New paper: “Your Health vs. My Liberty”

How might messaging, reasoning, and philosophical beliefs predict people’s responses to pandemics? Michał Białek and I started wondering about this a few months ago. So we ran some experiments to find out. Our pre-registered hypothesis was wrong, but the other findings were really interesting. Before I get to the findings, consider making some predictions: ask yourself how you expect the following variables to correlate with compliance (or non-compliance) with public health officials’ recommendations such as mask-wearing and sheltering in place:

  • Flatten the curve graphs: Related to compliance? More or less compliance?
  • Reflective reasoning: Related to compliance? More or less compliance?
  • Mathematical competence: Related to compliance? More or less compliance?
  • Economic conservatism: Related to compliance? More or less compliance?
  • Social conservatism: Related to compliance? More or less compliance?
  • Libertarianism: Related to compliance? More or less compliance?
  • Effective altruism: Related to compliance? More or less compliance?
  • Utilitarian sacrificial harm: Related to compliance? More or less compliance?
  • Belief in God: Related to compliance? More or less compliance?
  • Religiosity: Related to compliance? More or less compliance?
  • Compatibism about free will: Related to compliance? More or less compliance?
  • Identifying as White: Related to compliance? More or less compliance?
  • Identifying as a man: Related to compliance? More or less compliance?
Continue reading New paper: “Your Health vs. My Liberty”

The Base Rate Fallacy

Who is more likely to be killed by a police officer in the United States: a white person or a black person? You might think, “Police kill more white people than black people in the US. So it’s the white person.” That answer contains a fallacy: the base rate fallacy. This post explains the fallacy, provides some examples, and suggests how to avoid it.

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25+ Cognitive Science Podcasts


Cognitive Science investigates the mind with methods and tools from various fields like computer science, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy. Here are some popular cognitive science podcasts. I listen to almost all of them, so feel free to contact me if you have questions that are not answered in each podcast’s description below.

Continue reading 25+ Cognitive Science Podcasts

Politicians Defunding Based on Political Bias? Sounds Biased

“I would use the Department of Education … to monitor our institutions of higher education for extreme political bias and deny federal funding if it exists.” –Ben Carson

1. Everyone has biases — political and otherwise.

So denying funding on the basis of any political bias would be tantamount to denying all federal education funding. That’d be problematic. So — if we assume a charitable interpretation of Carson — that’s surely not the Republican plan (…or is it?). So let’s assume that Carson is not out to defund any educational institution that exhibits just any political bias.

Instead, maybe Carson’s plan is to monitor for particular biases. The idea here would be that only institutions with certain biases should be defunded. But even that would be problematic. After all, Carson is a human. And humans are more likely to notice and take issue with others’ biases (Corner et al 2012; Lord et al 1979) or biases that merely seem like others’ biases (Trouche et al 2015, 2018). So Carson might be more attuned to and dismissive of others’ biases than his own. And that itself is a political bias.

To overcome that bias, we would need to make sure that Continue reading Politicians Defunding Based on Political Bias? Sounds Biased

3 Post-Election Problems (and Solutions?)


Did your candidate or party lose an election? That’s disheartening. It really is. But I hope you’ll eventually be turn your attention to deeper, more pressing problems . For instance, we are not reasoning well, we are doing a bad job of reassuring those who feel neglected, and we are letting our political parties determine what we care about.  Continue reading 3 Post-Election Problems (and Solutions?)

Rawls & Cosmopolitan Egalitarian Redistribution


I have ventured beyond my areas of competence again: ethics. I find ethics to be massively complicated because so much of it seems to be bypassing unsettled empirical questions. Anyway, to try to avoid a misstep, I am reaching out to the wiser.

I have finally read some of Rawls’s A Theory of Justice—I am continually surprised at how many alleged “classics” I have yet to read. While I am sympathetic to most of it (and perhaps naively so), I am curious about how Rawls’s theory would apply to not just a single society, but a plurality of societies (like the plurality of nations on our planet). I have surveyed the first 3 chapters, paying special attention to section 58 (where he deals, briefly, with this very question). I have also skimmed Leif Wenar’s “Why Rawls is Not a Cosmopolitan Egalitarian” [PDF] (2006).

The trouble I am having is the following. It seems that Rawls allows for redistribution within societies, but not between societies—that is, per his principle of self-determination in section 58.

Continue reading Rawls & Cosmopolitan Egalitarian Redistribution