Math skills vs. politics
Posted: 02 October 2013 10:33 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Here’s a nice bit of ammunition or self-inspection as the circumstance may require.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfoKor05k1I

In a nutshell, people who hold strongly political views on either side of the spectrum do much worse at solving math problems when those problems involve some measure of their political beliefs.

Kinda makes being passionate about political issues seem like not such a great idea.

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Posted: 03 October 2013 09:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I’m sick of this notion that the extreme left and extreme right are somehow equivalent. The extreme left are We-centered, intelligent, and open minded.  The right are Me-centered, ignorant, and generally close minded. And worse yet, the right tend to believe in Jesus who was about as far left as they come. So they’re hypocrites to boot!  There’s no equivalence.

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Posted: 03 October 2013 10:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Who said anything about them being the same? This is just a study of math problem solving.

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Posted: 03 October 2013 03:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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TromboneAndrew - 03 October 2013 10:17 AM

Who said anything about them being the same? This is just a study of math problem solving.

The implication is that those with strong beliefs are equally ignorant of math.

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Posted: 03 October 2013 04:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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CuthbertJ - 03 October 2013 03:30 PM

The implication is that those with strong beliefs are equally ignorant of math.

That’s exactly what it did say…but only when the math involved a particular hot-button issue whose conclusion conflicted with their politics, regardless of whether it was a person on the left or right.

He said:

“And they were equally guilty of this.  People who were left and right politically were equally guilty of this.  And their score dropped dramatically.  From something like 80% of them getting it right, dropping way down to 40% of them getting it right.

It shows people‚Äôs belief does affect their judgment.” 

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Posted: 03 October 2013 10:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Rocinante - 03 October 2013 04:13 PM

That’s exactly what it did say…but only when the math involved a particular hot-button issue whose conclusion conflicted with their politics, regardless of whether it was a person on the left or right.

And, only when they looked people who were otherwise already good at math. My understanding of this is that people who were already bad a math were relatively unaffected by political bias in solving these problems.

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Posted: 05 October 2013 04:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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how does one define “good at math”.

I’ve studied some engineering and I can tell you that tech school’s definition of “good at math” is different from the lay idea.

Of course I realize that is anecdotal, but its still leads to an interesting question

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Posted: 05 October 2013 10:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I.J. Abdul Hakeem - 05 October 2013 04:56 PM

how does one define “good at math”.

They were pretty clear in the video description.  It wasn’t something like “add 55+172”; it was correctly reading a math-based problem involving proportions.

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Posted: 06 October 2013 01:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I’ve been fascinated in that since most people don’t understand calculus and differential equations, they are quite willing to avoid drawing conclusions which need knowledge of their workings.  However, equally few people really understand probability and statistics, but they are quite sure they can read a poll and, without questioning any of the limitations or non-reported factors, immediately draw “expert” conclusions.

Occam

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Posted: 06 October 2013 08:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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True . . . but this study showed that people (statistically) who were capable of understanding the problem still failed to do so much more often when the problem included a political red herring.

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Posted: 11 October 2013 05:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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“...but only when the math involved a particular hot-button issue whose conclusion conflicted with their politics”


How do you know?  I looked at the paper.  You can’t know it is “hot botton issues” or something much more mundane like “familiarity with the topic in the math question” from the control they used.  The control was a math question where all identifying characteristics had been stripped out of it.  The equivalent for a politics would be “for a particular political issue” with no identifying characteristics.

To illustrate the point let us imagine an alternative study with a fake result (just to illuminate the possible interpretations):

I go to Albertsons and do the same study except I change the political question to “A survey of customer satisfaction between Albertsons and Safe Way has these data.”

And then I go to a Safe Way a mile away and repeat the study.

Do you really except I won’t notice an Albertson’s and Safe Way bend in the results depending on where the study was made?


I used the word “bend” instead of “bias” because “bias” itself has a political connotation in this context.  For example, familiarity creates bias, but not the bias with the purposed distortion.  We all have experienced trying to edit a paper where we don’t see any typos, so we hand it to a colleague and they find typos every page.  It is not a desire to keep your belief in typos that makes it so you cannot see the right answer to “is there evidence of a typo in this sentence” it is your familiarity with the sentence that keeps you from seeing the right answer.

The study does have a bit of quirky insight into appropriate math questions for students though, and even perhaps while relatively benign neutral sounding math questions have taken over assessment: a certain proportion of students will miss a question with topics that are familiar to them if you mix that question in with a bunch of generic questions with topics of familiarity.  The part of the brain that says, “Hey I know a bit about this” will run interference.

Going back to your point, I don’t think this is “hot button ideology”, it is having thought about the question before that creates this result.

There is a core contradiction in the human endeavor to be enlightened: the more you examine of the world the less you are able to see something new in the world.  We simultaneously want to see things with fresh eyes while also running around learning as much about them as we can (sometimes pretending we have fresh eyes in the process).  There is a value in being able to see something anew, but the value is in creating the appropriate opinion getting to the appropriate result.  How many times can you realistically be expected to do that before you remember the prior result generated by seeing something “anew”, and if you never do than what really is the point of all this in the first place?

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Posted: 12 October 2013 09:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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qutsemnie - 11 October 2013 05:06 PM

How do you know?  I looked at the paper.  You can’t know it is “hot botton issues” or something much more mundane like “familiarity with the topic in the math question” from the control they used.  The control was a math question where all identifying characteristics had been stripped out of it.  The equivalent for a politics would be “for a particular political issue” with no identifying characteristics.

Did you read the whole thing, or at least listen to the whole video? Didn’t they also include a questionnaire which measured a participant’s political leanings?

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