While the literature on human biases has blossomed over the last few decades, the literature on de-biasing — overcoming or minimizing our biases — is still in its infancy. “In striking contrast to the enormous corpus of psychological research concerning the impact of biases and heuristics on human judgment is the paucity of psychological research on debiasing,” researchers wrote in a survey of the field in 2009.
That’s why we’re excited about the opportunity to advance the de-biasing literature by collecting our own data. In a series of randomized controlled trials, we’re examining the effects of our training by comparing the long-term outcomes of our students to those of a statistically identical group of people who didn’t attend our program. In addition to performing one of the only long-term studies of rationality’s effects, we’re also nearly unique, in the de-biasing literature, in examining the outcomes that really matter: How happy are you with your professional life, your social life, your romantic life? How many of your goals have you achieved? How often do you make decisions you regret?
We’ll also be leveraging our network of rationality groups to crowdsource and test rational decisionmaking techniques. Even with only the 35 groups already in existence, that’s hundreds of people who are eager to help with the project of figuring out how to improve human rationality. With each of four randomly-assigned quarters of group members trying out one technique to combat, say, confirmation bias – and recording their outcomes – we’ll be able to quickly learn which techniques are the most feasible and effective on a day-to-day basis.
Within the next several years, we expect our accumulated data from our retreat participants and our network of groups to have highlighted some of the most promising de-biasing techniques. At that point we’ll be collaborating with researchers to formalize our tests and publish the results, to contribute to the broader project of cognitive science.
“Debiasing people against errors in thinking could be among psychology’s most enduring legacies to the promotion of human welfare.”
Progress so far