Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Farsi translation of miniguide

Thanks to by Elham Moeini, Mohammad Reza Vaez, and Farzaneh Shahrtash, a Farsi (Persian) translation of my miniguide to critical thinking has been completed. It is available online for free here:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

creativity and the unconscious

The Merits of Unconscious Thought in Creativity


Research has yielded weak empirical support for the idea that creative solutions may be discovered through unconscious thought, despite anecdotes to this effect. To understand this gap, we examined the effect of unconscious thought on two outcomes of a remote-association test (RAT): implicit accessibility and conscious reporting of answers. In Experiment 1, which used very difficult RAT items, a short period of unconscious thought (i.e., participants were distracted while holding the goal of solving the RAT items) increased the accessibility of RAT answers, but did not increase the number of correct answers compared with an equal duration of conscious thought or mere distraction. In Experiment 2, which used moderately difficult RAT items, unconscious thought led to a similar level of accessibility, but fewer correct answers, compared with conscious thought. These findings confirm and extend unconscious-thought theory by demonstrating that processes that increase the mental activation of correct solutions do not necessarily lead them into consciousness.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


1. 科大教授雷鼎鳴認為香港人必須認識簡體字,引起不少回響。陶傑在蘋果日報專欄回應,要「踢爆」雷鼎鳴的邏輯謬誤。我在面書上看到很多人的反應,忍不住多口插把嘴,不過這是關於思考方法,與繁簡之爭無關。

2. 先看陶傑。陶傑認為雷鼎鳴的立場之一是「簡體字是世上最多人使用的文字,所以你也要學。」陶傑然後說:


3. 我們看看雷鼎鳴實際上寫了甚麼:


4. 很明顯,雷鼎鳴的論據並不是陶傑寫的那麼簡單(要學,因為多人用)。雷鼎鳴在文章寫,簡體字「當然是有」缺點。不過,不懂最多人用的文字,會影響競爭力。陶傑的版本,不提上文下理,把編輯加上去的段落標題變成雷鼎鳴論據的唯一命題。雷鼎鳴這個論據我們大可不同意,但卻是基於正常的利害權衡。不過,論據到了陶傑的手上,卻變成了訴諸人數的謬誤。反之,陶傑把簡體字的缺點與毒品相提並論,這是否恰當的比諭,大家可以自己判斷。

5. 專欄作家每天要交稿,吸引讀者,有時欠缺嚴謹,可以理解。但作為讀者,務必小心思考,不可因為同意中心觀點便認為推論分析正確。

6. 此外,日常語言的討論和談話,有複雜的語境和隱藏假設,進行思考方法的分析有一定的困難。初學思考方法的人,很容易明白了入門的謬誤分類,便立刻四出亂扣帽子,說這個犯了不當預設,那個是自我推翻云云。但有很多時候謬誤並不一定存在,又或條理繁雜,慣常的標籤並不能直接套用。以訴諸人數為例,很多人以為是謬誤,但這視乎背後的假設。若我要買手機不知道買那一個牌子,售貨員可能說很多人用芒果牌手機。相信只有儍瓜和哲學教授才會回應:這是謬誤,這麼多人吸毒,你為何不也去吸毒?多人用,可能是因為便宜,可能是因為好用,所以和我的決定有關連。我們是否功利地學習一個語言,語言的普遍性是基要的考慮。我們不一定要以功利作依歸,但這並不代表基於功利的論據是個謬誤。

7. 最後,我以為,很多問題的考慮非常複雜,要仔細處理,但我們現代人的時間精力耐性有限,對嚴謹的討論未必喜歡。但若然我們希望可以做到分析細緻靈鋭,便要不介意付出多一點功夫了。

Sunday, October 14, 2012

repost - The marshmallow test revisited

Marshmallow Study and class:

You've no doubt heard of Walter Mischel's Marshmallow Test and its followup study, which examined the relationship between delayed gratification (the ability to resist the temptation to eat a marshmallow right away with the promise of more if you succeed) and overall life success. Celeste Kidd, a U Rochester doctoral candidate, has published a paper in Cognition challenging Mischel's findings, arguing that children from more unpredicatable circumstances may choose the single marshmallow because they have a rational basis for suspecting that the experimenter is lying to them about the additional marshmallows that await them if they follow instructions.

The Marshmallow Test is sometimes used to suggest that people are poor because they have low self-control; Kidd's paper implies that poor people behave wisely when they grab opportunities as they present themselves, because they are often lied to when it comes to promises of greater rewards down the road.

Celeste Kidd adds:

The video discusses a study we recently did at the University of Rochester that revisits the original 'marshmallow task' experiments from Stanford in the 1960's. Our results suggest children's waiting during the marshmallow task might actually result from a rational decision-making process--not just a deficiency in self-control.

In the Stanford experiments, most children--75% of 3- to 5-year-olds in one study--appeared unable to resist the temptation of an immediate low-value reward (one marshmallow now) over a future high-value one (two marshmallows after 15 minutes). There's a popular misconception about these studies, though, which is that waiting for the second marshmallow is always the right thing to do. In fact, there are a lot of situations in which waiting is a bad idea. If you're skeptical that a second marshmallow will ever become available--or you believe there's a risk that your first marshmallow might be taken away--you should enjoy the smaller reward right away.

In our study, we preceded marshmallow-task testing with evidence that the experimenter running the study was either reliable or unreliable. Children who believed the experimenter was reliable then waited about four times longer before eating the marshmallow than those who thought she was unreliable (12 minutes vs. 3 minutes). These results suggest that children engage in very sensible decision-making that considers environmental reliability. They may also provide an alternative explanation for why marshmallow wait-times correlate with later life success--successful people grow up in reliable situations. Broadly, the study illustrates that children build a model of the reliability of others' behavior--and use this model to inform their decisions.

The Marshmallow Study Revisited

Rational snacking: Young children’s decision-making
on the marshmallow task is moderated by beliefs
about environmental reliability
(Cognition), PDF

(Thanks, Celeste!)