unit 1 TextA
Love and logic: The story of a fallacy
1 I had my first date with Polly after I made the trade with my roommate Rob. That year every guy on campus had a leather jacket, and Rob couldn't stand the idea of being the only football player who didn't, so he made a pact that he'd give me his girl in exchange for my jacket. He wasn't the brightest guy. Polly wasn't too shrewd, either.
2 But she was pretty, well-off, didn't dye her hair strange colors or wear too much makeup. She had the right background to be the girlfriend of a dogged, brilliant lawyer. If I could show the elite law firms I applied to that I had a radiant, well-spoken counterpart by my side, I just might edge past the competition.
3 "Radiant" she was already. I could dispense her enough pearls of wisdom to make her "well-spoken".
4 After a banner day out, I drove until we were situated under a big old oak tree on a
hill off the expressway. What I had in mind was a little eccentric. I thought the venue with a perfect view of the luminous city would lighten the mood. We stayed in the car, and I turned down the stereo and took my foot off the brake pedal. "What are we going to talk about?" she asked.
6 "Cool," she said over her gum.
7 "The doctrine of logic," I said, "is a staple of clear thinking. Failures in logic distort the truth, and some of them are well known. First let's look at the fallacy Dicto Simpliciter."
8 "Great," she agreed.
9 "Dicto Simpliciter means an unqualified generalization. For example: Exercise is good. Therefore, everybody should exercise."
10 She nodded in agreement.
11 I could see she was stumped. "Polly," I explained, "it's too simple a generalization. If you have, say, heart disease or extreme obesity, exercise is bad, not good. Therefore, you must say exercise is good for most people."
12 "Next is Hasty Generalization. Self-explanatory, right? Listen carefully: You can't speak French. Rob can't speak French. Looks like nobody at this school can speak French."
13 "Really?" said Polly, amazed. "Nobody?"
14 "This is also a fallacy," I said. "The generalization is reached too hastily. Too few instances support such a conclusion."
15 She seemed to have a good time. I could safely say my plan was underway. I took her home and set a date for another conversation.
16 Seated under the oak the next evening I said, "Our first fallacy tonight is called Ad Misericordiam."
17 She nodded with delight.
18 "Listen closely," I said. "A man applies for a job. When the boss asks him what his qualifications are, he says he has six children to feed."
19 "Oh, this is awful, awful," she whispered in a choked voice.
20 "Yes, it's awful," I agreed, "but it's no argument. The man never answered the boss's question. Instead he appealed to the boss's sympathy —Ad Misericordiam." “对，是挺可怕的,”我表示赞同地说,“但这不是理由。这个人根本没有回答老板的问题，而只是在博取老板的同情，这就是‘文不对题’。”
21 She blinked, still trying hard to keep back her tears.
22 "Next," I said carefully, "we will discuss False Analogy. An example, students should be allowed to look at their textbooks during exams, because surgeons have X-rays to guide them during surgery."
23 "I like that idea," she said.
24 "Polly," I groaned, "don't derail the discussion. The inference is wrong. Doctors aren't taking a test to see how much they have learned, but students are. The situations are altogether different. You can't make an analogy between them."
25 "I still think it's a good idea," said Polly.
26 With five nights of diligent work, I actually made a logician out of Polly. She was an analytical thinker at last. The time had come for the conversion of our relationship from academic to romantic.
27 "Polly," I said when next we sat under our oak, "tonight we won't discuss fallacies."
28 "Oh?" she said, a little disappointed.
29 Favoring her with a grin, I said, "We have now spent five evenings together. We get along pretty well. We make a pretty good couple."
30 "Hasty Generalization," said Polly brightly. "Or as a normal person might say, that's
a little premature, don't you think?"
31 I laughed with amusement. She'd learned her lessons well, far surpassing my expectations. "Sweetheart," I said, patting her hand in a tolerant manner, "five dates is plenty. After all, you don't have to eat a whole cake to know it's good."
32 "False Analogy," said Polly promptly. "Your premise is that dating is like eating. But you're not a cake. You're a boy."
33 I laughed with somewhat less amusement, hiding my dread that she'd learned her lessons too well. A few more false steps would be my doom. I decided to change tactics and try flattery instead.
34 "Polly, I love you. Please say you'll go out with me. I'm nothing without you."
35 "Ad Misericordiam," she said.
36 "You certainly can discern a fallacy when you see it," I said, my hopes starting to
crumble. "But don't take them so literally. I mean this is all academic. You know the things you learn in school don't have anything to do with real life."
37 "Dicto Simpliciter," she said. "Besides, you really should practice what you preach."
38 I leaped to my feet, my temper flaring up. "Will you or will you not go out with me?"
39 "No to your proposition," she replied.
40 "Why?" I demanded.
41 "I'm more interested in a different petitioner —Rob and I are back together." “我对另一位求爱者更感兴趣——罗伯和我重归于好了。”
42 With great effort, I said calmly, "How could you give me the axe over Rob? Look at me, an ingenious student, a tremendous intellectual, a man with an assured future. Look at Rob, a muscular idiot, a guy who'll never know where his next meal is coming from. Can you give me one good reason why you should be with him?"
43 "Wow, what presumption! I'll put it in a way someone as brilliant as you can understand," retorted Polly, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "Full disclosure —I like Rob in leather. I told him to say yes to you so he could have your jacket!"
Why do smart people do dumb things?
1 Orthodox views prize intelligence and intellectual rigor highly in the modern realm of universities and tech industry jobs. One of the underlying assumptions of this value system is that smart people, by virtue of what they've learned, will formulate better decisions. Often this is true. Yet psychologists who study human decision-making processes have uncovered cognitive biases common to all people, regardless of intelligence, that can lead to poor decisions in experts and laymen alike. 传统观念将智力和思维的缜密性看作现代大学领域和科技产业工作的重要素质。这一价值体系所隐含的前提是，聪明人借助自己丰富的学识会作出更高明的决定。在大多数情况下，确实如此。但是，研究人类决策过程的心理学家们却发现了每个人身上都常见的“认知偏差”。不管智力水平如何，这些认知偏差都会引导人们作出错误的决定，不论他们是专家还是门外汉。
2 Thankfully these biases can be avoided. Understanding how and in what situations they occur can give you an awareness of your own limitations and allow you to factor them into your decision-making.
3 One of the most common biases is what is known as the fundamental attribution error. Through this people attribute the failures of others to character flaws and their own to mere circumstance, subconsciously considering their own characters to be stainless. "Jenkins lost his job because of his incompetence; I lost mine because of the recession." It also leads us to attribute our own success to our qualifications, discounting luck, while seeing others' success as the product of mere luck.
4 In other words, we typically demand more accountability from others than we do from ourselves. Not only does this lead to petty judgments about other people, it also leads to faulty risk assessment when you assume that certain bad things only happen to others. For example, you might assume, without evidence, that the price of your house will go up even though 90 percent of them have dropped in price, because you yourself are more competent.
5 Confirmation bias is sometimes found together with fundamental attribution error.
This one has two parts. First, we tend to gather and rely upon information that only confirms our existing views. Second, we avoid or veto things that refute our preexisting hypotheses.
6 For example, imagine that you suspect your computer has been hacked. Every time it stalls or has a little error, you assume that it was triggered by a hacker and that your suspicions are valid. This bias plays an especially big role in rivalries between two opposing views. Each side partitions their own beliefs in a logic-proof loop, and claims their opponent is failing to recognize valid points. Outwitting confirmation bias therefore requires exploring both sides of an argument with equal diligence.
7 Similar to confirmation bias is the overconfidence bias. In an ideal world, we could be correct 100 percent of the time we were 100 percent sure about something, correct 80 percent of the time we were 80 percent sure about something, and so on. In reality, people's confidence vastly exceeds the accuracy of those judgments. This bias most frequently comes into play in areas where someone has no direct evidence and must make a guess —estimating how many people are in a crowded plaza, for example, or how likely it will rain. To make matters worse, even when people are aware of overconfidence bias, they will still tend to overstate the chances that they are correct. Confidence is no prophet and is best used together with available evidence. When witnesses are called to testify in a court trial, the confidence in their testimony is measured along with and against the evidence at hand.