Snowflake Snowstorm by Squidocto.
Snowflake / Snowstorm
A series of studies was recently published in the journal of Psychological Science. The summary, which I admit I’m lifting directly from the press release, is
"Liberals tend to underestimate the amount of actual agreement among those who share their ideology, while conservatives tend to overestimate intra-group agreement"
Briefly, the researchers conducted several surveys on groups of people that asked a combination of questions to establish political leanings and also neutral leanings (such as coffee preference). They also asked to what degree they felt their peers agreed with them on their answers to the various questions. And basically, liberals perceive themselves as unique, even when they’re not, and conservatives perceive themselves as the norm, even when they’re not.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to talk politics. I’m not even saying this study is right— as far as I can tell it hasn’t been replicated yet, though the results certainly make intuitive sense.
Personally I’m a fan of skepticism’s attempts to be non-partisan. While it’s important to remember that any empirical political claim is fair game, the fact that I regularly meet fellow free thinkers who vote completely differently from me is such a relief. And the environment we often create that welcomes disagreement is one of our traditions I hope will trickle out to everyone else.
But whenever I read about studies like this, I always wish, for the questions, there had been an option to choose a skeptical answer, like, you could check the box that says “I haven’t seen enough relevant data to answer this question with sufficient confidence.”
And this got me wondering: how do skeptics know what they agree on? You certainly see people celebrating, and bemoaning, topics of apparent skeptical consensus. So when studies such as these show, as usual, how many different ways there are to be wrong about what you think you know, perhaps they should serve as a reminder to free thinkers: whatever consensus you think exists, or doesn’t exist, in our community… you might be wrong.
I would love to see a study done on us, we who love to think about how we know what we know. For the rational community, I’d be curious to learn: how do we know what we think we know about what we know?
Here’s a haiku:
Plum falls from a tree
And rolls on dew-glistened grass
The skeptic wants proof