Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sometimes Experts Don't Know Much

The Rosenhan experiment showed that psychiatric hospital staff couldn't reliably distinguish between the sane and the insane in the hospital. The full paper can be found here.

According to another study at Cornell, you can implant false memories into preschool children to make them think the memories are true, and experts cannot distinguish, by interviewing the children, which memories are true and which are false.

So, when experts' claims conflict with reality, you should be careful in checking whether the claims are true or not. Most people (yes, including me) appear (or pretend) to know more than they actually know.

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P.S. How to believe anything? That's a hard question that cannot be completely solved. I think we can only hope to converge closer and closer to the truth. Gotama Buddha tried to teach the Kalamas people using the list we know as Kalama Sutra. Personally, I like the Bayesian approach of updating my belief on whether something is true or false as I gain more and more evidences. A short overview of Bayesian inference is here. A reading list can be found here.

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