Monday, October 1, 2012

Bad Argument: Apophenia and Patternicity

Have you ever looked at some things in nature, and decided there is meaningful pattern there, even though there was no proof there actually is?

For example, if the stock prices went up, down, then established a new all-time high. Is that a signal for what will happen the next day?  Ever looked at "candlestick charts"?

How about "streaks" in gambling? Do you think having hit three "greens" in a row on roulette is some sort of a pattern?  Is it MORE or LESS likely to hit another green?

How about finding religious symbols where you didn't expect any, like on a piece of toast, or on glass panel or even a wood door?  Do you see Jesus or Virgin Mary and such in odd places?

Skeptic Michael Shermer
Skeptic Michael Shermer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If so, you have "apophenia" coined in 1958 by Klaus Conrad, that described the way mind sees patterns where there is none. Noted skeptic Michael Shermer coined the term "patternicity" in 2008 which means "the tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise". They are essentially the same thing.

In other words, you are ascribing meaning to things that don't have any, or you're ascribing more meaning than it really says.

Scammers knows this, and are known to use "priming" to "suggest" patterns to make you see data THEIR way instead of alternate, and far more reasonable explanations.

Human brain "learns" the sequence, event A leads to event B. However, many times, event A and event B are actually UNRELATED. Still, your brain will make the association, because usually even if they are NOT related, believing that they *are* related is not harmful to you, but believing they are NOT related may hurt you. Thus, your mind will default to assume most patterns are "true", instead of doubt.

Scammers's job is to show you "event A": join them and pay them, will lead to "event B": earn lots of money legally doing little if anything, and show you just enough that will erase all doubt from your mind, so you convince yourself. Remember, your DEFAULT mind position is to ACCEPT the connection between the two events, except a few things like "nagging doubt" and "common sense", as well as rational analysis.

By showing you the conclusion they WANT you to reach, they have "primed" your mind into seeing the pattern "their way".

Scammers often use peer pressure, with verbiage like "your family, your friends, or people just like them have already joined and making great income!"  To you, that looks like a pattern. The impression "they" want you to get is "join now, pay us, and you can be just like other people who are making great income." But are there alternate explanations? That, they don't tell you about. Perhaps, they are all getting scammed? Perhaps a few people are getting paid real money as judas goats to lead all you sheep to slaughter?

Internet is also full of patterns. Let's say you search for a suspect scheme's name, and you found the first 50 results are all positive. That is clearly a pattern... but what exactly is it? The impression "they" want you to get is "all these people can't be all wrong, it's a great opportunity!"  However, there are plenty of alternate explanations... such as spam,  SEO (tricks to make crap content appear to be relevant), and intentional content replication.

The point is... if you see patterns, make sure the patterns are REALLY there, then make sure you reached the RIGHT conclusion (or determine there is no one conclusion that stands out)  instead whatever conclusion they *want* you to make.

Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment