Applying Things to Other Things
On Thursday in composition class, we listened to an excerpt of Freakonomics about skepticism and critical analysis (The Truth is Out There . . . Isn't It?) and in it-- 17 minutes in, if you want to listen-- a professional skeptic summarized the concept of a Type 1 Cognitive Error-- this is a false positive, and in an evolutionary sense, it's not a bad mistake to make . . . you're a hominid on the plains and you hear a rustle in the grass and even though it might be a squirrel or the wind, you err on the side of caution and head back to your cave-- because that rustle might be a saber-toothed tiger and even though it probably wasn't, by making this error, you survived to see another dawn . . . we humans are designed to make lots of these errors, because they aren't very costly (as opposed to a Type 2 Cognitive Error, where you think the reverse and decide that that rustle in the grass is probably nothing-- because it's usually nothing-- and then you get eaten . . . think about this in modern terms with an electrical socket: better to assume it's live, than actually stick a fork in it to check) and later in the day on Thursday, when I was at the high school turf for soccer practice, and I ran into a mom that I thought was someone I knew (but wasn't quite sure because she was out of context) and realized that I had possibly just sent this person an email about when I was going to pick up her son-- if it was the mom I knew-- and while I wasn't sure it was her, I instinctively knew that it was much less costly to make a Type 1 Error and say hello and tell her that I had sent her an email-- and if she turned out to be someone else, all I would suffer would be a moment of awkwardness-- but if I ignored her and she was the kid's mom, then I would come off as very rude and weird, so I addressed her and she was the person I thought she was and the interaction went as well as it could have (though I couldn't remember her name) and so I'd just like to thank the evolutionary processes that shaped my pattern seeking brain and its ability to suffer through so many Type 1 Cognitive Errors (and I'd like to apologize to all you people that I started waving at, but then-- mid-wave-- realized I didn't actually know you and so started weirdly scratching my head . . . because it's better to wave at a stranger then ignore one of your friends or acquaintances).