Techniques to consciously activate a rationalist self-image

post by chaosmage · 2013-08-30T00:01:14.770Z · score: 2 (7 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 6 comments

When I do mindless or routine tasks for a while, activities I don't need much conscious thought for, I go back to older and simpler cognitions. It takes me a little effort to, for example, notice I'm confused, and then remember the methods of rationality. That takes me a second or so, during which some attention goes inward, to flash images associated with rationality. So to me, rational, purposeful thought distinctly feels like a faculty that needs to be (re)activated to be used.

That's my own experience. Does anyone experience this similarly?

So I played with this activation. First I started noticing it and feeling it in detail. I don't know how much my (non-trivial) mindfulness meditation training helped with this. I related to the activation impulse as another part of my body, as if I had an extra finger and was learning how to twitch it. I found a short trigger phrase for me to associate with this activation and taught my brain the connection by simply doing the activation at the same time as I was saying the trigger phrase.

Do any of you guys do something like that? Some image, phrase or visualization that helps you remember to be rational?

6 comments

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comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2013-08-30T00:34:46.794Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

"Be rational" is not specific. Consider particular skills instead.

comment by David_Gerard · 2013-08-30T12:28:01.424Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I intermittently remember to ask myself "So how do you know that?" (The voice in my head is Ciphergoth's for some reason, so I'll call that LW-inspired.)

comment by solipsist · 2013-08-30T14:59:41.226Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I consider a rationalist self-image to be harmful. You are irrational. You have always been irrational. Barring major brain modification, you will always be irrational. Aspire to be less wrong, but don't believe you are.

comment by Lumifer · 2013-08-30T15:41:00.227Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Rationalism is not the endpoint but a direction.

comment by solipsist · 2013-08-30T16:58:02.896Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Rationalism is not the endpoint but a direction.

Yes, and I aspire towards rationalism. But to self-identify as a rationalist is to think that I am something that other people are not.

Among my social group, I care the most about cognitive biases and spend the most visible effort trying to overcome them. I most strongly signal the traits of a rationalist. Does that mean I am better at making decisions than my friends? No. I make an effort to spend time around people who are more intelligent and accomplished than I am. I expect their opinions to be, on average, better informed than mine (at minimum in their area of expertise).

The primary effect of considering myself to be a rationalist would be to dismiss the opinions of non-rationalists and hold my own opinions in higher esteem. I expect that to make my decisions worse, not better.

ETA: I understand the usefulness of self-identity in developing and maintaining constructive habits. I understand a rationalist might use this property of self-identity to their advantage (for example, by self-identifying as "a safe pair of hands"). But I don't believe that identifying as a rationalist qua rationalist would lead me to constructively better habits.

comment by beoShaffer · 2013-08-31T00:56:09.956Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I believe you and Lumifer both mean rationality, not rationalism which is the name of a completely different philosophical position.