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Now human beings are really good at seeing the patterns of a face.
We see it in Mars. We'll see it in toast.
Now why is this?
Well we can look to our evolutionary past and gain some insight.
There's a great example of this in Michael Shermer's The Believing Brain.
I'm gonna tell the story and tweak it slightly.
So imagine I'm a hunter gatherer walking along the plains of Africa.
And I think I see a predator.
Now I have two choices here. I can either flee or I can stay put.
So you're gonna watch both scenarios play out and in each scenario I'm gonna get it
So scenario one. I'm walking, I think I see a predator and so I flee.
Now I'm wrong. There was no predator. And this is an error in cognition known as a false
I positively identified a predator. False. It wasn't there.
Okay, second scenario. I'm walking. Woods. Think I see a predator but I go 'nah that's
probably not a predator'.
Well I'm wrong it is a predator and now I'm dead.
This is an error in cognition known as a false negative.
I saw something. I go 'negative that's not it'. False. It is something and now I'm lunch
Now respectively these are known as a type one error in cognition and a type two error
And as human beings we are way more prone to make type one errors in cognition, that
is, seeing patterns where they don't exist.
Because if you make a type two error in the case of not seeing a predator's face, you're
This is a, uh, over-simplification but hopefully it gets you excited about evolutionary psychology
which is totally cool.