Rationality when it's somewhat hard

post by NancyLebovitz · 2013-02-05T20:11:44.367Z · score: 9 (10 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 10 comments

Tunnel Creek avalanche kills skiers:

The page I've linked to describes a party of sixteen excellent skiers who went on a trip where they easily could have known better. Three of them died. It's common knowledge that large parties increase the risk of avalanche, but the page described the group excitement which no one managed to override. 

One skier was sufficiently uneasy that she avoided the danger, but she didn't speak up to discourage the group.

This isn't the most difficult sort of situation requiring rationality, but it's far from the easiest, either. Any suggestions or work from CFAR about improving the odds of speaking up when a group is about to do something stupid?

The article is heavily multimedia, with big self-loading animations-- it's gorgeous, but it's a bandwidth hog.



Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2013-02-06T09:00:07.606Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A common related situation: unproductive group conversations.

comment by Duncan · 2013-02-06T14:31:33.788Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you have any suggestions on how to limit this? I find meetings often meander from someone's pet issue to trivial / irrelevant details while the important broader topic withers and dies despite the meeting running 2-3x longer than planned.

In meetings where I have some control, I try to keep people on topic, but it's quite hard. In meetings where I'm the 'worker bee' it's often hopeless (don't want to rub the boss the wrong way).

comment by Qiaochu_Yuan · 2013-02-06T17:55:52.068Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

When I've been in such meetings I've been fairly insistent that we write down whatever it is we're discussing (e.g. on a blackboard) and point to it periodically. No sense in keeping everything we're thinking inside our heads. It also helps to appoint a competent moderator explicitly from the start.

comment by maia · 2013-02-06T14:40:53.453Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Anecdotally, I find that saying something meta, like "This is one of those situations where people have trouble speaking up, and then we just end up doing it even if people have doubts," makes it easier.

I was in a very similar situation recently. But it was a small group, and I wasn't the only one who had doubts, which also made it easier to say, "I don't want to do this after all."

comment by DaFranker · 2013-02-06T17:34:23.510Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Anecdotally, I find that saying something meta in a way relevant to the situation makes any social interaction easier. Even when it's about how to mention that using meta in social interactions can be very useful.

In fact, it used to be my first and most effective social tactic, when specialized approaches didn't work (or I didn't know any for the specific situation), for a long time until recently.

comment by Cyan · 2013-02-08T03:59:16.737Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If it's not too personal, what's currently your first and most effective social tactic when specialized approaches don't work?

comment by DaFranker · 2013-02-08T15:25:28.849Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's not too personal, but I can't really tell you much more than I have a gut feeling it's probably inspired from this quote. Unfortunately, I don't know consciously just what it is I'm doing - can't see the pattern yet - but my subconscious is doing something and it works, apparently.

Or, that's what I would have said two days ago, probably. Now I'm noticing more and more that the same kind of social "reaction" to me also seems to happen in strangers that I haven't talked to yet! This leads me to suspect the pattern may be more meta than I expected, such as something about my general posture / behavior / appearance.

Still, even that is a valid tactic in most cases (be prepared, be attractive, be approachable, etc.), but it seems poorly suited to the context of the great-grand-parent.

comment by Rukifellth · 2013-02-06T15:14:14.786Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's basically a matter of recognizing that you're holding back from doing something stupid, and to think of some good ways to counter any embarrassment/apprehension you may feel. You could-

*Immerse yourself in the sensation of knowing that you're protecting other people

*Convince yourself of your own correctness (if necessary, take advantage of any personality flaws, but try not to let them show, and only do it if there's an actual hazard)

*Do something to reduce your sense of social apprehension in general (go into a variety show, join a flash mob, something like that)

*Try to think of a solution that you think everyone will agree with.

A friend of mine was hosting a grad party at the end of highschool for us, a fairly close group of 15-17 people. The drinking part was good, but we were in a well-furnished garage with no open windows, using propane heater for additional warmth. It wasn't so much the concern of carbon monoxide, as it was the carbon monoxide in a room full of people who would be too drunk to notice in time. It was fairly well received and we all agreed to turn it off after fifteen minutes.

You aren't criticizing somebody's work. You're not telling people they can't do something. You're just telling them how to do it better.

comment by hankx7787 · 2013-02-09T16:27:21.883Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-02-09T17:06:38.401Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The added challenge for the skiers is that they were in a relatively unusual situation. Making a choice about smoking is very common. Reasonably high status adults don't usually get caught up in group enthusiasm for doing something that's much more dangerous than it looks.