Monday, September 27, 2010

What Do Your Opinions Signal?

Robin Hanson has an excellent list here that anyone who is honest about finding truth should consider. I reproduce it here:

Signs that your opinions function more to signal loyalty and ability than to estimate truth:

1.You find it hard to be enthusiastic for something until you know that others oppose it.

2.You have little interest in getting clear on what exactly is the position being argued.

3.Realizing that a topic is important and neglected doesn’t make you much interested.

4.You have little interest in digging to bigger topics behind commonly argued topics.

5.You are less interested in a topic when you don’t foresee being able to talk about it.

6.You are uncomfortable taking a position near the middle of the opinion distribution.

7.You are uncomfortable taking a position of high uncertainty about who is right.

8.You care far more about current nearby events than similar distant or past/future events.

9.You find it easy to conclude that those who disagree with you are insincere or stupid.

10.You are reluctant to change your publicly stated positions in response to new info.

11.You are reluctant to agree a rival’s claim, even if you had no prior opinion on the topic.

12.You are reluctant to take a position that raises the status of rivals.

13.You care more about consistency between your beliefs than about belief accuracy.

14.You go easy on sloppy arguments by folks on “your side.”

15.You have little interest in practical concrete implications of commonly argued topics.

16.Your opinion doesn’t much change after talking with smart folks who know more.

17.You are especially eager to drop names when explaining positions and arguments.

18.You find it hard to list weak points and counter-arguments on your positions.

19.You feel passionately about at topic, but haven’t sought out much evidence.

20.You are reluctant to not have an opinion on commonly discussed topics.


Of course you may want your opinions to mainly signal loyalty and ability.

Tyler Cowen reproduces the list too, and adds one (which is really just a reproduction of #12):

"You feel uncomfortable taking a position which raises the status of the people you usually disagree with."

It's a good list to always keep in mind with anything you write, with any opinion you have. We should be interested in the pursuit of truth, not scoring ideological points. One can perhaps add a few to the list from my previous posting on ideology, found below.
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