps we tend to make decisions instinctively and then fool ourselves into believing we are making a choice when all it is is a crude rationalization of a decision already made subcon
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It seems like a significant portion of consciousness is creating the delusion that the conscious mind is leading the charge when most time it is the last to know. Even muscle movement can be shown to be marshalled and initiated by lower brain systems slightly before the conscious mind even thinks the thought to move.
  • by 3ryon ( 415000 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @10:18PM (#21276959)
    "Man is not a rational animal. He's a rationalizing animal."

    - Robert A. Heinlein
  • It's a bit of a jump to compare the selection of M&Ms by colour to the motives of revisionist historians.
  • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @10:45PM (#21277165) Journal
    It's called reenforcement. Like Pavlov's dog salivating.

    The blue M&M was not preferred. The monkey felt bad about being given what it didn't prefer. This bad feeling became associated with the blue M&M and the monkey therefore preferred any other colour.

    Reminds me of what happens when I've bought bad buggy software. After a while even if there are improvements, if you've been disappionted enough you'd rather use any other piece of software that does the same job.

    In other words, for some slashdotters, Windows is the blue M&M.

    What exactly is new here?
    • The blue M&M was not preferred. The monkey felt bad about being given what it didn't prefer. This bad feeling became associated with the blue M&M and the monkey therefore preferred any other colour.

      That relies on the monkey preferring a particular colour. Of course, monkeys may well prefer red (berry coloured) m&ms to blue (not so berry coloured unless the monkey's had blueberries) m&ms.

      I think a simple alternative interpretation is just that monkeys, like most animals, are curious. Having seen both red and blue m&ms frequently, it can categorize both and knows what each tastes like. When it sees a green one next to a blue one it goes "ooh a new colour" and tries the green.

      • by Ieshan ( 409693 )
        Novelty would be a fine explanation, but in both types of trials (choice and no-choice trials), the monkeys saw both alternatives. The difference was in the fact that in one type of trials, the monkey was allowed to make a choice.

        Also, the stimuli weren't really novel - they had lots of exposure to these things.
    • "Initially, for Windows 95 Users were given the opportunity to use three browsers: Netscape, Opera, and Internet Explorer.

      Once preference for Netscape was established, a subsequent choice made Netscape unavailable. Users were then presented only with Internet Explorer and Opera.

      Once the flaws of Internet Explorer were discovered, it was downgraded. Later, when Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Opera were once again presented, Internet Explorer was no longer given an equal preference."

    • "It's called reenforcement. Like Pavlov's dog salivating.

      The blue M&M was not preferred. The monkey felt bad about being given what it didn't prefer. This bad feeling became associated with the blue M&M and the monkey therefore preferred any other colour."

      I've already tried to address this issue in other posts in this thread, but the authors take great pains to equilibrate preference for the choice offered to the Monkeys.

      Furthermore, Pavlov's dogs do not salivate because of reinforcement per se. Pav
  • by mattgreen ( 701203 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @10:45PM (#21277175)
    This site is an excellent example of how people don't deal with cognitive dissonance very well. All you need to do is look at articles that paint popular companies in a slightly bad light. Rather than try to reconcile the fact that something they like did something they don't like, they just try to rationalize it away. There's always someone that leaps to the front with a carefully constructed, big-ass explanation of why this issue is overblown, or it isn't an issue at all. It is almost like they're on the payroll for said companies. In more extreme cases, the apologist may be forced to concede that the act was bad, but they can always backpedal and say, "well, at least they aren't murdering puppies all the time like this other company!" Ah, nothing like capitalizing on the popularity of moral relativism to make weak arguments.
    • All you need to do is look at articles that paint popular companies in a slightly bad light. Rather than try to reconcile the fact that something they like did something they don't like, they just try to rationalize it away.

      That, my freind, is not cognitive dissonance, that is cognitive cancellation, otherwise known as RDF, or reality distortion field.

      Cognitive dissonance occurs when the brain waves of one idea don't harmonise nicely with another idea. The result of mixing the brain waves/ideas is dissona

  • by Talinom ( 243100 ) * on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @10:47PM (#21277187) Homepage Journal
    So this is why the other side in the [insert heated political debate] is wrong.

    And here I thought that they were just stupid.
  • by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @10:47PM (#21277191)
    How can they ethically give M&Ms to an animal? Depraved scientists, inflicting harm just for the fun of it.
  • It was Robert Heinlein who quipped "Man is not a rational animal. Man is a rationalizing animal". Looks like if one wanted to use that as a distinction of humanity, one is out of luck.
  • That monkey's choosing behavior sounds a lot like what humans do that we call "throwing out the baby with the bathwater". Choosing green over blue because we chose red over blue is not very highly "cognitive". It's the kind of stupid thinking that looks like cognitive malfunction, or just monkey business, when humans do it.
  • Who we are? Monkeys! :)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a15KgyXBX24 [youtube.com]

    (dance, monkey, dance!)
  • "People deal with cognitive dissonance -- the clashing of conflicting thoughts -- by eliminating one of the thoughts.

    This idea is simply not true. It really bugs me when I read something like this.

    First of all, people can hold thoughts in cognitive dissonance for a long time, sometimes an entire lifetime without necessarily eliminating one or the other. I realize I'm opening up myself to a lot of snarky comments by saying it, but it's true nonetheless.

    Secondly, cognitive growth, that is, conceptual g

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by adatepej ( 1154117 )
      Yes, I absolutely agree with you, at least to a certain extent. Cognitive dissonance is sometimes resolved by something that could be called synthesis, but synthesis can resemble rejection of one thought or the other. How? Because one valid synthesis is thus: "I hold both proposition A and proposition B to be true. Belief in each proposition implies a ideal course of action (behavior) which excludes the behavior which is implied to be ideal by the other proposition. Therefore, an individual who demonstrates
  • by ravenshrike ( 808508 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @11:42PM (#21277623)
    Funny as hell, and it shows the author is an idiot. If you chose the yellow car that had bad gas mileage over the blue "sensible" car, than you probably weren't rating gas mileage as an important consideration. Your were probably considering the options/engine displacement as being higher on your objectives list. Different people have different preferences, which is why someone else would rate high gas mileage as more important. Now, if the cars were the exact same except for color and gas milage, than you could be said to have a sub-optimal intellect. Or neon yellow could be you favorite color and you could find blue dreadfully dull. Again, the example given has nothing to do with the study, or rather shouldn't if the study measures what it claims, which I doubt.
    • My theory is that the yellow-car paragraph was inserted into the story by a wayward computer to generate visits to the NY Times' health guide entry on flatulence [nytimes.com] through the gratuitous auto-hyperlink on the word "gas" in this sentence:

      "Why did we evolve with brains that salute our shrewdness for buying the neon yellow car with bad gas mileage?"

      Oh, Computers! So naughty, and so complex!
      • Maybe, just maybe, they were talking about 'bad gas mileage', not 'bad gas mileage'? Maybe the neon yellow car (a contradiction in terms, by the way, neon radiates a reddish-orange colour when excited) is modified to run off methane, and can get appreciable mileage from someone with a bad case of the beany burritos? ;)
  • by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Thursday November 08, 2007 @12:21AM (#21277911)
    I've eaten yellow things before. And Red things. Real things. Like those cherry tomatoes before they're ripe. They're not my first pick. I'd rather have a red tomato. Or a red berry. But Blue?

    Blue food barely exists in nature. There are two foods which are blue. Blue Berries and nasty French Cheese.

    And how many blue berries grow in the jungle, anyway? --Of course, jungles are filled with all kinds of weird and un-cataloged beasties and plants, some of which may indeed be blue, but they could just as likely be toxic and bitter tasting. . . My point here is. . , my point. . .

    Well, what I'm saying is that maybe there were other processes at work in the test subject's decision-making process. Heck, I don't even like blue smarties, and I don't have hair on my bum.

    And anyway, I thought cognitive dissonance was the psychological result of believing one thing while evidence to the opposite exists right in your face. That's the more entertaining take on it, anyway. Nobody is going to throw a fit over blue M&M's. But reality versus sacred cows. . . Man, you can start wars over stuff like that! Cuz, you know, some things really are true while others really are not. Everything else is opinion. Funny how wrong people with strong opinions are generally the first to start shooting.

    Say. . . Did they ever try selling boxes of all red Smarties?

    I bet if they did, it flopped. Life, after all, is all about making decisions. When the decisions have all been made, you're better off dead.


    -FL

    • Wow, mod parent up. The blue food angle is a huge factor here. I think we, as humans, are used to seeing things with a lot of food coloring in them, and we've learned to eat them, but our natural instinct (and the monkey's) might just be to steer clear of them.

      As if that concept weren't enough, there's a web site devoted to color [colormatters.com] which specially mentions that blue M&M's are supposedly unappetizing [colormatters.com]!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Chapter80 ( 926879 )
      Wow, mod parent down. The article gave ONE example (Red-Blue-Green), but as was mentioned elsewhere, the original study had a variety of colors, and different monkeys chose different initial preferences. It was a science article in the New York Times, which glossed over some facts. See the original study to understand why the parent's "blue hypothesis" should not be considered a factor.
  • ...it is the classical deadlock resolution with built-in optimization.

    Not extremely surprising.

  • This is something I notice nearly everyone does. We hate to admit we're wrong and if you do admit it, people are more prejudiced against you. If you look at it logically, it makes almost no sense because why should a previous decision or conclusion have any effect on my current conclusion at this time when I have the luxury of gathering more information on the question. Until this was pointed out to me by Nicholas Taleb in "Black Swan" and "Fooled by Randomness", I wasn't very keen to change mind after I
  • by brit74 ( 831798 ) on Thursday November 08, 2007 @01:53AM (#21278355)
    It should've ended with: "We tend to think people have an explicit agenda to rewrite history to make themselves look right, but that's an outsider's perspective. This experiment shows that there isn't always much conscious thought going on," said one researcher who was using his skills of rationalization in order to impress others.
  • "This experiment shows that there isn't always much conscious thought going on"

    I would have said 'is hardly ever' rather than 'isn't always', but the idea is there.
  • Over-interpreting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Thursday November 08, 2007 @03:54AM (#21278913)
    I think they over-interpret their findings. I can see that they have given a reasonably reliable demonstration of the phenomenon 'cognitive dissonance' in monkeys; after all, it only means that once you've made a decision, you are likely to make the same decision again. This makes sense in the real world, of course - we make a decision, find that it works well enough, and in the future we don't need to spend time and effort on making that decision again. Otherwise we waste time that could be used on finding food, having sex and other things that promote the survival of the species.

    But talking about 'moral integrity' and 'global self-worth' is far-fetched. For one thing, I can't see that it is necessary to explain it any further than I have outlined above. I think there may be reasons to believe that animals other than humans have something like a sense of morality and self-worth, but this has nothing to do with it. I wish researchers (or perhaps it is the reporter?) would stop this kind of nonsense - it makes people lose respect for the genuine and valuable research that goes on into understanding the other animals on the planet, because they get associations of bunnies in waist-coats drinking tea.
  • "there isn't always much conscious thought going on"

    Yeah, I had kind of gathered that from looking around.

    Cheers.

  • Did the monkey which didn't like blue and therefore chose green, choose no M&Ms if presented a choice between only blue candies?
  • Round 1: Geeks are presented vi and emacs as choice of editor

    Round 2: Geeks are presented vi and pico as choice of editor ....

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