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View Full Version : Transference of Credibility -- Has anyone else encountered this?



Fooglmog
2011-Feb-07, 11:27 PM
I have a friend who's been trying to convince me for a while that UFOs actually are Alien Spacecraft. Yesterday, he showed me a video which was a pretty standard collection of still images and short video clips flashed onto the screen for a few seconds. Some of them I'd seen before, some I hadn't -- but none of it was different in substance.

What I found interesting though, was my friend's commentary. As the video cycled through, he'd comment on most of the images/clips. Some of them he chose to dismiss, while some he found compelling. The reasons for both were varied, but I found the process fascinating because it's something that I could never see myself doing.

Obviously, I came to that video as a sceptic. But even so, I was surprised by my friend's willingness to accept one piece of evidence as valid when the one presented immediately prior to it was so obviously fictitious. For me, as soon as I saw images which I could explain, I lost interest. I assumed that the vetting process which the compiler had used must be flawed and therefore his evidence lost credibility with me even in cases where I could not immediately provide an explanation.

Essentially, I assumed that if I could easily explain one image then the compiler had not done adequate research into possible explanations for it. By extension, it seemed likely that he had not done adequate research into any image. Therefore, the likelihood that such an explanation existed (whether or not I have the knowledge of experience to identify it immediately) seemed high enough that it was not worth my time looking into any of the images he presented.

To me, this is reasonable. But my friend took an entirely different approach.

From his point of view, he had routed out the inaccurate images. Because of this, he had demonstrated his own knowledge on the subject matter as someone who wouldn't just accept what he was told by others. Since he had demonstrated this, he could assume that he was looking at the images objectively and was therefore likely correct in saying that a number of them were truly unexplainable.

In other words, he ignored the credibility of the source but established his own credibility (in his mind) as a processor of information then treated the information as if it were raw. Then, because he was a credible person, he was of the opinion that his belief in an image's authenticity was itself a demonstration of its authenticity and proof that he was correct. In essence, the fact that he believed his belief was a validation that his belief was correct.

Obviously this has a couple logical fallacies in his mind... and I tried to point it out to him with an analogy.

I asked him to imagine that I was someone who had no idea what any colours were. I'd never been taught to identify them. Then someone walks into a room and tells me there's a colour called Orange, then he shows me what it looks like. He leaves and another person walks in and hands me a bowl full of fruit loops. As he does so, he tells me that blue is a colour, and all the fruit loops are blue.

At this point, I have enough knowledge to go through the bowl and pick out the orange fruit loops, because I know they're not blue. Having done so, I have two options. I can either assume that the person who told me they were all blue was as likely to be wrong about the colours I can't identify as he was about the orange ones OR I can tell myself I'm an expert on colour for not believing that orange was blue and accept that the rest of the fruit loops are in fact blue.

He didn't buy this... saying he'd recognize that all the other fruit loops were different colours and so couldn't all be blue. I tried to point out that UFO cases are all different too and so we can't all be alien space ships. The analogy sort of fell apart at this point... and he pointed out that some fruit loops were blue, so some of the videos must be space ships.

My mistake, I should have said brown fruit loops instead of blue.

In any case. Has anyone else encountered this transference of credibility? Where the credibility of the source is no longer important, because a person assumes that their ability to do some delineation which the source failed to do proves their own credibility on the subject?

Does anyone know what this phenomenon is psychologically?

More importantly, has anyone encountered this and found a successful means of addressing it convincingly? This is a friend who I've had convinced that UFOs aren't alien space craft a few times... but then he keeps stumbling upon some new video or piece of evidence and reverts. I honestly think I've just about got him converted to a rational outlook on this and I don't want to give up on him right as I've got him to the cusp.

Anyone have any thoughts?

slang
2011-Feb-07, 11:55 PM
Anyone have any thoughts?

Yes. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect) That's what it makes me think of.

Garrison
2011-Feb-08, 12:08 AM
Yes. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect) That's what it makes me think of.

Sounds like it, with a big dose of ignorance as to the skill set required to actually analyze video or photographs.

Jens
2011-Feb-08, 01:33 AM
I'm not 100% I understand, but I think this is a perennial dilemma in human society/psychology. Isn't the story about the boy who cried wolf precisely about that dilemma? Should one look at each message individually, or base beliefs on the credibility of the messenger? I assume that humans never do one or the other 100%, but there is always a dilemma about what position to take.

Gillianren
2011-Feb-08, 02:11 AM
The difference to me is that we know there are wolves. They exhibit known behavioural patterns. Aliens, not so much.

Strange
2011-Feb-08, 09:54 AM
[Skipping over the question: what are these "fruit loops" of which you speak, earthling...]

It seems he is not able to separate "I don't know" from "it must be aliens". One approach might be to ask what would happen if you can find an explanation for one of the images he hasn't dismissed himself; this will show that just using his own current knowledge is inadequate. This could backfire because any that are left unexplained at the end will be assumed to be definitely aliens so you also need to get him to accept the idea that some things are just unexplained. There is a difference between "unidentified" and "identified as 'alien'". (Especially when the only evidence we have for the existence of "alien" is a bunch of things which have not been identified.)

A better analogy might be that he is given the task of sorting these "fruit loops" into boxes based on their colour. The boxes are labeled (and either he doesn't know the names for colours, as above, or the boxes are labeled in a foreign language). His boss has said, "look you put the blue ones in here - PLONK- and so on" so he knows where the blue ones go but not (yet) any of the others. As well as boxes for the colours that these "fruit loops" come in, there are also two boxes labeled "unknown" and "alien". So, after your friend has picked out all the blue ones (because he knows where they go) does he tip the rest into "unknown" or "alien"?

Swift
2011-Feb-08, 02:20 PM
The difference to me is that we know there are wolves. They exhibit known behavioural patterns. Aliens, not so much.
I wonder if that is part of the problem. The friend also "knows" there are aliens, and even "knows" their behavioral pattern. So, based on this internal criteria, he is picking out the aliens from the pictures. He is starting the process with a given assumption that there are aliens.

JeffD1
2011-Feb-08, 06:53 PM
The OP demonstrates a very common aspect of conspiracy believers that goes something like;
I know that the source material contains mistakes but since I can determine for myself where they are, the rest of the material must be true and so are conclusions derived from it.

(I know we do not discuss 9/11 here but..) An extreme example of this is the fact that "Loose Change" (or was it "Pentacon"?) has had several incarnations, each one trying to address mistakes the authors found in the previous ones and publically declaring that they purposefully left in mistakes so that viewers could do exactly what is described above.

Another tact of conspiracy believers is to argue one aspect and when losing that arguement simply switch to another aspect, and again, and again, and again, thus demostrating to themselves that they are 'experts' in this particular CB and sooner or later the person they are argueing with will give up or come to an aspect they have no knowledge of. The conspiracy believer then feels victorious and that his own credibility is has increased.

The conspiracy believer will often also deliberatly abandon an arguement in a web forum, commit 'death by mod', and later claim increased credibility on more smpathetic sites due to having been banned on the other.

Its all a form of cognitive dissonance.

JeffD1
2011-Feb-08, 07:00 PM
@Strange: I have pointed out to UFO believers that, yes I believe there must be intelligent life 'out there', and yes I believe that there is a good possibility that some may be capable of reaching this planet, and that yes, I know that some incidents cannot be explained but that to then conclude that all of the above proves that extraterrestrials are the cause of these unexplained events is a giant leap of intuition that more closely resembles a religious belief than a logical conclusion.

Its not well recieved.

Fooglmog
2011-Feb-09, 04:44 AM
I imagine that's especially poorly received among the religious, Jeff.

Thanks for the responses guys. Slang, I especially appreciated your link to the Dunning-Kruger effect... it was interesting in its own right and definitely applicable here.

Though I think that cognitive dissonance is probably the term I'd use with this friend. It's a term he'd understand, and it sort of strips away the mystique of his point of view. I feel that, if I was more specific than that, he'd be able to look up all the effects, find one that didn't match and claim that I was wrong in my initial suggestion of how he was processing the information.

JeffD1
2011-Feb-09, 11:44 PM
I imagine that's especially poorly received among the religious, Jeff.

.

True, and those who are anti-religious usually huff and chuff quite a bit at the suggestion that their belief resembles religious belief.

jaeger
2011-Feb-10, 02:14 AM
Yes. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect) That's what it makes me think of.

Interesting point, Slang. If some predilection for belief in conspiracy theories can be traced to the Dunning-Kruger Effect, it would suggest that there is some cross-cultural variation may also be operative. I read some of reference material that suggests the Dunning-Kruger effect is muted in European culture and the opposite in East Asian culture. That leads to the question: is belief in conspiracy theories more of an American phenomenon as compared to other cultures?

For fans of "Cheers," it was appear that Cliff Clavin is a perfect example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Jens
2011-Feb-10, 04:39 AM
...huff and chuff...

Is that American slang? I've never heard that phrase before. It sounds like the sound of a locomotive or something.

Van Rijn
2011-Feb-10, 05:01 AM
Is that American slang? I've never heard that phrase before. It sounds like the sound of a locomotive or something.

I've never heard of it. On the other hand "huffing and puffing" is a fairly commonly used phrase.

slang
2011-Feb-10, 07:10 AM
Interesting point, Slang. If some predilection for belief in conspiracy theories can be traced to the Dunning-Kruger Effect, it would suggest that there is some cross-cultural variation may also be operative. I read some of reference material that suggests the Dunning-Kruger effect is muted in European culture and the opposite in East Asian culture. That leads to the question: is belief in conspiracy theories more of an American phenomenon as compared to other cultures?

No idea. I'm sure there have been studies. I'm tempted to explore some peculiarities in American culture and society that differ from European, but I fear that it would get too close to the no politics rule.


For fans of "Cheers," it was appear that Cliff Clavin is a perfect example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Hah, yeah!


Is that American slang?

I'm not sure Jens, I'm Dutch. :)

Jens
2011-Feb-10, 07:15 AM
I'm not sure Jens, I'm Dutch. :)

OK, then. Is it Dutch slang, slang? :)

Donnie B.
2011-Feb-10, 06:31 PM
"Huff and puff" is the more common expression. I don't know if it was inspired by steam locomotives, or predates them. It appears in a well-known tale, namely that of the Three Little Pigs -- it's what the Big Bad Wolf did in preparation for blowing their houses down. Exactly how old that story (or at least the huff and puff part) is, I don't know.