Saturday, July 14, 2012

STOP! 15 Negative Thought Patterns to Avoid Part 2

Blame It
Blame It (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
IAFF has this list of positive and negative thinking that you should watch out for. Too bad they didn't list an author, but it's good reading, as it applies both to your self-thoughts and to arguments.

I'll discuss the 15 negative thoughts in three parts, as I explain why these negative thinking will hurt you through illogical thinking and other biases.

Here's part 2, the second 5 negative thought patterns.  (see part 1)

6. Personalization:  This is the tendency to relate everything around you to yourself.   For example, thinking that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to you.  You also compare yourself to others, trying to determine who's smarter, better looking, etc.  The underlying assumption is that your worth is in question.  You are therefore continually forced to test your value as a person by measuring yourself against others.   If you come out better, you get a moment's relief.  If you come up short, you feel diminished.  The basic thinking error is that you interpret each experience, each conversation, each look as a clue to your worth and value.
In other words, you take "anecdotal fallacy" to the extreme, everything is only related to you and you alone, to the point of paranoia. You are the ultimate narcissist. You see everything is a competition, and every word as a measure of your self-worth. Stop that! Even if you get rich you won't be happy!

It is interesting that many people enrolled in suspect schemes have this "personalization" problem as they treat ANY comments regarding the scheme as personally as possible. It is as if he was personally insulted. 

Solution is simple: stop taking things so personally. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Bad Argument: the "You're not in it" fallacy

Can you study a business from the outside?
Those inside don't think so.
Critics of a suspect scheme were often ridiculed by scheme's affiliates with the "you're not in it" argument. It usually takes this form.

A: Acme XYZ is a scam because of ____, _____, and _____. 
B: You don't know Acme XYZ at all. You have to be a member to know it. You have no idea what you're talking about. 
This is an often used "bad argument" by suspect scheme defenders. It is also a multi-level fallacy.

As red herring

Response from B does not attempt to defeat A's premise, nor does it prove a counter-argument. Thus, it is completely irrelevant, and thus, red herring.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bad Argument: The "Caveat Emptor" disclaimer

Does disclaimer prove you know all the risks going in?
One of the responses by believers in the scheme against perceived "criticism" was caveat emptor, which is Latin for "let the buyer beware". It usually goes like this:
A: Acme XYZ is a scam because of ____, ____, and ____.
B: Acme XYZ is not a scam because it has various disclaimers like "may lose value", "not an investment", "you join of your own free will", etc.
This is also a multi-level fallacy as it incorporates multiple fallacies into a single response.

Usually, you argue an issue by 1) you defeat your opponent's premise, or 2) you advance your COUNTER-premise, the opposite of the opponent's premise. As B's response is unrelated to A's premise, it's clear that it's using 2, arguing the counter-premise. 

Red Herring

Does having disclaimers *prove* somehow it's NOT a scam? 

The answer is no. Both legal and illegal ventures have disclaimers. Disclaimers, in itself, neither prove nor disprove the scheme is a scam. Thus, the entire argument is irrelevant red herring. 

However, there is more. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Scam Study: TVI Express

EDITOR'S NOTE: Scam Study is a quick summary of the various proven Ponzi or pyramid schemes. It is meant to be a summary, with relevant scam factor analysis. 


TVI Express "ATM Card", not really issued to any one
"TVI Express", also known as "Travel Ventures International", first appeared on the scene in 2009 in India, and claims combine three trends: e-commerce, home business, and travel. It is a convicted pyramid scheme around the world and is prosecuted in multiple countries around the globe as a pyramid scheme. Due to the way it operates in multiple countries, with server elsewhere, individual countries had to shut them down individually, leading to its continued survival. However, the scheme is mostly dead in 2012, except in the Philippines, where it still has many adherents.

Beginning of TVI Express

The origin of TVI Express is unknown, though its founder is believed to be "Tarun Trikha" (also spelled Parun Trika in some cases). He had previously appeared on various network marketing forums claiming he's new and wants to learn. Archived forum posts indicated that he had previously started various ventures, but none of them were much of a success and quickly expired, leaving no trace of their existence. He operates a "conglomerate" called V2Global, based somewhere in India.

Tarun Trikha came up with "Travel Ventures International", or TVI Express, in late 2008, and launched it in 2009, and he was very careful in crafting a facade of legitimacy through multiple layers of suggestions and vague wordings. It is clear he planned this for a while, as he crafted this scam the same way a spy agency construct a "legend" for its agents.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cognitive Bias: the "Hot hand fallacy"

Gambler (album)
Gambler (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When a gambler starts winning consecutively, he's said to have a "hot hand". To some people who are not familiar with probabilities, this means the gambler with a "hot hand" is "believed" to win more often than when he doesn't have a "hot hand", when the "streak" itself is a mere artifact in probabilities. As each game of chance is NOT related to the NEXT game of chance (there are exceptions, like card-counting), a "streak" has no effect on the next game. Thus, believing that those who are winning will CONTINUE to win, is a fallacy, known as "hot hand fallacy".

To visualize this, just think about this scenario. Say you flip a coin and record the results each time. Say you got 5 "heads" in a row. What are the odds when you flip a coin the sixth time?

Exactly 50% for head, and 50% for tail. The odds never changed.

Yet those who believe in a "streak" or a "hot hand" would think that there's a BETTER chance for heads than even odds.

That is not logical. Yet people continue to believe in it.

This argument is often used by affiliates of suspect schemes, to defend their scheme from changes of problems. When it was pointed out that their scheme is having problems, their response is often

"I have been in this for a while and never had a problem. This problem is only temporary, and will be quickly solved."

They are committing a "hot hand fallacy". They believe their pattern of "no problem" will continue. They believe in a streak, when there's no such thing.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The "Fairness Fallacy"

When the other side claims you are not fair,
are they asking you to do their work?
When your debate opponent does not address your premise, but instead, insist that your premise is "unfair", "biased", "unbalanced", "not neutral", and so on, your opponent is using what's known as the "fairness fallacy", which is an advanced form of red herring.

Here's an example:
A: "Acme XYZ is not a business but a scam and here's proof E, F, and G."
B: "You are not portraying Acme XYZ fairly! You are biased! (I demand you to include facts favorable to Acme XYZ!)"
Why is this a red herring? Because B basically is arguing for the null hypothesis, which CANNOT BE PROVEN!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

STOP! 15 negative thought patterns to avoid: Part 1

IAFF has this list of positive and negative thinking that you should watch out for. Too bad they didn't list an author, but it's good reading, as it applies both to your self-thoughts and to arguments.

I'll discuss the 15 negative thoughts in three parts, as I explain why these negative thinking will hurt you through illogical thinking and other biases.

Here's part 1, the first 5 negative thought patterns.
1. Filtering:  You take the negative details and magnify them, while filtering  out all positive aspects of a situation.  A single detail may be picked out, and the whole event becomes colored by this detail.  When you pull negative things out of context, isolated from all the good experiences around you, you make them larger and more awful than they really are.

You can also do this in reverse: filter out the negative, and focus only on the positive. This is cherry picking, whether negative or positive, and it's also known as confirmation bias, selective thinking, and so on. This leads to polarizing thinking, which is discussed below. 

Defender of suspect scams are exposed to filtered facts early, and are specifically taught to "ignore negativity", so they automatically filter out anything contrary to what they were taught, and then learn bad arguments to "defend" what they considered to be positivity against the "negativity" people.