Mindware

Mindware is a term Stanovich uses to refer to specific skills or knowledge that have been acquired through learning.1 You can think of it as software or an application program that you have acquired for the mind through learning. Scientific reasoning is one kind of mindware. Stanovich writes of “mindware gaps,” which can refer either to the lack of knowledge or knowledge that is not used. One mindware gap is a failure to consider alternative hypothesis. This failure is quite evident in police work. Consider the case involving the missing Chandra Levy and the Congressman Gary Condit. The police honed in on Gary Condit as the chief suspect in the missing and later the death of Chandry Levy. The alternative hypothesis that someone else did it was not actively considered. During the investigation other women were murdered in the same park by the same individual who eventually was convicted of Chandra Levy’s death. I hope this mindware gap is due to cognitive miserliness rather than to a true knowledge deficit. The need to consider alternative hypothesis needs to be central to investigative techniques.

Consider the following data regarding medical treatments:

200 people were given the treatment and improved

75 people were given the treatment and did not improve

50 people were not given the treatment and improved

15 people were not given the treatment and did not improve

Do you think the treatment was effective?

Many people think that the treatment was effective since 200 people given the treatment improved, whereas only 75 people who were given the treatment did not improve. However, the conclusion regarding the effectiveness of the treatment requires a control group in which people were not given the treatment. Of the 65 people in the control group, 77% improved. Of the 275 people in the experimental treatment group , 73% improved.   As you can see there was improvement in both the treatment and the control groups. There is no support for the treatment being effective.

1Stanovich, K. E. (2009). What Intelligence Tests Miss: the psychology of rational thought. New Haven: The Yale University Press.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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