Two common mistakes

I came across two common mistakes daily, and I wanted to spell them out simply.

The first one is a classic reasoning mistake: If many of A are B, then many of B should be A. That is only true of both A and B are as common. That leads to magical thinking and cargo cult. Every instance of discrimination, denunciation, correction, condemnation, seems to come with that. I’m not sure why is it so obvious to me while so transparent to most around me, but I’m sure I’d rather have a way to call it.

The second one is an application of that—in the face of success. People ask: what do successful people or companies do or have done? or rather, because this is often subjective, because “successful people must know better about what they owe they success too.” Then let’s do that, let’s take to heart what successful people believe to be a proper role model, and be successful ourself. Yes, because such confessions are rarely about actions, but perceived values, the stories that successful people tell themselves, often to feel better. How many managers, shocked at the magnitude of taxes they have to pay, or rather how little influence they have over that while they are so used to control most things around them — how many argue they they succeed thanks to low taxation, or rather they would succeed better without so much, while neglecting the education of their employees, the unemployment benefit that allowed them flexibility to come and work for a risky company?

As a data scientist, one comes across those daily, yet I don’t have a proper name for those. “Post hoc ergo procter hoc” doesn’t really cover it; “Success fallacy” might, although it misses the many more cases when the bias isn’t normative. If you have a better idea for a name, I’ll be happy to credit you every time.

About Bertil

I'm a PhD student in Digital Economics, and I love viennoiserie. Je suis un doctorant en économie (numérique) et j'aime la viennoiserie.
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