- Sep 2021
The minds of other people can also supplement our limited individual memory. Daniel Wegner, a psychologist at Harvard, named this collective remembering “transactive memory.” As he explained it, “Nobody remembers everything. Instead, each of us in a couple or group remembers some things personally — and then can remember much more by knowing who else might know what we don’t.” A transactive memory system can effectively multiply the amount of information to which an individual has access. Organizational research has found that groups that build a strong transactive memory structure — in which all members of the team have a clear and accurate sense of what their teammates know — perform better than groups for which that structure is less defined.
Transactive memory is how a group encodes, stores, and shares knowledge. Members of a group may be aware of the portions of knowledge that others possess which can make them more efficient.
How can we link this to Cesar Hidalgo's ideas about the personbyte, etc.?
How would this idea have potentially helped oral cultures?
She uses the example of a trauma resuscitation team helping to shorten hospital stays, but certainly there are many examples in the corporate world where corporate knowledge is helpful in decreasing time scales for particular outcomes.
One last resource for augmenting our minds can be found in other people’s minds. We are fundamentally social creatures, oriented toward thinking with others. Problems arise when we do our thinking alone — for example, the well-documented phenomenon of confirmation bias, which leads us to preferentially attend to information that supports the beliefs we already hold. According to the argumentative theory of reasoning, advanced by the cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber, this bias is accentuated when we reason in solitude. Humans’ evolved faculty for reasoning is not aimed at arriving at objective truth, Mercier and Sperber point out; it is aimed at defending our arguments and scrutinizing others’. It makes sense, they write, “for a cognitive mechanism aimed at justifying oneself and convincing others to be biased and lazy. The failures of the solitary reasoner follow from the use of reason in an ‘abnormal’ context’” — that is, a nonsocial one. Vigorous debates, engaged with an open mind, are the solution. “When people who disagree but have a common interest in finding the truth or the solution to a problem exchange arguments with each other, the best idea tends to win,” they write, citing evidence from studies of students, forecasters and jury members.
Thinking in solitary can increase one's susceptibility to confirmation bias. Thinking in groups can mitigate this.
How might keeping one's notes in public potentially help fight against these cognitive biases?
Is having a "conversation in the margins" with an author using annotation tools like Hypothes.is a way to help mitigate this sort of cognitive bias?
At the far end of the spectrum how do we prevent this social thinking from becoming groupthink, or the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility?
- social thinking
- transactive memory
- group memory
- George Orwell
- collective learning
- César Hidalgo
- cognitive bias
- argumentative theory of reasoning
- big history
- social learning
- thinking out loud
- group cohesion
- Feb 2021
- Nov 2016
Best piece I’ve seen on last week’s announcements.
Gruber had linked to Michael Tsai’s roundup of the backlash, calling it “must-read stuff”. In this case, though, Gruber is “throwing his hat in the ring”. And the ring now feels like the site of a burgeoning flamewar. Issue is, here, that the “war” is happening about people who actually enjoy Apple’s products. This isn’t the “religious wars” between Macs and PCs or between Fandroids and Apple fanbois. It’s a whole argument between people who have been purchasing Apple computers and wanted updated ones. A well-known lesson from social psychology is that group polarization deepens divides by encouraging extreme positions. Chuq Von Rospach’s piece contains several comments which could be qualified as “extreme”. And it puts the blame on those who disagree. There are similar pieces on the other side of the equation, surely. Tsai’s roundup should make it possible to identify them. But Gruber has yet to link to them (apart from arguing about specific points like Tim Cook’s quote on the irrelevance of “PCs” and trying to set the record straight on Apple and Intel sharing responsibility for the 16GB limits on new top-of-the-line MacBook Pro desktop replacements).
As an example of the effect of group polarization: my own perspective is that disappointment is real. Wasn’t impressed by what transpired from last week’s announcement. Feeling a bit more excited about the Microsoft Surface Studio than about the Touch Bar, but will likely not buy either any time soon. Because polarization forces me to take sides, my vote would go for the “there’s a serious problem, here”. Not saying Apple is doomed or that each of the problems discussed is a tragedy. But, to me, what is being thrown around sounds quite reasonable, not “trivial and petty”. Can’t be on Von Rospach’s side if that’s where the line is drawn. “You’re either with us or against us.” If you force me to choose, well, bye bye!
- Nov 2014
The biggest trolls, assholes, and bullies set the trajectory of many controversies and start to distort our notion of what most people in the other tribes are like. It doesn't help that it's perversely satisfying to gaze at those other tribes, the ones with whom you did not associate yourself, and to imagine that they're inferior.