Saturday, August 07, 2004

Grand Masters of Falsification

What Cognitive Science Can Teach Us About Political Strategy

chess board with chess piecesAt this week's Cognitive Science Society meeting in Chicago, Michelle Cowley of Trinity College Dublin explained how chess experts gain the edge over opponents by falsifying their own ideas.
...masters tended to correctly predict when the eventual outcome of a move would weaken their position. "Grand masters think about what their opponents will do much more," says [her colleague Ruth] Byrne. "They tend to falsify their own hypotheses."

The philosopher Karl Popper called this process of hypothesis testing 'falsification', and thought that it was the best way to describe how science constantly questions and refines itself. It is often held up as the principle that separates scientific and non-scientific thinking, and the best way to test a hypothesis.

But cognitive research has shown that, in reality, many people find falsification difficult. Until the latest study, scientists were the only group of experts that had been shown to use falsification. And sociological studies of scientists in action have revealed that even they spend a great deal of their time searching for results that would bolster their theories.
I would argue that the GOP are grand masters of falsification...in Karl Popper's sense of the term.

So for example, in Marcy's discussion below on how BushCo has deflected the debate around Swift Boat Vets' attacks onto 527's, I would propose that because Rove et al accurately predicted one of the scenarios for how public reaction and the Kerry campaign's reaction to the attack ads would play out, they were prepared in advance with a countermove.

Better application of falsification in this sense is part of how the Republicans out-strategize the Democrats. It seems, indeed, that we are playing checkers while they are playing chess.

It is a shame that the GOP applies falsification so rigorously to their political strategy but neglects to do so in their forays into "science" (sic).

Via Bubblegeneration
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