Unofficial Canon on Applied Rationalitypost by ScottL · 2016-02-15T13:03:09.532Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 32 comments
Warning: Sections: Bugs Improving the accuracy of your credence levels Mindfulness of how your internal state is affecting how you perceive the world Resolving Disagreements Other stuff which has already been covered in LessWrong None 32 comments
I have been thinking for a while that it would be useful if there was something similar to the Less Wrong Canon on Rationality for the CFAR material. Maybe, it could be called the 'CFAR Canon on Applied Rationality'. To start on this I have compiled a collection of descriptions for the CFAR techniques that I could find. I have separated the techniques into a few different sections. The sections and descriptions have mostly been written by me, with a lot of borrowing from other material, which means that they may not accurately reflect what CFAR actually teaches.
Please note that I have not attended any CFAR workshops, nor am I affiliated with CFAR in any way. My understanding of these techniques comes from CFAR videos, blogs and other websites which I have provided links to. If I have missed any important techniques or if my understanding of any of the techniques is incorrect or if you can provide links to the research that these techniques are based on, please let me know and I will update this post.
Learning this material based solely on the descriptions written here may be unhelpful, arduous or even harmful. (See Duncan_Sabien's full comment for more information on this) It is because the material is very hard to learn correctly. Most of the techniques below involve in one way or another volitionally overriding your instinctual, intuitive or ingrained behaviours and thoughts. These are thoughts which not only often feel enticing and alluring, but that also often feel unmistakably right. If you are anything like me, then you should be very careful if you are trying to learn this material alone. For you will be prone to rationalization, taking shortcuts and making mistakes.
My recommendations for trying to learn this material are:
- learn it deeply and be sure to put what you have learnt into practice. It will often help if you take notes on what works for you and what doesn't. Also take note of the 'Mindsets and perspectives that help you in discovering potential situations that you could end up valuing' section as these are very important.
- get the help of experts or other people who have already expended great amounts of effort in trying to implement this material like the people at cfar. This will save you a great amount of stress and effort as it will allow you to avoid a plethora of potential mistakes and inefficiencies. If you really want to learn this material, then you should deeply consider attending a CFAR workshop.
- get the help of or involve friends. As Duncan_Sabien has said:
It is better on almost every axis with instructors, mentors, friends, companions—people to help you avoid the biggest pitfalls, help you understand the subtle points, tease apart the interesting implications, shore up your motivation, assist you in seeing your own mistakes and weaknesses. None of that is impossible on your own, but it's somewhere between one and two orders of magnitude more efficient and more efficacious with guidance".
- be dubious of your mental models. Beware thoughts and ideas that feel unequivocally right especially if they are solely located internally rather than also being expressed or formulated externally.
- You might want to bookmark this page instead of reading it all at once as it is quite long.
- Discovering bugs
- Things that are probably bugs and should be analysed
- Analyzing bugs
- Solving bugs
- Mindsets and perspectives that help you in discovering potential situations that you could end up valuing
- Optimizing your ability to follow through with your plans
An important concept that is required to understand the CFAR material is the concept of 'bugs'. Bugs generally tend to be situations that involve a feeling of "stuckness" and often occur when your system one and two wants are out of alignment. Some concrete examples of bugs include:
- things that aren’t working and you don’t know why, e.g. repeatedly not getting things done on time or always having issues with your finished products at work
- things that just don’t feel right, e.g. your daily schedule or personal relationships
- things that you want to do, but also don't want to do, e.g. exercise or doing your taxes
- things you want to improve and don’t know how to, e.g. getting a good night’s sleep or social skills
- things that you want to do, but are afraid to do, e.g. public speaking
- plans you think are going to fail, e.g. getting your class assignment in on time
- other dissatisfactions and inefficiencies
- various other internal conflicts
CFAR would stress that 'bugs' are not things that should be accepted with resignation. They are instead things that should be worked through and solved. They are problems that deserve your time, attention and courage to solve. Due to our human nature, it is often best to get the help of others when you are trying to solve your bugs as we tend to rationalize and justify our bugs.
In summary, the CFAR perspective on bugs seems to be that when you notice one you should think: “Okay! Here is an opportunity for me to get better at life. Where’s my pen and paper?" or "Where can I find someone to talk this through with".
- Hamming questions - the mathematician Richard Hamming was known to approach experts from other fields and ask “what are the important problems in your field, and why aren’t you working on them?”. The same question can be applied to personal life: “what are the important problems in your life and what is stopping you from working on them?” This question is often best asked in what for convenience is often called a "hamming circle". This is a group of people who come together and help each other explore their hamming questions. As a word of caution, jimrandomh has advised that:
If you organize a group into Hamming Circles and they don't know what they're doing, aren't in the right mindspace, or don't have enough shared context and trust, it can backfire pretty severely. People's Hamming problems are often things that are aversive to think about, and attempting to discuss them but having it go poorly can make the problem worse.
- The Surprise Journal – is a simple technique which involves recording when and why you are surprised. Surprise is a cue that your expectations are and were wrong. Part of the usefulness of this technique may be that it primes the reticular activation system so that you are on the lookout for and notice the things that surprise you.
- Comfort Zone Expansion (CoZE) - is basically CFAR's take on exposure therapy. Now, most people don't have full on debilitating disorders, but it is common for people to accumulate some negative, avoidant or escape-oriented strategies. Some example situations in which these strategies tend to occur can be found here. These strategies tend to form for a large number of reasons, but the most common is probably due to our human brains being bad at evaluating the negative social impacts and consequences of our actions. This is due to the negativity bias, as well as other things. CoZE is a way to fix these strategies. It could be described as a long-term method to better calibrate your evaluations or also as applied aversion factoring. There are two main goals involved in it. The first is to train yourself to be able to do things that you find aversive, i.e. to be able to feel the fear and do it anyway. The second is to remove or lessen your non helpful aversions. These two goals are entwined as the idea of CoZE is to frequently expose you to the aversive thing (in a safe way) and to make sure you do it despite the discomfort. The idea is that this will help you to realize that it is not as bad as you predict. Some tips if you are going to try CoZE are: find some way to involve others either as an audience or as a way to provide accountability, care simply about getting what you want to do done rather than getting it done well or with good results and try to cultivate a culture or sense of playfulness as this leads to better coping styles for dealing with stress. CoZE involves:
- Creating a list of doable, but also challenging situations that are outside your comfort zone, but not by so much that they are going to cause trauma or any other long term negative effects.
- Noting down the difficulty of the task in accordance with your comfort zone. The difficulty of a task is dependent on the individual. A lawyer might have no difficulties with social situations, but could find situations involving heights to be extremely difficult. Another person might be the exact opposite.
- Doing the aversive thing. It is good idea to view the discomfort as a part of the growth experience. If it is uncomfortable, then it means that you are extending yourself and what you are capable of. The discomfort is the price you pay for advancing towards a goal.
- Note down or think about whether the real consequences matched up with your predictions. Even if you do something that turns out to genuinely dangerous or harmful, then this is good (as long as you are fine) as it has provided you with some reasonably trustworthy information that you should avoid the thing you just did or at least adapt your strategies with engaging with it.
- Directed graphical causal models for our personal lives - this modelling process, which probably happens more naturally for some of us than others, can help us focus locally on relevant causal relationships, and generate queries about them that we might otherwise forget to seriously ask.
- Value of information and fermi-type estimation in daily life - an example of this is asking: "how many minutes will I spend commuting over the next year and what's the expected savings if I set a 5-minute timer to try to optimize that?" The basic idea is that you are trying to find valuable information that would allow you to estimate or improve the value of some large and expensive (or frequent) task that you plan to do in the future. For example, many people commit to years of education and tens of thousands of hours of work to “get a good job doing X” without even spending as little as 40 hours job-shadowing to see if they’d actually enjoy doing X, or 10 hours cleverly searching for alternative lines of work.
- Alienated birth rights – these are things that all human beings should be capable of engaging in and enjoying, but which people often do not because of internalized beliefs and identities that say things like: ”I cannot do that” or ”I am bad at that”. (This is similar to learned blankness and learned helplessness)
- Half-hearted trying often induces failure and is rarely the optimal behaviour (this is my interpretation of the material in this post) - 'half-hearted trying' could be described as either handicapping or self-limiting behaviour as well as when you are just going through the motions rather than fully applying yourself. Half-hearted trying is a common response when someone is apathetic or predicting that failure is inevitable, or at least highly probable. It is different from cautious, tentative and exploratory behaviours. Half-hearted trying isn't necessarily a bad thing. It is often totally fine to be doing it and you shouldn't view it as anything more than an indication that you don't really care about what you are doing. You shouldn't feel guilty when you notice that you are half-heartedly trying. In fact, finding this out should be a cause for celebration as it means that you have just found a new reliable source of information into your true motivations. This new information can then be used to debug why you are half-heartedly trying. Successful debugging will generally lead to four types of situations. If you find out that what you are half-heartedly trying to do is something that you shouldn't care about, then you should spend some time and effort to find out if it's possible to stop doing it. If you find out that it is something that you should really be caring about more, then you have found a bug that you should solve. If you find out that you are handicapping yourself because you fear failure, then you should try to remove these fears or aversions, see the 'Taking apart your aversions' section for more on this. Finally, if you find out that it is something that you need to do, but shouldn't care about, then you should try to accept your half-hearted trying. You should not punish yourself for half-heartedly trying because, at the end of the day, even if you are doing something half-heartedly at least you are doing it. As kurt Vonnegut once wrote: "If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you're a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind". Perhaps, we should only concern ourselves over those tasks that we repeatedly find ourselves half-heartedly trying to do. We should beware of the fact that callousness and apathy often come easily. Consistently caring, on the other hand, can require great amounts of character and courage. Some examples of half-heartedly trying include when:
- Your goal is just to get something done rather than to get it done well. For example, someone might be nagging you to do something and so you reluctantly and half-heartedly do it.
- You find something to be pointless, but are unable to stop doing it. For example, you might be in a relationship that you no longer want to be in, but you don't have the courage to break it up, so you withdraw physcially/emotionally and continue the relationship, but are only half-commited to it.
- You find that it makes failure more palatable or less socially costly. For example, if you do end up failing you like the idea that you can always say: "Oh, yeh, but I wasn't really trying"
- You highly value giving up early in certain contexts. For example, beginner parkour students often do not do certain moves well because it is easy to quit early in them.
- You find some aspect of the activity to be aversive, but you still want to do it. For example, you might feel guility about doing something, so you end up only half committing to doing it.
- Remove wasteful and/or harmful repeated thoughts (this is my interpretation of the material in this post) - rumination and dwelling is a very human way of solving complex problems, but ruminations are expensive and can also alter us in significant ways. It is therefore important that you make sure that your ruminations are directed at worthy and solvable problems. Some different types of problems that we ruminate about include:
- Problems that System 1 can solve by itself : these are good leave them alone
- Problems that are worth solving, but require System 2 input : this would include repeated behaviours that you dislike. For example, feeling stuck in a job or relationship, but doing nothing about it. The solution here is to raise the problem to conscious attention and then try to figure out what is bothering system 1. You should then decide on what to do about it.
- "Problems" that should be accepted : consider someone who is making an annoying munching sound. Most people would think in their heads: "will you shutup" or something similar. These negative thoughts do nothing to change the actual situation. The best thing to do in this situation is to decide on a strategy to either stop the aggravation or to accept it and stop dwelling negatively on it.
- Problems that should be delegated either to others or to future you : simply put, if dwelling on something is not helpful in anyway then it should be stopped. For example, if on the way home after an interview you are thinking about all the things that you might have messed up then you are effectively causing yourself stress for no reason. This is because there is no way for you to take actions on these thoughts. You cannot retake the interview and so you shouldn't worry about what might have gone wrong. It is ok to take notes on areas to improve. It is a problem, however, when you dwell on these areas outside of situations where you can take actions to improve in them. In the same way if you are dwelling on something that others must do or that you can only do in the future then these thoughts are effectively wasteful.
- Problems that require dwelling or rumination to solve : examples include complex academic problems that you are trying to solve. Rumination and dwelling in this case is useful and you should let it be.
- Goal factoring - this entails finding some alternate set of actions through which you could get what you want cheaper. For instance, if you believe that you are doing martial arts solely for the exercise and self-defense benefits, but do not want to get these things by, for example, jogging to work and carrying mace, then it indicates that there is something more to your positive evaluation of martial arts. You might, for example, want to do it because you think it’s cool or because your friends do it. By listening to your emotional reactions and analyzing them you can find out how to better align your evaluations so that you end up correctly valuing what you actually find valuable.
- Reference class hopping – while reference class forecasting is about improving your reference class so that you can make more accurate predictions. Reference class hopping is about discovering the underlying cause of anxiety or akrasia. It does this by exploring different reference classes and tests them to find out if they arouse anxiety or akrasia. For example, imagine that you dislike social gatherings. Reference class hopping would tell you to look at your track record to consider whether you feel anxious at all parties or whether there are times when the anxiety is diminished. By identifying the common themes in the parties that you find uncomfortable, you can develop a hypothesis about the source of your anxiety and then test the theory.
- Taking apart your aversions or aversion factoring - involves:
- Finding a task that you find aversive, but think might be worthwhile doing
- Attempting to list the complete set of aversions, i.e. everything that is stopping you from doing the task
- Making each aversion concrete, i.e. finding out what exactly, at the smallest level possible, is aversive. We often think of aversions in the conglomerate sense. We think “I don’t like social gatherings” instead of “I don’t like aspect X of social gatherings”. The problem with this is that it leads us to find things in their entirety to be aversive when it might really only be one aspect of it that we find to be aversive.
- Solving your aversions. The strategy that you take here will depend on the type of aversion that it is. We can think of aversions as being one of two types: helpful and non helpful.
- A helpful aversion is one where you would think: “Oh, thanks brain for helping me avoid that harmful situation”. Aversions of this type should either be accepted or solved by generating procedures or techniques that eradicate the danger or potentially harmful situation. Once the aversion is solved it may still linger, which means it has turned into a non helpful aversion.
- A non helpful aversion is one that is present when there is no danger or reason for its existence. Aversions tend to be sticky and residual which means that people's aversions often prompted helpful behaviors in the past, but since their environment has changed they have now become unhelpful. The goal in this step is to simply develop a plan that will help to remove these aversions. Often this will involve acclimation or exposure. Reframing can also help. Also, see the section: "optimising your ability to follow through with your plans"
- Doing a mindful walk through of the activity that was originally aversive to see if it is still aversive. If it is, then repeat this process from step 2.
- Reframing – when making decisions the underlying valuation of a solution or problem depends on the perspective or way in which you are framing the solution or problem. For example, instead of thinking “Do I want to go the gym?” you can think “If I was already at the gym, would I want to leave and wish that I hadn’t gone?”
- Pitting your desire to look good against your desire to improve - if you are going to improve fast, then you will probably also need to fail fast and fail frequently, at least at first. You will need to be doing things like: asking 'silly' questions or trying stuff out even when you're not ready. This can be hard to do because no one likes to look like a fool. One technique that sometimes helps in making this easier is to to compare your desire to not look like a fool now vs. your desire to become better.
While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior
- Focused Grit - this basically involves sitting down, focusing and giving a problem your full attention for at least five minutes. A surprising number of problems can be solved in just five minutes. The whole process is:
- Take a piece of paper, a pen and a timer
- Identify a large problem, e.g. terrible job, family feud
- Think about the problem for five whole minutes, by the clock
- If the problem has not been resolved and you know of another 5 minute exercise that you could try, restart this process from step 1 with this exercise.
- If the problem has not been resolved and you do not know of another 5 minute exercise you could try, spend 5 minutes brainstorming potential 5 minute exercises that could potentially solve the problem. If you come up with an exercise, restart this process from step 1.
- Self efficacy - this is the sense that you can tackle any given problem. It is the idea that there is always a way in which to do something and that you just need to find it
- Growth mindset - this is the belief that you are always capable of being more than you currently are. A growth mindset does not necessarily involve positive thinking. For example, if you repeat the affirmation ‘I am a great singer’. This can actually have a negative effect. Because the affirmation relates to a fixed attribute and if your brain doesn't feel it to be true, then it is likely to activate the exact opposite concept, i.e. that you are a bad singer. Another potential negative effect of positive thinking is the “goal-turnoff effect” which means that once a pursuit attempt has been completed the goal deactivates and inhibits the mental representations used to attain the goal.
- Mental contrasting - is a technique can be used as an alternative to positive thinking and has been shown to be useful. Mental contrasting is a visualization technique where you imagine several positive aspects of completing your goal and then look at your current situation and the obstacles that are stopping you from completing the goal. To work well mental contrasting requires a growth mindset and a reasonable expectation of success. This is because if you do it with a fixed or negative assessment of yourself then it will only deepen and reinforce this assessment.
- A feeling that you should keep trying new things - a big part of this is being willing to embrace the new and uncertain in the hope that it will lead to something useful. This involves taking on a new perspective where you don’t think of planned actions in terms of their potentially aversive or pleasant outcomes, but instead as potential sources of useful information. You view them in a similar way to how you would view an experiment. If an experiment does not give you the expected result, it still gives you a range of other useful information like what doesn’t work or that your beliefs may be somehow faulty. This type of thinking is not that intuitive because, by and large, the mind encourages us to behave in ways that have worked before. Though this is useful from a survival perspective, it does not often lead us to try things that are completely different from what we have done before.
- Use curiosity or closed vs open ways of thinking - for complex problems, your time is sometimes better spent, not in trying to solve the problem, but instead in searching for solutions to the problem. That is, it can be useful to jump out of your problem solving mode or your cached routine mode and to start questioning. This is especially true for problems that you have been trying to solve for a long time. It is important to note that searching for solutions isn't necessarily a wholly conscious process. It is often the case that the correct solution has already been activated by your brain, but is not being brought to your conscious attention because of other cached responses that are taking priority. If you can find some way to relax, get distracted or do something else for a while the correct solution will sometimes, seemingly out of nowhere, pop into your head.
- Being Strategic – teaches you how to make a to-do system. This includes going through tools like things like: Getting Things Done (GTD), Remember the Milk, Workflowy, BeeMinder, Anki, Pomodoro Technique
- Next actions – our motivation is normally dependent on our predictions, which can be problematic. A way to avoid these problems is to just know the next physical action that would get you closer to completion. Instead of having an item ‘do my taxes’ you can have an item of ‘find tax forms and put them on desk’ which is both a concrete and small action.
- Trigger Action Plans (TAP)s - is a simple algorithm that goes, "if I do x, then I will do y." See this post.
- Structured Procrastination - involves acknowledging that procrastination is somewhat inevitable which means that it can be beneficial if you spend some time trying to optimising what you will do when you are procrastinating. If you are probably going to end up procrastinating, you might as well get the most out of it. For example, you might decide to procrastinate on starting an assignment by going on a walk or cleaning the house. By using structured procrastination you can also make your plans more pliable and capable of being completed.
- Does future me have a comparative advantage? – if you are thinking of procrastinating and putting something off till later, try asking yourself if the future version of you will be better off or more easily able to handle the task. If the answer is no, then you should probably just do it now. This question is probably more helpful for small items than large ones.
- Murphyjitsu – is essentially imagining everything that could possibly go wrong and would stop you in reaching that goal. Then outplanning these potentialities so that they never occur. They is referred to as outplanning Murphy. The “Murphyjitsu” technique can be used by asking “how surprised would I be if I failed?”, followed by “what obstacles might prevent me from finishing?” For example, “I’m going to do CrossFit three times a week and I would only be mildly surprised if I failed” should immediately lead to problems and solutions like:
- “Which days?” → “Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, at 5:30 PM, after work, with an alarm set, and with my workout clothes always in my car.”
- “What if I can’t go during gym hours?” → “If I can’t make CrossFit, then any exercise of equal or greater intensity and duration will suffice.”
- “What if I’m sick?” → “I don’t go if I’m too sick to go to work, otherwise I go.”
- “What if I’m, like, really really tired though?” → “I go anyway but take it easy if I need to.”
- “What if I’m injured in a car accident?” → “Obviously don’t worry about it. Also, I need a first aid kit in my car.”
- Habit practicing – Imagine that you wanted to stop sleeping in when your alarm goes off in the morning. One way to train this habit is to practice waking up when your alarm goes off. You would do this by turning off the lights in your room, setting your alarm for five minutes, getting into bed, relaxing and then mindfully getting up straight away when the alarm goes off.
- (I have been told that this is no longer up to date) Urge propagation - is a motivation hack which traces the causal link between a larger goal you really care about and the action you don't feel motivated to take, and explains that link to system 1 in a language it can understand. It involves finding out what your System two wants you to do and how you can align your system one to want the same thing. This is normally done with operant conditioning or reinforcement. What makes things like trying to lose weight or to learn the violin difficult, is that it often causes conflicts with system one driven urges, e.g. wanting a nap or craving a cookie, and because long-term goals typically require sticking it out through a series of unpleasant intermediate steps, e.g. eating less and practicing the violin, it can be easy to lose the original motivation. This loss of motivation tends to not occur so frequently for things that we feel rewarded by. This is primarily because we do these things automatically. When I want Thai food, I don't need to volitionally force myself to drive there, look at the menu, go inside, order etc. I don’t have to convince myself to take those steps. They happen automatically. The point of urge propagation is to make long-term goals feel more like short-term urges which essentially means rewiring the brain to associate actions with rewards for the particular task that you want to do. You can use a similar idea to discourage bad habits. You do this by stretching out the time between an action and its reward. For example, if you want to stop reading stuff online then you can have the pages load more slowly for non work related material. Thinking about urge propagation leads us to realise that small aversive moments can have a drastic impact on our choices and motivations. The aversive moment of getting into a cold swimming pool can overwhelm the delayed rewards of doing morning laps even though you might really like or want the rewards, e.g. being fitter. In summary the process in urge propagation is:
- Find a situation where the rewards are distanced from the actions
- Associate the activity with a powerful feeling of reward, one with a stronger neurochemical kick than the virtuous goals, e.g. ‘being healthier, that we normally aspire to.
- Come up with a mental image that vividly captures that feeling and that you can summon in moments of weakness. It should be a very sticky image because if it isn't then you won’t experience that gut-level surge of motivation that the image is meant to cause. For example, one person was able to overcome their aversion to push-ups, which made them feel unpleasantly hot and sweaty, by tapping into their obsession with longevity. They now vividly imagine the heat from the exercise as if it was a fire that burned away cell-damaging free radicals.
- Turbo Charged training – this is best for the types of skills that you repeat over and over again to get your nervous system to change in order to get better at it. The underlying idea is the rule of intensity which states that the experience of intensity or effort that you are expending to learn something corresponds with the rate at which you are learning it. For example, 10 minutes of intense time spent trying to learn a piano piece may be just as helpful as 1 hour of less intense effort. Turbo charged training has two main principles: maximise the engagement with the learning process and minimize error. This means that if you are making lots of errors then you need to slow down or make whatever you are doing easier. If what you are doing is too easy, then you need to find some method to ramp it up and make it more difficult. It is also important that you are learning the right skills and are getting good feedback which is not noisy, but is fast enough to signal to the reward centers of the brain that you are actually making progress. This ensures that the neural patterns that were just activated get reinforced. Turbo charged training is based on taking an outside view of learning, i.e. looking at the people who learn really fast and what they are doing.
- Surprise-o-Meter – this technique involves picturing an event and observing how surprised you would be to be in that situation. Surprise is a clue that you were implicitly expecting something else to happen. The more surprised you are, the less probable your subconscious thought of that event was. Also called, pre-Hindsight which involves using emotions to evaluate how likely you are to succeed at a goal. Imagine that, six months from now, you have not achieved your goal. The level of surprise you feel at this outcome is a good predictor of whether you will actually succeed. You can then use this information as input that can be used to build plans that will actually work.
- Your inner simulator - Your “inner simulator” is CFAR’s version of the distinction between profession and anticipation. Basically, your “inner simulator” is the part of you that can play movies forward to determine what to anticipate: “Do I have time to turn left before that car reaches me?”; “What will she do, if I approach and say ‘hi’?” You can use your inner simulator to develop high quality plans. An example of this process would be asking:
- What you predict will happen if you take some course of action?
- What could go wrong?
- How can you change your plans to prevent that thing from going wrong?
- This process is repeated from the first step with your predictions updated to take into account your preventitive measures.
- The credence calibration game - when you hear someone say “I’m 90% sure…”, that “90%” figure is called a credence level. Most people tend to be over-confident by default, in the sense that when we say “90% sure”, we tend to be right much less than 90% of the time. This game is basically getting you to practice the mental action of converting your internal sense of “sureness” into a credence level that you can report to yourself and others. The goal is to train this over time so that your credence levels more closely reflect the actual success rates.
- Againstness – is the feeling of being opposed to something. An example is when you get angry during a heated argument. This feeling typically manifests in sympathetic nervous system responses in the body. Some of these symptoms could include: hunched shoulders, rubbing the neck, positioning arms to protect the belly, raising heart rate and tensed muscles. By being mindful of your againstness you can calm yourself and engage in a shift to the parasympathetic nervous system, so from a mental point of view you might: try to appreciate it as an opportunity in practicing releasing againstness, try to increase your empathy for the other person by modelling them in enough detail that you understand why the thing that is causing your againstness seems right to them or try to emphasise your sense of tribal togetherness. This means that you should attempt to see the other person as a fellow human being and wish to help them realize their full potential. From a purely physical perspective you could:
- open your posture, i.e. have shoulders back, spine straight & upright, head balanced on spine, belly exposed
- breathe deeply, smoothly, gently and low in the diaphragm
- relax the hands, arms, shoulders and eyes
- try smiling/laughing
- Perceptual editing - is the ability:
- to recognize when you’re making a personal contribution to experience
- to decide whether it’s a contribution you actually want to make
- to leverage the opportunity and deliberately choose what contribution you’d rather make, if any.
- Coordinatizing emotion-space (and feeling it) - essentially emotional awareness, i.e. understanding what it feels like when you are feeling a particular emotion or set of emotions.
- Keep your identity fluid – our worldviews and beliefs affect our valuation processes. If there is something that you consider staunchly to be part of our identity then you will be more likely to believe claims related to it and to defend them. Now, this isn’t necessarily a negative thing. If you want to do something, then making it part of your identity can be a great way to motivate yourself to achieve it. But, it can also lead you to become biased and to rationalize when you find things that are in opposition to your identity. A fluid identity has the discussed benefits and also avoids the negatives. A fluid identity is one that you can mindfully alter for your own benefit. Sometimes you might want to make it smaller to improve your reasoning and other times you might want to make it bigger so that it primes you to be motivated and to care.
- Stop rationalizing: The what fooling yourself feels like game – we are prone to rationalization. By practicing what it feels like when we are rationalizing we can become more likely to notice when we are rationalizing.
- CFAR sees emotional states as cues or indicators which tell you that you should double-check your reasoning or coax yourself into another emotional state. Changing your emotional state can be a potentially useful mechanism for making rationality easier. For example, getting yourself into a "playful" mode can make it easier to explore a wider set of possible actions.
- Double Crux game - double Crux is a structured format for collaboratively finding the truth in cases where two people disagree. Instead of non-interactively offering pieces of their respective platforms, people jointly seek the actual question at the crux of the disagreement—the root uncertainty that has the potential to affect both of their beliefs. See this post
- Bayes’ theorem – as described elsewhere, but more focused on the aspect of sharing sources of disagreement and using a Bayesian framework for settling those disagreements.
- Checklist of rationality habits.
- Look at a problem as an outsider – i.e. use reference class forecasting.
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