forum 10: week of March 19 - second order knowledge

Fragment of a discussion from Course talk:Phil440A
Jump to: navigation, search

I think the second question takes us down the thorny path of the ever-present issues with self-knowledge. First, how do we come about any knowledge about ourselves? Is it by the incorrigible, infallible methods of introspection advocated by Descartes, or by a more modern behaviorist account of observing our own actions using the same methods as we do for actions of others? This accounts for the externalist/internalist debate mentioned numerous times in the paper. Since there are so many ways in which our intuitions about our own skills and knowledge (like the fact that everyone thinks they are smarter AND a better driver than an average person) turn out to be erroneous, I'm sure that there are many cases of misattribution of beliefs or amount of knowledge actually possessed by an individual. Now the tl;dr bit: The Visual Cognition lab at UBC has recently published a paper on the ideomotor responses used in answering trivia questions with a Ouija board. First,the participants were asked to answer a few dozen questions like "Is the capital of Brazil Rio de Janeiro?" online. They also had to indicate whether they knew the answer, or were "just guessing". Some time later, they came into the lab and had to answer similar questions, this time using the Ouija board and blindfolded. Furthermore, at the start of the experiment, the subjects were told that there will be another participant using the Ouija planchette; this participant was actually a confederate, who took their hands off the planchette after the participant was blindfolded. Overall, there was a significant increase in the percentage of correct answers given using the Ouija board, especially for the "just guessing" questions. Part of the hypothesis proposed by the authors is that the reduced responsibility (since the participants thought there was another person involved) made them guess the right answers more readily! This is a perfect real-life example of how, many times, we don't really know what we know. There is so much information that we acquire every day in many ways, and only some of it is available for conscious retrieval. This already places our knowledge of our own knowledge (pardon the pun) under a big question mark. I apologize for the wall of text. The study I referred to can also be found here:

06:17, 19 March 2012

They didn't perhaps question whether people looked up the answers to questions of which they were unsure?

04:29, 20 March 2012

Ange, I asked the same question during the presentation! The experiment design somewhat ensured that this would be unlikely: there were 80 questions on the first presentation, and the participants did not receive feedback on whether or not their answers were correct. Out of those 80, only a subset of 8 questions was randomly selected for the next phase, "subject only to the constraint that for each participant, there was one question in each of the eight category combinations: 2 question polarities (correct answer is ―yes/―no) x 2 answer confidence levels (known / guessed) x 2 answer correctness levels (right/wrong))" So it's basically very unlikely, but I wouldn't be surprised if that did happen at least for some of the participants (the very curious ones ;))

08:08, 20 March 2012