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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Least Surprising Surprising Link of the Year

Tyler Cowen points us to this article, which contains:

"For instance, researchers have found a surprising link between daydreaming and creativity—people who daydream more are also better at generating new ideas."

This surprised someone?

8 comments:

  1. Why do you call this surprising? There are all to many cases of things that "everybody knows" but are disproven on more rigorous examination. And in this particular case, it's easy for availability bias to distort your perception of the true percentages.

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  2. No, I said it was *not* surprising.

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  3. Sorry, typo. Same point applies -- why do you call this *not* surprising? In what sense was this "obviously true" before knowing the results, given the history of "obvious" things that "everyone knows" being disproven?

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  4. Well, Silas, as you point out, something "everybody knows" is sometimes proven false... and that is somewhat surprising. It is certainly not surprising when someone does a study and it shows that the stars are, indeed, more visible at night.

    So, it *could* have been false that daydreamers are creative, but it is really not *surprising* to find out that they are.

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  5. True: the higher the probability you placed on an event happening, the less surprising it is when it happens. (Quantified in information theory by the concept of a "surprisal", equal to log (1/p), where p is the probability you placed on the event before learning of it.)

    Still, why you were justified in having the extreme confidence level in your belief that would make it not surprising? What highly-reliable method did you use to conclude that "obviously" more daydreaming = more creativity? Your personal intuition, or...?

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  6. Silas, I do believe you are complicating matters unnecessarily. The point was:
    * Belief B is the overwhelming conventional opinion about phenomenon Θ.
    * Scientist X studies Θ. His study confirms B is the case.
    * This result is not surprising!
    * If B have proven to be wrong, as is sometimes the case, that result would be surprising.

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  7. Yes, I "get" how surprise works, as seen by my previous specification of how it's quantified in the relevant fields.

    I'm still waiting for your reasoning for why you felt justified in assigning a high probability to this outcome in the first place, and am beginning to think you don't have one beyond your gut feel.

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  8. Silas, you know, I'm not interested in what you "feel." The point is, one is not surprised by something one expects, WHETHER OR NOT ONE HAS A GOOD REASON TO EXPECT IT.

    I am simply not interested in discussing why the vast majority of normal humans would expect this, since it's an attempt at threadjacking on your part. Now find someone else to harass.

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