Flaws in reasoning, wow forums and trading

How often we lament the idiots who post in official forums, the trolls who knee-jerk reaction is to criticise. Well, I lament it often, anyhow. This isn’t just WoW, it’s the internet. More accurately, being stupid is part of the human condition. I like to presume that most people are stupid and lazy until proven otherwise, and am delighted when I find intelligent people.

One of the things which annoys me, a lot, is those moderately intelligent people, or at least articulate, who cannot analyse properly. They have flaws in reasoning. They do not deploy critical thinking: the ability to have some distance between yourself and your ideas. Objectivity about your own thinking.

Like most aspects of humanity, we have cataloged and analysed those flaws themselves. Here are some of those ways.

Black and white thinking” is particularly frustrating for me. It’s like the person is using a mental short-cut rather than accepting and dealing with the true complexity of the world, or the situation at hand.

Vested interests piss me off in business when the person does not have the strength of character to disclose. This happens all the time. It creates political situations. It causes arguments which rage around the positions the two parties are taking rather than a negotiation based on one anothers’ interests.

Confirmation bias is one of the mechanisms by which people defend religious beliefs or horrible cultural traditions. To a scientist, it is particularly damaging since their perspective is compromised. I’m reading a great book at the moment on the intersection of quantum physics and psi phenomena, which is itself a genuine scientific field of research that is belittled in part because of this bias.

Logical fallacies

Logical fallacies are amongst the most common of tricks used to support arguments (often seen in qq posts about nerfs or class balance and so on, but sadly seen across the world in ways which harm us).

If you are not familiar with the codified fallacies, and want to improve your skill at disassembling an opponent’s argument (or in simply ignoring it in a more intelligent fashion), the about.com site I linked also has succinctly-written descriptions.

The “no true Scotsman” fallacy is relatively well-known compared to the others. You will see politicians use this in negative divisive moves where they might say “no true <insert demographic> would support abortion”.

Ghostcrawler’s a clever chap, and sometimes alludes to his understanding of these fallacies and flaws, sometimes directly naming them. I don’t know how he has the patience to contribute there, to be honest.

Making distinctions

I used to trade on the financial markets. This can be a seriously risky endeavour. There are two absolutely key skills, beyond technical analysis or momentum or reading the news or your latency to the CME, which contribute to success:

  1. your ability to make distinctions
  2. emotional awareness and control.

The absolute defining book on these topics is the Disciplined Trader, by Mark Douglas. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

The relevant point here though, is about distinctions. If you know a subject matter really well, you can make more fine distinctions between items than a novice. In trading, if you can identify a sideways or upward movement and distinguish that from a reversal, you can trade profitably.

However, the second factor then comes in, which is intellectual distance from your own judgement. You need to allow yourself to be wrong and change your view very quickly. This is hard when you are invested (literally) in a trade.

Changing your opinion on something is not easy, due to emotional commitment to the decision or your own intelligence.

Bonus. I found an electronic copy of the Disciplined Trader if you want to read it in PDF. I’ve actually bought a copy twice, though, when I lost the first one and would suggest anyone who trades should do the same.

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22 comments to Flaws in reasoning, wow forums and trading

  • BigKoala

    As one of Heinlein’s characters said, “Most people can’t think, most of the remainder won’t think, the small fraction who do think mostly don’t do it very well.”  Critical thinking is such a small, small part of what any of us do, the majority of any human beings actions and responses are determined below the level of consciousness.

    For me, the “intellectual distance from your own judgement” isn’t really distancing myself, I consider it part of my intellectual integrity.  Changing my opinion in the face of changing evidence, to make that opinion more congruent with reality, validates the process by which I make judgments.

    My problem has always been that, being a master of several domains, non-professionals yakking away about things that I’d been over a hundred times drove me up a wall.  I eventually instituted a policy of telling everyone trying to tell me how to do my job, “I’m going to say ‘no’ to you by default.  I’m a well educated, experienced genius in this field, and the odds are 1000 to 1 that you’ve come up with something I or my team haven’t explored already.  So I’m going to say ‘no’ at first.  And if you leave me alone, I’m going to go think about it and make sure that ‘no’ is the correct answer.  If it isn’t, I’ll call you to thank you for your insight.  If I don’t call, just let this drop.”

  • Adam Backstrom
    Twitter: abackstrom

    Ghostcralwer does have a very healthy view of the forums:

    This is a place players come when they want to complain about something or fish for buffs. You don’t get many indifferent posters posting that they’re indifferent. You don’t get many posters who are pleased as punch, because the motivation usually isn’t there. I wouldn’t try and infer anything from quantity of posts (on any topic on the Internet). Not all players, nor even smart players, play the forum game. Forums self-select for a very specific type of player. That’s one reason we don’t base our decisions solely on forum feedback.

  • Instructions
    Twitter: awfullyquiet

    “My problem has always been that, being a master of several domains, non-professionals yakking away about things that I’d been over a hundred times drove me up a wall.  I eventually instituted a policy of telling everyone trying to tell me how to do my job, “I’m going to say ‘no’ to you by default.  I’m a well educated, experienced genius in this field, and the odds are 1000 to 1 that you’ve come up with something I or my team haven’t explored already.  So I’m going to say ‘no’ at first.  And if you leave me alone, I’m going to go think about it and make sure that ‘no’ is the correct answer.  If it isn’t, I’ll call you to thank you for your insight.  If I don’t call, just let this drop.””

    I cannot probably quote that enough, as the nonstop onslaught of people who think that they legitimately have something to contribute is inversely related to the amount they have to contribute. I used to work in Business Analysis and Application Project Development (and for a time at CME… which means I was probably involved in some of the projects that you use to trade Grav :D ), and “Changing your opinion on something is not easy” was probably the most difficult thing to get across. I want to be proved wrong if evidence is to the contrary, I work with application technologies, if something is wrong, tell me now, or it’s going to cost hundreds of hours, and this, like what Ghostcrawler deals with is with the end user. I do not envy his position at all, because, I have a hard enough time explaining why, as a medium between the end user and technical folks (which, inherently is my background, and hence my bias against end users).  Regardless of how ‘smart’ the people you deal with, there’s a certain level of ‘should i really care about this?’ mentality you have to deal with. The internet takes the lowest form of that route, and just QQ’s. If they’re above the average internet troll, you normally have to deal with the above fallacies… and the worst, and most prevalent is the lack of ability to concede. But, as should be noted, this goes high, high, high up into the intelligence and societal and research strata. This learned trait is notoriously lacking in all levels for reasons I can’t understand (laziness?).

    The ability to admit your wrong and move on is a vital skill that, really, so few have. I’d like to believe that I do (but that’s not quite the point), but, when you’re in a situation with people who think their way is best, and cannot live to concede because of whatever hardline attitude they currently possess, it never ends nicely. If you read this, and take anything away, learn to be wrong. Take pride in your mistakes.

    “He who learns but does not think, is lost! He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger. ” and “Be not ashamed of mistakes and thus make them crimes.” – Confucius

  • George
    Twitter: saandstorm

    Great analysis, a very good break down for the “QQ” posts.  It is kind of interesting the attitudes some people will take for an activity that is supposed to be fun and recreational.

    My problem with a lot of the feedback and discussion regarding WoW in the forums, is the bulk of discussion tends talk too much about end game performance and not enough around other questions:  Is tanking fun?  What’s the balance between pacing well vs. feeling too grindy?  Are vehicle mechanics in quests a good story telling tool?  Does accomplishing a long quest chain or unlocking an achievement surprise you or teach you something new? What can make professions more interesting?

    I wish there was some way to spotlight thoughtful folks like Gravity and Coriel from Blessing of Kings in the forums and have them drive the discussion. 

    Or better yet, I would kill for a Ghostcrawler blog, if anything that dude can write.

  • primeval

    Loved this blog.

  • Lovely post and useful links for extra reading. Thanks Grav.

  • You speak of critical thinking, and not falling in with the black and white thinking, yet all I see you link to, is a horrible site filled with people who are just as bad as the religious right. You are aware of the old saying that when you are hunting a beast, it is important to not turn into that beast yourself?
    Yet, here you are, mindlessly linking to that site, and their terms & definitions only.

    • Gravity
      Twitter: gravitydk

      What a pointless and ironic criticism. As if my argument is lessened because of the convenient reference site I used, rather than wikipedia or a scientific journal?

      Here’s wikipedia’s definition on critical thinking, confirmation bias and vested interests to get you started.

      Using those, why don’t you diagnose the basis of your objection and tell us which logical fallacy and flaws it fell into.

  • Well it does lessen your argument, in my eyes, simply because your sources are not attempting to be unbiased, but instead are very much biased. I would not take any argument from NRA about how guns are ensuring our safety, as easily as I would one from a scientific journal, simply because they are attempting to be unbiased.
    (out of curiosity, which part of my post did you find ironic?)

    • Gravity
      Twitter: gravitydk

      Let us verify we are talking about the same thing. You didn’t like that I’d used “about.com” as the site to explain terms such as “the no true scotsman fallacy”? Is that because it was within the ‘skeptics/philosophy’ section of that site, or perhaps because it fits under the atheism section?

      If so, your objection is ironic because there is no question about the veracity of the logical fallacy per se, but instead whose voice is describing it, which is a meaningless distinction given that the scotsman fallacy is a well known facet of logic which is also described at wikipedia and other places. The other logical fallacies are similarly credible ways of dissecting an argument.

      Then you refer to “hunting a beast” but it is not clear which beast you think I was hunting, because you also refer to the religious right implying perhaps I am the the opposite: an anarchist socialist perhaps?

      Both threads lead me to wonder if you had an undisclosed bias which is not comfortable with atheism.

      • Cantrell

        While your point still stands and your sources are in this case accurate, I believe you are wrong to call him out for his bias against atheism. I personally discredit all atheistic sources and must back them up with others in order to believe them, because atheism is illogical (yet atheists believe they are the most logical).

        Take the cell theory, for an example (Wikipedia link here). It states that cells are the basic units of life, and that all cells come from pre-existing cells. The logical conclusion here, is life must have always existed, otherwise life wouldn’t exist today. According to the Christian belief in a living creator (or God, but I assume you would be uncomfortable with that word) the cell theory is still accurate. However, according to the popular atheist belief in a big bang, the cell theory is false, and the first life came from nonliving matter.

        Now, take the universe for an example. How did it get here? We know it hasn’t always been here, we can prove that mathematically, by measuring the constant expansion of the universe. So we must conclude one of two things. The first being that the universe came into existence by itself, which is the most illogical, or that the universe was created. Atheists can’t admit that the universe was created, there is, after all, a reason they are called atheists. Thus they are forced to conclude that the universe was created from nothing. Instead of stating that the universe was created from absolutely nothing, they say that the universe was created from a tiny speck, smaller than a proton, and extremely dense. This speck must have contained all the matter currently in the universe, and then some, otherwise the big bang is not possible, because matter cannot be created (or so atheists believe), only converted to energy, as seen in the processes of fusion and fission. There are further problems, because scientists cannot explain where this speck came from, nor why it would have expanded into our universe. Even if there had been a big bang, the likelyhood of a planet being in the right place, with the right sun, and the right kind of universe, and evolving sentient living organisms is statistically impossible (As well as physically impossible, see the cell theory above.)

        Logically, I have a right to discredit atheistic assumptions, because the logic of the atheistic belief is flawed, and the logic of creation makes sense. Generally, the logical become atheists because they do not want to believe there is anything greater than their own human mind, either that or they were taught to be atheists because atheism is the most accepted religion today, at least in our nation.

        I would gladly listen to any counterarguments you may have, as logical debate is a great way to learn to strengthen one’s arguments.

        • Gravity
          Twitter: gravitydk

          The question of God -vs- science is offtopic, of course, I was not writing about religion but about logic and fallacies. Perhaps my aside on ‘confirmation bias’ with its reference to religion and science was what sparked this? I’d suggest you leave that as an aside, as intended, to focus on the topic we agree about which is the various logical fallacies and flaws used by people, and their consequences on official WoW forums at least.

          Whilst your line of argument about cell theory and creation theory is an interesting topic, about which many books have been written (God Delusion by Richard Dawkins being foremost), it is not something this DK Tank blog will go on about. It’s a futile argument because both sides will simply defend their positions, regardless how much I might enjoy parrying with a well-educated theologian.

        • Shadovar

          “While your point still stands and your sources are in this case accurate, I believe you are wrong to call him out for his bias against atheism. I personally discredit all atheistic sources and must back them up with others in order to believe them, because atheism is illogical”
          Given the OP was written regarding flaws in reasoning this seems an odd way to open an argument.
          Firstly stating the sources utilised are accurate, then going on to state you personally discredit all sources of the type utilised. A contradiction compounded by a personalisation rather than distant rational thought.
          Secondly a belief in the second sentence would be better argued with evidence. This belief being that it is wrong for opposing a view based on a bias which is yet another concept antithetical to critical thinking.
          Ignoring the main body of the post, which is very far removed from the topic at hand, is your post for or against critical thinking and flaws in reasoning? It would certainly seem that you put in a very good argument supporting flaws in reasoning as a valid method of argument.

        • Yesvery

          I believe in God, and I am aware and intelligent enough to know that the belief in God isn’t logical, and that it does not need to be logical to be a valid belief and/or correct.  Basically, if you’re trying to prove God through logic, you’re fighting with the wrong ammunition and you make all of us look bad.

  • Yes!
    I had indeed pegged you as something completely different, glad to be proven wrong.

  • affaaf

    and blogging about a video game makes you einstein :D

    • Gravity
      Twitter: gravitydk

      Bugger off.

      • Shadovar

        You’re far too diplomatic, Gravity. There is a wonderful irony in a person who peruses such blogs denigrating the intelligence of one who writes a blog for a game.

        • Aeura

          Honestly gravity if I were you, I would delete this affaaf’s (seriously that guy can’t even think of a name) comment and ban him from commenting any further.

        • Gravity
          Twitter: gravitydk

          i was tempted, but decided not to delete it. Interesting policy question around trolling on the blog, to delete trolls or not.

  • PhantomBuddha

    Thanks for not deleting it, I actually peed a little when I read the line about “creation theory is more logical…”

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