Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Low Effort Thinking

Shorter Megan McArdle: I know you are but what am I?
You should probably think twice before writing an article arguing that conservative ideas are a product of "low effort thinking". But if you decide to go ahead and write it, you probably shouldn't let most of it rest on a not-very-robust group of psychology studies, done by a single research team on 89 New England bar patrons and 75 psychology students at the University of Maine. But if you are going to write that article, relying mostly on a single, kinda weak journal publication, then you should probably not treat that publication if it presented scientifically validated facts about the world, rather than--at best!--possibly suggestive but highly speculative findings about a very narrow group of people. But if you decide to do all of those things, then you should probably make it clear from the start that you're a staunch proponent of low-effort thought. ‪#‎slatepitch
The nature of authoritarian thinking depends on low effort thinking. You are told what is right and what is not right, and told you cannot figure these things out for yourself. You are told that it is arrogant to think for yourself, that God wants you to obey him and ignore your own wants and needs, that every group has a head and he must be obeyed. The only question is, what does the authority want?

McArdle doesn't think she is obeying her authority, she thinks she is supporting the best system run by the best people. She thinks that she thinks her way through problems using the latest knowledge and consulting the smartest philosophers and academics. She thinks she is a logical and nuanced thinker. She thinks she is smarter than most people. When she is proven wrong she gets very very angry and attacks the messenger, as she does in this comment. Her entire weltanschauung is at risk. But all her thinking is low-effort. She is a lazy thinker who substitutes "it seems" and "as far as I can tell" for research and the hard work of analysis.

Thinking is hard.  You have to read new information and break it down word-for-word until you understand it all. You have to look up all the terms you don't know and read all the underlying research. Then you have to figure out what the new information means in context. After you think you understand the information you write about it, and then you have to pull apart your own argument looking for flaws. It takes a lot of time and thought and a little humility. McArdle is not paid to do any of that and might not be able to if she tried. She is paid to make an emotional argument to other low-thought libertarians, who add up to little more than a goofy conservative cult populated with emotionally stunted people and kept alive by billionaire sugar daddies.

Which is why the only response she can make to Slate or social scientists or economists or moralists is an extended whine in which she does not address any of the science. Instead she pecks weakly at the methodology, utterly convinced that her emotional reaction to the truth is far more truthful than anything to be found in reality.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I'm sure Meegan worked really hard on that comment.

Susan of Texas said...

I loved Greg Pollowitz's "boom" in preface. She sure did destroy her opponent's argument by calling it not very robust and kinda weak.

Clever Pseudonym said...

"...kinda weak journal publication..." As in, the kind that lets supposedly professional journalists use words like "kinda" in their work?

Susan of Texas said...

She's sorta awful!

fish said...

I will say that most of the Sage journals are pretty piss-poor although I have no experience with PSPB.

It is funny though that the conservative reaction is so negative. If they had read the article and its conclusions they could have easily interpreted the paper as saying conservative thought is more "natural" and it takes cognitive effort to distort what people inherently know to be true. I.e. liberal values don't reflect how people actually feel. I guess they didn't want to think about it hard enough.

Susan of Texas said...

Yes, they pray and listen to the small, still voice and liberals sacrifice to their pagan gods.

The number of studies showing that conservatives do not act the way they think they act is beginning to make a dent in their denial.