How to convince people… (episode 311)

This morning I received the following question via twitter:

And I did know about these studies, as I wrote about them on this blog before:

I’ll add this little picture so you believe me:

Than Harry gave me something nice in return, a link to this study:

Previous work has found that people feel significantly more satisfied with explanations of psychological phenomena when those explanations contain neuroscience information—even when this information is entirely irrelevant to the logic of the explanations. Thisseductive allure effect was first demonstrated by Weisberg, Keil, Goodstein, Rawson, and Gray (2008), and has since been replicated several times (Fernandez-Duque, Evans, Christian, & Hodges, 2015; Minahan & Siedlecki, 2016; Rhodes, Rodriguez, & Shah, 2014; Weisberg, Taylor, & Hopkins, 2015). However, these studies only examined psychological phenomena. The current study thus investigated the generality of this effect and found that it occurs across several scientific disciplines whenever the explanations include reductive information: reference to smaller components or more fundamental processes. These data suggest that people have a general preference for reductive information, even when it is irrelevant to the logic of an explanation.

(btw, the study has also a great open source addendum)

Honestly, I’m not surprised. To me it’s closely related to many of the mechanisms Kahneman – and other behavioral economics – describe. It’s not similar to What You See Is All There Is (WYSIATI), but it’s not that different too:

This theory states that when the mind makes decisions, it deals primarily withKnown Knowns, phenomena it has already observed. It rarely considers Known Unknowns, phenomena that it knows to be relevant but about which it has no information. Finally it appears oblivious to the possibility of Unknown Unknowns, unknown phenomena of unknown relevance. (source Wikipedia, but do read the book this summer!)

Or simply put – as Ben Goldacre said before – you’ll find that it’s often a bit more complicated than you thought…

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