Friday, 20 November 2015

Reality Testing Part Two

I read today about a video on YouTube. It was made by a professional YouTuber with about 190k subscriptions. It was a video that went massively viral of him performing a "social experiment." He disguised himself as a blind person and went out on the street with a hidden camera. When he encountered someone, he would ask them if they were able to make change for a five and hand them a fifty dollar bill. Every single person he encountered gave him change for a five, walking away with the money.

Let's stop and reflect on that video for a second.

So the reason I read about the video and the reason I haven't linked to it or to his channel is that every person in the video was an actor. Real people on the real street when met with a real blind person and given the situation above will behave honestly almost every time. In reality even a fairly dishonest person, prone to theft, will probably usually correct the blind person in the scenario above. Or at the very least they will look over both shoulders before cheating them. Being on the street in the day gives us the impression we are being watched We behave ourselves when we are being watched.

I think that if you saw that video and believed it, you need to work on your reality testing. The idea that you'd meet multiple random people in a day who would all do this - that none of them would be honest, is really just too improbable to believe.

Ordinarily I would say that if you encounter a new piece of evidence that seems to contradict your existing beliefs, you should really think re-evaluate. But when that new evidence is a viral YouTube video, you should weight it appropriately.

But also, you have to keep in mind the point the source of the video is trying to make. People generally project themselves into the world and onto other people. When a person tells you that people generally are honest, it probably means that the person telling you that is honest. When a person tells you that people are generally dishonest, it probably means that person is dishonest.

So I think it might be reasonable to be more suspicious of evidence that would tend to suggest that people are dishonest. This wasn't exactly rigourous science with good checks against bias built it. Whatever a person is advancing, it is probably their agenda. And advancing the idea that people are dishonest should make us wonder about the honesty of the person doing the advancing.

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