Friday, November 20, 2015

Bad "science" that claims to explain laziness

This article claims that science explains laziness.

> There’s a neurological reason for apathy and laziness, according to new research. Inefficient connections between certain areas of the brain may make it harder for some people to decide to act.

well, worse ideas do make it harder for people to decide to act. 

i'm already expecting that the researchers ignored the role of ideas in decision making.

> In each round of the game, the researcher offered the subject a reward in return for some effort. Participants had to decide whether to accept the offer, based on whether the reward as worth the effort. Predictably, the participants who had already been identified as apathetic were much less likely to accept offers that required effort, even if the reward was large - but when apathetic subjects did choose to accept an offer, their MRIs showed much more activity in the pre-motor cortex, an area of the brain involved in taking actions, than in more motivated participants.

> That was the opposite of what researchers expected. They had assumed that lazy people’s pre-motor cortices would show less activity when deciding to take action.

Why did they think that? What was their explanation that they drew their prediction from? The article doesn't say.

If the researchers had no such explanation while making their prediction, then they aren't doing science. See _The Beginning of Infinity_ for explanation on why explanation-less "science" is not science.

> “We thought that this might be because their brain structure is less efficient, so it’s more of an effort for apathetic people to turn decisions into actions,” said lead researcher Masud Husain, a professor of neurology and cognitive neuroscience at Oxford University, in a statement. After further investigation, it turned out that people who identified as apathetic had less efficient connections between the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain involved in making decisions and anticipating rewards, and the supplementary motor area, a part of the brain that helps control movement.

> “The brain uses around a fifth of the energy you’re burning each day. If it takes more energy to plan an action, it becomes more costly for apathetic people to make actions,” explained Husain. “Their brains have to make more effort.” Husain and his team published their findings in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

Can having some ideas cause one to spend more energy to plan an action, as compared to having other ideas instead? Yes!

For example, if you have good ideas about how to make decisions, then you'll be more efficient at decision making. That means you'll be putting in less effort to make a decision, as compared to the same decision being made by somebody who has worse ideas about how to make decisions. Basically, having better ideas about decision making means running into less trouble when going through the process of making a decision.

What are good ideas about how to make decisions? To date, our best understanding of how to decide is the method known as Common Preference Finding. It's a method focussed on resolving active conflicting ideas, such that only one non-refuted idea remains, which is the one to be acted on. A person who doesn't understand how to resolve conflicts will have lots of trouble making decisions because he has conflicting options active in his mind while he doesn't know how to rule out all but one option. He doesn't know how to rule out options and decide on one.

People with bad ideas about how to decide, do a lot of wasteful thinking. Consider an example. Say a person with bad ideas about how to decide, has a decision to make. He knows of a couple of options he can act on, but he doesn't know which one he should act on. His method consists of choosing one of them, without ruling out the other. But how can he CHOOSE one over the other without a reason? Well, that's the point. He can't do it reasonably. He's doing it arbitrarily. 

He says to himself: Do I choose option A or option B? Well, I don't know which is best, but I have to choose one anyway. I'll choose A. No I'll choose B. No I'll choose A. No I'll choose B. Ok I'll act on B now. NO WAIT! I want to do A instead. Ok I'll act on A now. NO!!!

And he does that indefinitely until he finally chooses, but it's not a confident choice. He's still thinking that option B is in play while acting on option A, or vice versa.

Now imagine another person who has better ideas about how to decide. He knows the method known as Common Preference Finding. 

He says to himself: Do I choose option A or option B? What other options can I brainstorm? And what criticisms can I brainstorm that will rule out all but one option? (And then he does some brainstorming for more options and more criticisms.) Ok I found another option C to consider. And I found a criticism that rules out options B and C, leaving option A as the lone non-refuted option. So I'll choose option A to act on. Problem solved. Next problem.

The guy doing CPF spends less energy on his decision as compared to the guy not doing CPF.

Consider an analogy. People with bad ideas about how to decide are people who have their internal neuron-to-neuron communications using copper, while people with good ideas about how to decide are people who have their neuron-to-neuron communications using superconducting material. The result? Copper has lots of imperfections that cause most electrons to not flow smoothly through the copper — because they “bump” into the imperfections (atoms that ideally shouldn’t be there), which causes resistance, slowing the flow of electricity, and wasting lots of energy. Superconducting material, on the other hand, doesn't have those imperfections, and so electrons are not blocked from flowing smoothly through the material. So there's no resistance, and no dampening of the flow of electricity.

So, if you want a no-resistance brain, learn CPF. If you want a high-resistance brain, don’t learn CPF and just randomly and uncritically create your philosophy by picking up bits and pieces from your parents and society.

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