Julia Galef is the president and co-founder of a nonprofit called The Center for Applied Rationality based in Berkeley, California. In a TEDx talk, she explains what causes some of us to act with good judgement and some not. She says we can have either of two mindsets which she calls: Soldier and scout mindset.
She illustrates the difference using the story of Alfred Dreyfus, a 19th-century French army officer, who was wrongly convicted of espionage.
Here’s what I picked up from the video about the two mindsets:
This mindset is driven by motivated reasoning. It’s a phenomenon where our unconscious motivations, desires, and fears shape the way we interpret information. In other words, we want favorable ideas a.k.a our allies to win and the unfavorable ideas a.k.a our enemy to lose. Simply put, it’s a drive to attack someone else’s ideas and defend your own.
In this mindset, you make an attempt to overcome the soldier mindset which includes your prejudices, biases, motivations. You try to get the clearest picture of reality, even if it’s unpleasant or inconvenient.
What makes a scout?
Both mindsets are rooted in emotions. The soldier mindset is rooted in defensiveness and tribalism. The following are some traits that define a scout:
Being curious: Being intrigued when they see information that contradicts their expectations.
Being open: Thinking it’s virtuous to test your own beliefs and not thinking someone is weak if they change their mind.
Being grounded: Being grounded here means one’s self-worth as a person isn’t tied to whether they are right or wrong about a topic. If they discover they’re wrong, they are willing to change their minds.
According to researchers, this cluster of traits is what predicts good judgement.
Key takeaway: The traits don’t correlate well with IQ, so they’re not about how smart you are. They’re about how you feel. We need to teach ourselves how to feel proud and not ashamed when we learn we were wrong about something. We need to learn to feel intrigued when we come across information that contradicts our beliefs.
Julia ends with an intriguing question which I thought was great food for thought:
What do you yearn for? Do you yearn to defend your beliefs or to see the world as clearly as you possibly can?