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  • So, I'd like you to imagine for a moment

  • that you are a soldier in the heat of battle.

  • Maybe you're a Roman foot soldier or a medieval archer

  • or maybe you're a Zulu warrior.

  • Regardless of your time and place,

  • there are some things that are constant.

  • Your adrenalin is elevated, and your actions are stemming

  • from these deeply ingrained reflexes.

  • Reflexes rooted in a need to protect yourself and your side

  • and to defeat the enemy.

  • So now I'd like you to imagine playing a very different role.

  • That of the scout.

  • So the scout's job is not to attack or defend.

  • The scout's job is to understand.

  • The scout is the one going out,

  • mapping the terrain, identifying potential obstacles,

  • and the scout may hope to learn that say, there's a bridge

  • in a convenient location across the river.

  • But above all, the scout wants to know what's really there

  • as accurately as possible.

  • And in a real actual army,

  • both the soldier and the scout are essential.

  • But you can also think of each of these roles as a mindset.

  • A metaphor for how all of us process information

  • and ideas in our daily lives.

  • And what I'm going to argue today is that having good judgment,

  • and making accurate predictions, making good decisions

  • is mostly about which mindset you're in.

  • So, to illustrate these mindsets in action,

  • I'm going to take you back to 19th century France

  • where this innocuous looking piece of paper launched

  • one of the biggest political scandals in history.

  • It was discovered in 1894 by officers

  • in the French general staff.

  • And it was torn up in a wastepaper basket

  • but when they pieced it back together, they discovered

  • that someone in their ranks had been selling military secrets

  • to Germany.

  • So they launched a big investigation

  • and their suspicions quickly converged

  • on this man, Albert Dreyfus.

  • He had a sterling record.

  • No past history of wrongdoing,

  • no motive as far as they could tell.

  • But Dreyfus was the only Jewish officer at that rank in the Army

  • and unfortunately, at this time,

  • the French army was highly anti-semitic.

  • So they compared Dreyfus's handwriting to that on the memo

  • and concluded that it was a match.

  • Even though outside professional handwriting experts

  • were much less confident in the similarity, but never mind that.

  • They went and searched Dreyfus's apartment

  • looking for any signs of espionage.

  • They went through his files and they didn't find anything.

  • And this just convinced them more that Dreyfus was not only guilty,

  • but sneaky as well, because clearly he had hidden all of the evidence

  • before they had managed to get to it.

  • Next, they went and looked through his personal history

  • for any incriminating details.

  • They talked to his teachers.

  • They found that he had studied foreign languages in school

  • which clearly showed a desire to conspire with foreign governments

  • later in life.

  • His teachers also said that Dreyfus had a good memory

  • and was known for having a good memory.

  • Which was highly suspicious, right?

  • You know, because a spy has to remember a lot of things.

  • So, the case went to trial and Dreyfus was found guilty.

  • And afterwards they took him out into this public square

  • and ritualistically tore his insignia from his uniform

  • and broke his sword and two.

  • This is called the degradation of Dreyfus.

  • And they sentenced him to life imprisonment

  • on the aptly named Devil's Island

  • which is this barren rock off the coast of South America.

  • So there he went.

  • And there he spent his days alone writing letters

  • and letters to the French government

  • begging them to reopen his case so they could discover his innocence.

  • But for the most part, France considered the matter closed.

  • So one thing that's really interesting to me

  • about the Dreyfus Affair is this question

  • of why the officers were so convinced

  • that Dreyfus was guilty.

  • I mean you might even assume that they were setting him up.

  • They were intentionally framing him,

  • but historians don't think that's what happened.

  • As far as we can tell, the officers genuinely believed

  • that the case against Dreyfus was strong.

  • Which you know, makes you wonder what does it say

  • about the human mind that we can find such paltry evidence

  • to be compelling enough to convict a man?

  • Well, this is a case of what scientists call

  • "motivated reasoning".

  • It's this phenomenon which our unconscious motivations,

  • our desires and fears shape the way we interpret information.

  • So some information, some ideas feel like our allies

  • and we want them to win.

  • We want to defend them.

  • And other information or ideas are the enemy

  • and we want to shoot them down.

  • So this is why I call motivated reasoning, "soldier mindset."

  • And probably most of you have never persecuted

  • a French Jewish officer for high treason I assume,

  • but maybe you've followed sports or politics.

  • So you might have noticed that when the referee judges

  • that your team committed a foul for example,

  • you're highly motivated to find reasons why he's wrong.

  • But if he judges that the other team committed a foul - awesome!

  • That's a good call.

  • Let's not examine it too closely.

  • Or, maybe you've read an article or study

  • that examined some controversial policy

  • like capital punishment.

  • And as researchers have demonstrated,

  • if you support capital punishment,

  • and the study shows that is not effective,

  • then you're highly motivated to find all the reasons

  • why the study was poorly designed.

  • But if it shows that capital punishment works - awesome!

  • It's a good study. And vice versa.

  • If you don't support capital punishment, same thing.

  • Our judgment is just strongly influenced unconsciously

  • by which side we want to win.

  • And this is ubiquitous.

  • This shapes how we think about our health, relationships,

  • how we decide how to vote, what we consider fair or ethical,

  • and what's most scary to me about motivated reasoning

  • or soldier mindset, is how unconscious it is.

  • We can think we're being objective and fair-minded

  • and still wind up ruining the life of an innocent man.

  • However, fortunately for Dreyfus, his story is not over.

  • This is Colonel Picquart.

  • He is another high-ranking officer in the French army,

  • and like most people, he assumed Dreyfus was guilty.

  • Also like most people in the Army,

  • he was at least casually anti-Semitic.

  • But at a certain point, Picquart began to suspect

  • what if we are all wrong about Dreyfus?

  • And what happened was, he had discovered evidence

  • that the spying for Germany had continued

  • even after Dreyfus was in prison.

  • And he had also discovered that another officer in the Army

  • had handwriting that perfectly matched the memo.

  • Much closer than Dreyfus's handwriting.

  • So he brought these discoveries to his superiors

  • but to his dismay, they either didn't care,

  • or came up with elaborate rationalizations to explain his findings,

  • like, "Well, all you've really shown, Picquart, is that there is another spy

  • who learned how to mimic Dreyfus's handwriting,

  • and he picked up the torch of spying after Dreyfus left.

  • But Dreyfus is still guilty."

  • Eventually, Picquart managed to get Dreyfus exonerated.

  • But it took him 10 years,

  • and for part of that time, he himself was in prison

  • for the crime of disloyalty to the Army.

  • So, you know, a lot of people feel

  • like Picquart can't really be the hero of this story.

  • Because he was an anti-Semite and that's bad.

  • Which I agree with, but personally, for me,

  • the fact that Picquant was anti-Semitic

  • actually makes his actions more admirable to me.

  • Because he had the same prejudices, the same reasons

  • to be biased as his fellow officers,

  • but his motivation to find the truth and uphold it just trumped all of that.

  • So to me,

  • Picquart is a poster child for what I call "scout mindset."

  • It's the drive not to make one idea win or another lose,

  • but just to see what's really there as honestly and accurately as you can,

  • even if it's not pretty or convenient or pleasant.

  • And this mindset is what I'm personally passionate about.

  • And what I've spent the last few years examining

  • and trying to figure out what causes scout mindset.

  • You know, why are some people sometimes at least,

  • able to cut through their own prejudices and biases and motivations

  • and just to see the facts and evidence

  • as objectively as they can?

  • And the answer is emotional.

  • So, just as the soldier mindset is rooted in emotions

  • like defensiveness or tribalism, scout mindset is too.

  • It's just rooted in different emotions.

  • So for example, scouts are curious.

  • They're more likely to say that they feel pleasure

  • when they learn new information or an itch to solve a puzzle.

  • They're more likely to feel intrigued

  • when they encounter something that contradicts their expectations.

  • Scouts also have different values.

  • They are more likely to say that they think it's virtuous

  • to test your own beliefs and they're less likely to say

  • that someone who changes his mind seems weak.

  • And above all, scouts are grounded.

  • Which means that their self-worth

  • as a person isn't tied to how right or wrong they are

  • about any particular topic.

  • So, you know, they can believe that capital punishment works

  • and if studies come out showing that it doesn't, they can say,

  • "Huh. Looks like I might be wrong.

  • Doesn't mean I'm bad or stupid."

  • So these traits, this cluster of traits

  • is what researchers have found -

  • and I've also found anecdotally - predicts good judgment.

  • And the key takeaway I want to leave you with

  • about those traits is that they're primarily

  • not about how smart you are, or about how much you know.

  • In fact they don't correlate very much with IQ at all.

  • They're about how you feel.

  • So, there's a quote that I keep coming back to by Saint-Exupery.

  • He is the author of "The Little Prince."

  • And he said, "If you want to build a ship,

  • don't drum up your men to collect wood and give orders

  • and distribute the work.

  • Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."

  • In other words, I claim if we want

  • to really improve our judgment as individuals and as societies,

  • what we need most is not more instruction in logic or rhetoric

  • or probability or economics,

  • even though those things are quite valuable.

  • But what we most need

  • to use those principles well, is scout mindset.

  • We need to change the way we feel.

  • We need to learn how to feel proud instead of ashamed

  • when we notice we might have been wrong about something.

  • We need to learn how to feel intrigued instead of defensive

  • when we encounter some information

  • that contradicts our beliefs.

  • So, the question I want to leave you with,

  • is what do you most yearn for?

  • Do you yearn to defend your own beliefs,

  • or do you yearn to see the world as clearly as you possibly can?

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

So, I'd like you to imagine for a moment

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【TEDx】Why "scout mindset" is crucial to good judgment | Julia Galef | TEDxPSU

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    chloe posted on 2016/08/10
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