“Brain Malfunctions”

A reader (Sean) of ‘The Dilbert Blog’ posted this in the comments section today as “brain malfunctions”. Quite funny, but I think it hasty to jump to the conclusion that these prototypes of reasoning fallacies are indeed bugs and not features of the workings of the human brain.

Amazingly Bad Analogy
Example: You can train a dog to fetch a stick. Therefore, you can train a potato to dance.

Faulty Cause and Effect
Example: On the basis of my observations, wearing huge trousers makes you fat.

I am the World
Example: I don’t listen to country music. Therefore, country music is not popular.

Generalizing from Self
Example: I’m a liar. Therefore, I don’t believe what you’re saying.

Total Logical Disconnect
Example: I enjoy pasta because my house is made of bricks.

<Judging Things without Comparison to Alternatives
Example: I don’t invest in US Treasury bills. There’s too much risk.

Ignorance of Statistics
Example: I’m putting ALL of my money on the lottery this week because the jackpot is so big.

Irrelevant Comparisons
Example: A hundred dollars is a good price for a toaster, compared to buying a Ferrari.

Incompleteness as Proof of Defect
Example: Your theory of gravity doesn’t address the question of why there are no unicorns, so it must be wrong.

Following the Advice of Known Idiots
Example: Uncle Billy says pork makes you smarter. That’s good enough for me!

Faulty Pattern Recognition
Example: His last six wives were murdered mysteriously. I hope to be wife number seven.

Failure to Recognise What’s Important
Example: My house is on fire! Quick, call the post office and tell them to hold my mail!

Ignoring All Anecdotal Evidence
Example: I always get hives immediately after eating strawberries. But without a scientifically controlled experiment, it’s not reliable data. So I continue to eat strawberries every day, since I can’t tell if they cause hives.

Inability to Understand that Some Things Have Multiple Causes
Example: The Beatles were popular for one reason only: They were good singers.

Judging the Whole by One of it’s Characteristics
Example: The sun causes sunburns. Therefore, the planet would be better off without the sun.

Taking Things to their Illogical Conclusion
Example: If you let your barber cut your hair, the next thing you know he’ll be lopping off your limbs!

Proof by Lack of Evidence
Example: I’ve never seen you drunk, so you must be one of those Amish people.”

Did you feel while reading this that your reasoning patterns are above such speciousness? Do you also believe that you would behave differently from the subjects of the Zimbardo and Milgram experiments, under the conditions of the experiments?

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13 comments
  1. Tiny Seal said:

    Am guilty of one of the listed “bugs”. Dad got puzzled when i asked how risky State Bank of India was πŸ™‚

    i think there is 80% chance that i would have behaved similar to the other participants of the Zimbardo et al experiments. The 20% doubt is attributed to my over-the-top stubborn-ness and trusting myself more than a group in moral situations.

    As for bug vs feature argument, i think it is definitely a feature, not bug. Bug would mean it is not the intended way for it to work and fixing it would be good. That would imply that we have the knowledge of how exactly it is supposed to work as a machine, which we dont.

    These so called fallacies might make perfect sense on a different plane of thought. It is not necessary that logic, as we think, is the only way of reasoning.

  2. Unawoken said:

    Methinks you are guilty of more than one πŸ˜‰

    “As for bug vs feature argument, i think it is definitely a feature, not bug. Bug would mean it is not the intended way for it to work and fixing it would be good. That would imply that we have the knowledge of how exactly it is supposed to work as a machine, which we dont.”

    But thinking it to be a feature would also mean that it is the intended way for it to work, and that would imply we have the knowledge… πŸ˜‰

  3. Unawoken said:

    In college, a friend completed “I’d buy a hero honda because ……” for one of those raffle kind of draws with “it’s better”, and mailed it. We couldn’t convince him that it didn’t make any sense! I still laugh out loud when I remember this incident πŸ˜€

  4. Tiny Seal said:

    haha. Did he win the raffle? πŸ™‚

    For feature definition, i say, brain is something that works in ways that are not completed understood by us yet. So, anything that you cannot explain logically is a feature yet to be understood, not a bug πŸ™‚

  5. Mridul said:

    i stopped going through comments since … there are so many of them !
    so thanks for point of out this gem πŸ™‚

    there are more btw, you just need to follow any irc or open mailinglist flamwar !

  6. Martina said:

    Keep up the good work.

  7. Nice! πŸ™‚
    I think we may have visited the ‘Feature vs bug’ issue recently, & you seemed to think of it more as a bug, as I understood it.

    • unawoken said:

      As Tiny Seal has pointed out above, a “bug” implies that the system is not functioning as intended. I think it is hard to argue for this position.

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