Sunday, June 12, 2016

Cognitive Bias: Choice Supportive Bias (aka Post-hoc Rationalization)

Previously we have often talked about cognitive dissoance, which is basically when a person is faced with two sets of "truths", and they conflict, therefore one set of which must be false.

For example, let's say the person has joined a suspect scheme, and is withdrawing money bi-weekly, but not yet achieved breakeven. Then he's exposed to a source that explained that the scheme is a scam with trustworthy sources.

So, how does one resolve this conflict between two sets of facts... a) the scheme works, I am getting paid  and b) the scheme is a scam ?

One way the conflict can be resolved is through "choice supportive bias", also known as post-hoc rationalization. As the person is already in the scheme, the person is likely to choose to continue in the scheme and therefore decide that the trustworthy sources (that explain the scheme is a scam) are NOT acceptable.

Basically, the person wants the answer to be "scheme is fine" and thus chose that outcome, and came up with reasons to discount the trustworthy sources post-hoc (after the fact). Normal logic is  check all the sources, then arrive at the conclusion. This is the reverse... The person know the conclusion s/he wants, then come up with the reasons later.   It's motivated thinking.

As you can probably guess, motivated thinking means more often than not the person will reach the WRONG conclusion, since the conclusion was NOT deduced from logic, but emotion.

Let's look at some examples...

ZeekRewards is a ponzi scheme that had been shut down in 2012 by SEC and Secret Service as a 700-850 million ponzi scheme with a million plus victims. The winners want to believe that the good times will continue forever, and the losers want to believe they will become winners. It is a textbook case of Choice Supportive Bias.

On August 4th, Gregory Caldwell, the "Acting" CEO of Zeek Rewards announced to the world in a press release:
All our critics (are) self-appointed with no standing in the professional community (and are) behaving unprofessionally by acting on false information. 
Less than two weeks later, on August 17th, Zeek Rewards was shut down by SEC and Secret Service.

There really are only two conclusions you can reach about Mr. Caldwell... 1) He honestly believed he's heading a real profitable company or   2) He knew he was lying.

Let's assume he believed it, but the fact is two weeks later SEC closed his company. So he was WRONG. The critics knew exactly what they were criticizing, the information were not false.

Thus, choice supporting bias.

But let's look at the victims. Here's a reporter local to Lexington, NC, home of Zeek Rewards, wrote on his personal blog after Zeek went crashing down.
When the NC AG first confirmed that Zeek was being investigated for fraud, many Zeekers welcomed this because surely the office would find Zeek to be legitimate. When the SEC stepped in and closed the doors, charging that it was a Ponzi and a pyramid, and that Burks allegedly skimmed millions for his personal use, the yammering began: the SEC is corrupt, the BBB is corrupt, your mother is corrupt, this is another instance of too much government intrusion and it's another government conspiracy to keep you from being wealthy, that Social Security and Medicare are Ponzi schemes and why not investigate them (SS is not, see here), ad nauseum. The Zeekers' arrogance is both amusing and disturbing.
Zeeker / Zeekhead, whatever name you give to the Zeek followers, they are just... completely blind to the truth. In their mind, Zeek can do no wrong, thus it must be EVERYBODY ELSE that is wrong, and they came up with various reasons (post-hoc rationalization) like government intrusion, a few "rogues" that ruined it for everybody else, some "bloggers" badmouthing the company, a few critics who don't know the truth like their CEO said...

sign on Zeek's front window circa late 2012
"We forgive you, please restructure
and save our dreams!"
Have you seen this sign posted in front of Zeek office not long after Zeek was closed?

The victim here cannot believe s/he was scammed by a 700-850 million ponzi scheme, but instead, chose to believe that Zeek was... just suffering some temporary setback, and just need to be restructured to continue running.

It's clearly post-hoc rationalization, because the truth ("I've been scammed") is just not acceptable. Better make up a reason and deny reality.

But the rationalizations about Zeek gets downright delusional, including claims that Paul Burks, head of Zeek Rewards, was cheated by his attorney. This narrative was floated by Kettner and Craddock and this was a screenshot of their website (red underline are mine)

Screenshot of Craddock and Kettner's website hoping to raise funds
from Zeek affiliates to "defend Zeek against SEC"
They have no evidence. This is the narrative they want to present to further their own conclusion and benefit themselves (monetary-wise). The honest truth based on case files available to the public indicates that both the prosecution and defense agreed to SEAL the case files, which means PLENTY of evidence had been filed with the court, and defense had reviewed them and consider them so damaging they should not be revealed to the public. You can see details here.

In attempting to float their own narrative, the two,  David Kettner and Robert Craddock, basically chose to turn a blind eye to the truth. It is worth noting that they have powerful reasons to do so. David Kettner, along with his wife Mary, are net winners in Zeek, and according to the Zeek Receiver cleared almost a million dollars in 18 months.  Mary Kettner was indignant, claimed because she paid 50% income tax she is entitled to keep the rest on social media.

As for Mr. Robert Craddock... He's a Zeek Consultant, working with Zeek Acting CEO Caldwell that got my detailed analysis of Zeek Scam webpage taken offline for a week... three weeks before SEC moved in. After SEC shut down the scam he and Kettner were the head of "Zeek is legal and give me money so I can defend it and restart it" movement. He even started a website "InternetClowns" where he denigrated critics of Zeek. Then suddenly he went silent. Later it was revealed that Craddock had scammed the Federal government by claiming nonexistent damages for a gulf oil spill and will be spending 6 months in jail.

Basically, they *want* the truth to be a certain way, so they went looking for evidence. It should be the other way around. Find evidence, THEN reach conclusion.

There are many other examples, but you get the idea.

Basically, you can't *wish* for a conclusion, but you must evaluate the evidence and logic to reach your conclusion, else the conclusion you arrive at may not be the proper one.

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