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A list of compiled falacies, effects and biases.

The list was compiled from LessWrong as well as personal notes, collected from the Philosopher's Toolkit.


Actor–observer bias

Tendency for explanations of other individuals' behaviors to overemphasize the influence of their personality and underemphasize the influence of their situation.

Anthropic bias

Tendency for one's evidence to be biased by observation selection effects.

Attentional bias

Tendency to neglect relevant data when making judgments of a correlation or association.

Choice-supportive bias

In a self-justifying manner retroactively ascribing one's choices to be more informed than they were when they were made.

Confirmation bias

Tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions.

Congruence bias

Tendency to test hypotheses exclusively through direct testing, in contrast to tests of possible alternative hypotheses.

Conservatism or regressive bias

Tendency to remember high values and high likelihoods/probabilities/frequencies as lower than they actually were and low ones as higher than they actually were. Based on the evidence, memories are not extreme enough.

Egocentric bias

Tendency to claim more responsibility for themselves for the results of a joint action than an outside observer would. Recalling the past in a self-serving manner.
Example: Remembering one's exam grades as being better than they were.

Exposure-suspicion bias

Knowledge of a subject's disease in a medical study may influence the search for causes.

Extrinsic incentives bias

An exception to the fundamental attribution error, when people view others as having (situational) extrinsic motivations and (dispositional) intrinsic motivations for oneself.

Fading affect bias

A bias in which the emotion associated with unpleasant memories fades more quickly than the emotion associated with positive events.

Impact bias

Tendency to overestimate the length or the intensity of the impact of future feeling states.

Information bias

Tendency to seek information even when it cannot affect action.

Modesty bias

Tendency to blame failures on oneself while attributing successes to situational factors. Opposite of self-serving bias.

Mood-congruent memory bias

The improved recall of information congruent with one's current mood.

Notational bias

Cultural bias in which a notation induces the appearance of a nonexistent natural law.

Omission bias

Tendency to judge harmful actions as worse, or less moral, than equally harmful omissions.

Self-serving bias

Tendency to attribute successes to internal characteristics while blaming failures on outside forces. It may also manifest itself as a tendency for people to evaluate ambiguous information in a way beneficial to their interests.

Shared information bias

Tendency for group members to spend more time and energy discussing information that all members are already familiar with (i.e., shared information), and less time and energy discussing information that only some members are aware of.

Status quo bias

Tendency to like things to stay relatively the same.

Stereotypical bias

Memory distorted towards stereotypes.
Example: "black-sounding" names being misremembered as names of criminals.

Superiority bias(Lake Wobegon effect)

Tendency to overestimating one's desirable qualities, and underestimating undesirable qualities, relative to other people.

Survivorship bias

Tendency of focusing on what has survived to the present and ignoring what must have been lost.

Trait ascription bias

Tendency for people to view themselves as relatively variable in terms of personality, behavior and mood while viewing others as much more predictable.

Unit bias

Tendency to want to finish a given unit of a task or an item with strong effects on the consumption of food in particular.

Zero-risk bias

Preference for reducing a small risk to zero over a greater reduction in a larger risk.

Authority bias

Tendency to attribute greater accuracy to the opinion of an authority figure (unrelated to its content) and be more influenced by that opinion.

Conformity bias

Behaving similarly to the others in a group, even if doing so goes against your own judgment.

Ingroup bias

Giving preferential treatment to others they perceive to be members of their own groups.

Correspondence bias

Overestimating the contribution of lasting traits and dispositions, as opposed to situational effects, in determining people's behavior.

Obsequiousness bias

Altering responses in the direction they perceive desired by the investigator.

Unacceptability bias

Refusing of evading questions that may embarrass or invade privacy.

Projection bias

Assuming that others share the same or similar thoughts, beliefs, values, or positions.

Consistency bias

Incorrectly remembering one's past attitudes and behaviour as resembling present attitudes and behaviour.

Hindsight bias("I-knew-it-all-along" effect)

Seeing past events as predictable, based on knowledge of later events.

Optimism bias

Systematic tendency to be over-optimistic about the outcome of planned actions.

Outcome bias

Tendency to judge a decision by its eventual outcome instead of based on the quality of the decision at the time it was made.

Outgroup homogeneity bias

Tendecy of people see members of their own group as being relatively more varied than members of other groups.

Positive bias

Tendency to test hypotheses with positive rather than negative examples, thus risking to miss obvious disconfirming tests.

Positive outcome bias

Tendency in prediction to overestimate the probability of good things happening to them.


Ambiguity effect

Tendency to avoid options for which missing information makes the probability seem "unknown".

Bizarreness effect

Bizarre material is better remembered than common material.

Bystander effect

Social psychological phenomenon in which individuals are less likely to offer help in an emergency situation when other people are present.

Context effect

That cognition and memory are dependent on context, such that out-of-context memories are more difficult to retrieve than in-context memories.
Example: Recall time and accuracy for a work-related memory will be lower at home, and vice versa.

Contrast effect

Enhancement or diminishment of a weight or other measurement when compared with recently observed contrasting object.

Cross-race effect

Tendency for people of one race to have difficulty identifying members of a race other than their own.

Dunning-kruger effect

When people are incompetent in the strategies they adopt to achieve success and satisfaction, they suffer a dual burden, not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it. Instead, ...they are left with the mistaken impression that they are doing just fine.

False consensus effect

Tendency for people to overestimate the degree to which others agree with them.

Forer effect(Barnum Effect)

Tendency to give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for them, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people.
Example: Horoscopes.

Motivated cognition

Tendency to process information toward conclusions that suit some end or goal.

Generation effect

That self-generated information is remembered best.
Example: People are better able to recall memories of statements that they have generated than similar statements generated by others.

Google effect

Tendency to forget information that can be found readily online by using Internet search engines.

Halo effect

Tendency for a person's positive or negative traits to "spill over" from one area of their personality to another in others' perceptions of them.

Hostile media effect

Tendency to perceive news coverage as biased against your position on an issue.

Humor effect

That humorous items are more easily remembered than non-humorous ones, which might be explained by the distinctiveness of humor, the increased cognitive processing time to understand the humor, or the emotional arousal caused by the humor.

Lake wobegon effect

Tendency to report flattering beliefs about oneself and believe that one is above average.

Levels-of-processing effect

That different methods of encoding information into memory have different levels of effectiveness.

List-length effect

A smaller percentage of items are remembered in a longer list, but as the length of the list increases, the absolute number of items remembered increases as well.

Mere exposure effect

Tendency to express undue liking for things merely because they are familiar with them.

Misinformation effect

Memory becoming less accurate because of interference from post-event information.

Modality effect

That memory recall is higher for the last items of a list when the list items were received via speech than when they were received through writing.

Neglect of prior base rates effect

Tendency to fail to incorporate prior known probabilities which are pertinent to the decision at hand.

Next-in-line effect

That a person in a group has diminished recall for the words of others who spoke immediately before himself, if they take turns speaking.

Observer-expectancy effect

Tendency to expects a given result and therefore unconsciously manipulating an experiment or misinterprets data in order to find it.

Overconfidence effect

Tendency of being more certain than is justified, given your priors and the evidence available.

Part-list cueing effect

That being shown some items from a list and later retrieving one item causes it to become harder to retrieve the other items.

Picture superiority effect

The notion that concepts that are learned by viewing pictures are more easily and frequently recalled than are concepts that are learned by viewing their written word form counterparts.

Positivity effect

That older adults favor positive over negative information in their memories.

Primacy effect

Tendency to weigh initial events more than subsequent events.

Primacy effect, recency effect & serial position effect

That items near the end of a sequence are the easiest to recall, followed by the items at the beginning of a sequence; items in the middle are the least likely to be remembered.

Processing difficulty effect

That information that takes longer to read and is thought about more (processed with more difficulty) is more easily remembered.

Pseudocertainty effect

Tendency to make risk-averse choices if the expected outcome is positive, but make risk-seeking choices to avoid negative outcomes.

Recency effect

Tendency to weigh recent events more than earlier events.

Self-relevance effect

That memories relating to the self are better recalled than similar information relating to others.

Spacing effect

That information is better recalled if exposure to it is repeated over a long span of time rather than a short one.

Spotlight effect

Tendency to overestimate the amount that other people notice your appearance or behavior.

Subadditivity effect

Tendency to judge probability of the whole to be less than the probabilities of the parts.

Suffix effect

Diminishment of the recency effect because a sound item is appended to the list that the subject is not required to recall.

Telescoping effect

Tendency to perceive recent events to have occurred more remotely and remote events appear to have occurred more recently.

Testing effect

The fact that you more easily remember information you have read by rewriting it instead of rereading it.

Underconfidence effect

State of being more uncertain than is justified, given your priors and the evidence you are aware of.

Verbatim effect

That the "gist" of what someone has said is better remembered than the verbatim wording. This is because memories are representations, not exact copies.

Von restorff effect

Tendency to remember an item that "stands out like a sore thumb", more than other items.

Worse-than-average effect

Tendency to believe ourselves to be worse than others at tasks which are difficult.

Zeigarnik effect

That uncompleted or interrupted tasks are remembered better than completed ones.

Focusing effect

Tendency of placing too much importance on one aspect of an event; causes error in accurately predicting the utility of a future outcome.

Endowment effect

Tendency to demand much more to give up an object than they would be willing to pay to acquire it.


Bandwagon fallacy

Assuming that an idea has merit simply because many people believe it or practice it.

Conjunction fallacy

Assuming that specific conditions are more probable than general ones.

Detached lever fallacy

Assuming that something simple for one system will be simple for others.

Gambler's fallacy

Assuming that individual random events are influenced by previous random events. Ex: I've flipped heads with this coin five times consecutively, so the chance of tails coming out on the sixth flip is much greater than heads.

Mind projection fallacy

Assuming that the way you see the world reflects the way the world really is.

Planning fallacy

Underestimating task-completion times.

Sunk cost fallacy

Letting past investments interfere with decision-making in the present.

Typical mind fallacy

Assuming that other people are more like you than they actually are.

Giant cheesecake fallacy

Occurs when an argument leaps directly from capability to actuality, without considering the necessary intermediate of motive.

Narrative fallacy

A vulnerability to over-interpretation and our predilection for compact stories over raw truths.

Scales of justice fallacy

Error of using a simple polarized scheme for deciding a complex issue/ each piece of evidence about the question is individually categorized as supporting exactly one of the two opposing positions.

Texas sharpshooter fallacy

Adjusting an hypothesis after the data was collected.

The top 1% fallacy

Related to not taking into account the idea that a small sample size is not always reflective of a whole population and that sample populations with certain characteristics, e.g. made up of repeat job seekers, are not reflective of the whole population.

Fallacy of gray

The false belief that because nothing is certain, everything is equally uncertain. It does not take into account that some things are more certain than others.

Generalization from fictional evidence fallacy

Logical fallacy that consists of drawing real-world conclusions based on statements invented and selected for the purpose of writing fiction.


Absurdity heuristic

Mental shortcut where highly untypical situations are classified as absurd or impossible. Where you don't expect intuition to construct an adequate model of reality, classifying an idea as impossible may be overconfident.

Affect heuristic

Mental shortcut that makes use of current emotions to make decisions and solve problems quickly and efficiently. basing a decision on an emotional reaction rather than a calculation of risks and benefits.

Availability heuristic

Mental shortcut that treats easily recalled information as important or at least more important than alternative solutions which are not as readily recalled. a biased prediction, due to the tendency to focus on the most salient and emotionally-charged outcome.

Contagion heuristic

Leads people to avoid contact with people or objects viewed as "contaminated" by previous contact with someone or something viewed as bad-or, less often, to seek contact with objects that have been in contact with people or things considered good.

Representativeness heuristic

Mental shortcut where people judge the probability or frequency of a hypothesis by considering how much the hypothesis resembles available data as opposed to using a Bayesian calculation.


Arguing by analogy

Arguing that since things are alike in some ways, they will probably be alike in others.

Arguing by definition

Arguing that something is part of a class because it fits the definition of that class.

Argument from omniscience

An arguer would need omniscience to know about everyone's beliefs or disbeliefs or about their knowledge.
Example: All people believe in something. Everyone knows that.

Argumentum ad baculum

Argument relying on an appeal to fear or a threat.
Example: If you don't believe in God, you'll burn in hell

Argumentum ad ignorantiam

Argument relying on people's ignorance.

Argumentum ad populum

Argument relying on sentimental weakness rather than facts and reasons.

Argumentum ad verecundiam(argument from authority)

Argument relying on the the words of an "expert" or authority as the bases of the argument instead of using the logic or evidence that supports an argument.
Example: Professor so-and-so believes in creation-science.

Argumentum ex silentio(Appeal to ignorance)

Argument relyingon ignorance as evidence for something.
Example: We have no evidence that God doesn't exist, therefore, he must exist. Because we have no knowledge of alien visitors, that means they do not exist.

Argumentum ad consequentiam(Appeal to consequences)

An argument that concludes a premise as either true or false based on whether the premise leads to desirable or undesirable consequences.
Example: Some religious people believe that knowledge of evolution leads to immorality, therefore evolution proves false. Even if teaching evolution did lead to immorality, it would not imply a falsehood of evolution.

Straw man

Creating a false or made up scenario and then attacking it. Painting your opponent with false colors only deflects the purpose of the argument.
Example: Evolutionists think that everything came about by random chance.

Steel man

Opposite of strawman. To steelman is to address the strongest possible variant or the most charitable interpretation of an idea, rather than the most available phrasings. Steelmanning can be especially important when the network by which phrasings are brought to your attention has a preference for propagating uncharitable/controversial phrasings.

Fully general counterargument

An argument which can be used to discount any conclusion the arguer does not like. Being in possession of such an argument leads to irrationality because it allows the arguer to avoid updating their beliefs.
Example: You're just saying that because you're exhibiting X bias.

Applause light

Is an empty statement which evokes positive affect without providing new information

Argument from adverse consequences

Just because a repugnant crime or act occurred, does not necessarily mean that a defendant committed the crime or that we should judge him guilty. Or, disasters occur because God punishes non-believers; therefore, we should all believe in God) Just because calamities or tragedies occur, says nothing about the existence of gods or that we should believe in a certain way.
Example: We should judge the accused as guilty, otherwise others will commit similar crimes

Proving non-existence

When an arguer cannot provide the evidence for his claims, he may challenge his opponent to prove it doesn't exist. Although one may prove non-existence in special limitations, such as showing that a box does not contain certain items, one cannot prove universal or absolute non-existence, or non-existence out of ignorance. One cannot prove something that does not exist. The proof of existence must come from those who make the claims.

Ad hominem(To the man)

An arguer attacks the person instead of the argument. Whenever an arguer cannot defend his position with evidence, facts or reason.
Example: Labeling, straw man arguments, name calling, offensive remarks and anger.

Red herring

A diversion from the active topic.
Example: Arguer diverts the attention by changing the subject.


Illusion of asymmetric insight

Tendency to perceive the knowledge of their peers to surpass their peers' knowledge of them.

Illusion of control

Tendency to believe they can control or at least influence outcomes that they clearly cannot.

Illusion of external agency

Tendency to perceive self-generated preferences as instead being caused by insightful, effective and benevolent agents.

Illusory correlation

Tendency to believe that inaccurately suppose a relationship between a certain type of action and an effect. Inaccurately remembering a relationship between two events.

Illusion of truth effect

Tendency to identify as true statements familiar statements over unfamiliar ones.

Clustering illusion

Tendency to perceive patterns where actually none exist.

Frequency illusion(Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon)

Tendency to notice something everywhere after having learnt about it.

Illusory transparency

Tendency to overestimate others' ability to know them, and they also overestimate their ability to know others. Misleading impression that your words convey more to others than they really do.


Ambient decision theory

A variant of updateless decision theory that uses first order logic instead of mathematical intuition module (MIM), emphasizing the way an agent can control which mathematical structure a fixed definition defines, an aspect of UDT separate from its own emphasis on not making the mistake of updating away things one can still acausally control.

Causal decision theory

branch of decision theory which advises an agent to take actions that maximizes the causal consequences on the probability of desired outcomes

Control theory

An example is a cruise control, which maintains a certain speed, but only measures the current speed, and knows nothing of the system that produces that speed (wind, car weight, grade).

Decision theory

Is the study of principles and algorithms for making correct decisions-that is, decisions that allow an agent to achieve better outcomes with respect to its goals.

Evidential decision theory

A branch of decision theory which advises an agent to take actions which, conditional on it happening, maximizes the chances of the desired outcome.

Game theory

Attempts to mathematically model interactions between individuals.

Moral foundations theory

Care/harm, fairness/cheating, liberty/oppression,loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation). This makes other people's moralities easier to understand, and is an interesting lens through which to examine your own.

Probability theory

A field of mathematics which studies random variables and processes.

Reflective decision theory

A term occasionally used to refer to a decision theory that would allow an agent to take actions in a way that does not trigger regret. This regret is conceptualized, according to the Causal Decision Theory, as a Reflective inconsistency, a divergence between the agent who took the action and the same agent reflecting upon it after.

Timeless decision theory

A decision theory, which in slogan form, says that agents should decide as if they are determining the output of the abstract computation that they implement. This theory was developed in response to the view that rationality should be about winning (that is, about agents achieving their desired ends) rather than about behaving in a manner that we would intuitively label as rational.

Updateless decision theory

A decision theory in which we give up the idea of doing Bayesian reasoning to obtain a posterior distribution etc. and instead just choose the action (or more generally, the probability distribution over actions) that will maximize the unconditional expected utility.

Aumann's agreement theorem

Two agents acting rationally and with common knowledge of each other's beliefs cannot agree to disagree.
More specifically, if two people are genuine Bayesians, share common priors, and have common knowledge of each other's current probability assignments, then they must have equal probability assignments.

Bayes' theorem

A law of probability that describes the proper way to incorporate new evidence into prior probabilities to form an updated probability estimate.

Cox's theorem

Roughly, that if your beliefs at any given time take the form of an assignment of a numerical "plausibility score" to every proposition, and if they satisfy a few plausible axioms, then your plausibilities must effectively be probabilities obeying the usual laws of probability theory, and your updating procedure must be the one implied by Bayes' theorem.



The mental state in which an individual holds a proposition to be true.


The beliefs an agent holds regarding a fact, hypothesis or consequence, before being presented with evidence.

Belief in belief

Where it is difficult to believe a thing, it is often much easier to believe that you ought to believe it. Were you to really believe and not just believe in belief, the consequences of error would be much more severe. When someone makes up excuses in advance, it would seem to require that belief, and belief in belief, have become unsynchronized.

Free-floating belief

Is a belief that both doesn't follow from observations and doesn't restrict which experiences to anticipate. It is both unfounded and useless.

Improper belief

Is a belief that isn't concerned with describing the territory. Note that the fact that a belief just happens to be true doesn't mean you're right to have it. If you buy a lottery ticket, certain that it's a winning ticket (for no reason), and it happens to be, believing that was still a mistake. Types of improper belief discussed in the Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions sequence include/ Free-floating belief, Belief as attire, Belief in belief and Belief as cheering

Proper belief

Requires observations, gets updated upon encountering new evidence, and provides practical benefit in anticipated experience.

Belief update

What you do to your beliefs, opinions and cognitive structure when new evidence comes along.

Belief as attire

Is a example of an improper belief promoted by identification with a group or other signaling concerns, not by how well it reflects the territory.

Belief as cheering

People can bind themselves as a group by believing "crazy" things together. Then among outsiders they could show the same pride in their crazy belief as they would show wearing "crazy" group clothes among outsiders. The belief is more like a banner saying "GO BLUES". It isn't a statement of fact, or an attempt to persuade; it doesn't have to be convincing-it's a cheer.

Idiosyncrasy credits

Each extra weird belief you have detracts from your ability to spread other, perhaps more important, weird memes. Therefore normal beliefs should be preferred to some extent, even when you expect them to be less correct or less locally useful on an issue, in order to improve your overall effectiveness at spreading your most highly valued memes.


Shut up and multiply

The ability to trust the math even when it feels wrong

Rationality as martial art

A metaphor for rationality as the martial art of mind; training brains in the same fashion as muscles.

Making beliefs pay rent

Every question of belief should flow from a question of anticipation, and that question of anticipation should be the centre of the inquiry. Every guess of belief should begin by flowing to a specific guess of anticipation, and should continue to pay rent in future anticipations. If a belief turns deadbeat, evict it.


The process of overcoming bias. It takes serious study to gain meaningful benefits, half-hearted attempts may accomplish nothing, and partial knowledge of bias may do more harm than good.

Epistemic hygiene

Consists of practices meant to allow accurate beliefs to spread within a community and keep less accurate or biased beliefs contained. The practices are meant to serve an analogous purpose to normal hygiene and sanitation in containing disease. "Good cognitive citizenship" is another phrase that has been proposed for this concept.

Third option

A way to break a false dilemma, showing that neither of the suggested solutions is a good idea.

Take joy in the merely real

If you believe that science coming to know about something places it into the dull catalogue of common things, then you're going to be disappointed in pretty much everything eventually -either it will turn out not to exist, or even worse, it will turn out to be real. Another way to think about it is that if the magical and mythical were common place they would be merely real. If dragons were common, but zebras were a rare legendary creature then there's a certain sort of person who would ignore dragons, who would never bother to look at dragons, and chase after rumors of zebras. The grass is always greener on the other side of reality. If we cannot take joy in the merely real, our lives shall be empty indeed.

Something to protect

The Art must have a purpose other than itself, or it collapses into infinite recursion.

Spaced repetition

A technique for building long-term knowledge efficiently. It works by showing you a flash card just before a computer model predicts you will have forgotten it. Anki is Less Wrong's spaced repetition software of choice

Reversal test

a technique for fighting status quo bias in judgments about the preferred value of a continuous parameter. If one deems the change of the parameter in one direction to be undesirable, the reversal test is to check that either the change of that parameter in the opposite direction (away from status quo) is deemed desirable, or that there are strong reasons to expect that the current value of the parameter is (at least locally) the optimal one.

Radical honesty

a communication technique proposed by Brad Blanton in which discussion partners are not permitted to lie or deceive at all. Rather than being designed to enhance group epistemic rationality, radical honesty is designed to reduce stress and remove the layers of deceit that burden much of discourse.

Rationalist taboo

a technique for fighting muddles in discussions. By prohibiting the use of a certain word and all the words synonymous to it, people are forced to elucidate the specific contextual meaning they want to express, thus removing ambiguity otherwise present in a single word. Mainstream philosophy has a parallel procedure called "unpacking" where doubtful terms need to be expanded out.

Outside view

Taking the outside view (another name for reference class forecasting) means using an estimate based on a class of roughly similar previous cases, rather than trying to visualize the details of a process.
estimating the completion time of a programming project based on how long similar projects have taken in the past, rather than by drawing up a graph of tasks and their expected completion times.

Seeing with fresh eyes

A sequence on the incredibly difficult feat of getting your brain to actually think about something, instead of instantly stopping on the first thought that comes to mind.


Cached thought(Password)

Answer that was arrived at by recalling a previously-computed conclusion, rather than performing the reasoning from scratch.

Déformation professionnelle

Tendency to look at things according to the conventions of one's own profession, forgetting any broader point of view.

False dilemma

Occurs when only two options are considered, when there may in fact be many.


Bad explicit beliefs about rules of reasoning, usually developed in the course of protecting an existing false belief


Tendency to perceive oneself as responsible for desirable outcomes but not responsible for undesirable ones.


Remembering something that never actually happened.


Form of misattribution where a memory is mistaken for imagination.


Drawing different conclusions from the same information, depending on how that information is presented.


Tendency of humans to tend to agree with each other, and hold back objections or dissent even when the group is wrong.


Spending emotional energy on incredulity wastes time you could be using to update. It repeatedly throws you back into the frame of the old, wrong viewpoint. It feeds your sense of righteous indignation at reality daring to contradict you.


Fixed and over generalized belief about a particular group or class of people.


A form of misattribution where ideas suggested by a questioner are mistaken for memory.


Relying too heavily on a past reference or on one piece of information when making decisions.

Death spirals

Cultishness is an empirical attractor in human groups, roughly an affective death spiral, plus peer pressure and outcasting behavior, plus defensiveness around something believed to have been perfected.

Affective death spiral

Positive attributes of a theory, person, or organization combine with the Halo effect in a feedback loop, resulting in the subject of the affective death spiral being held in higher and higher regard.

Circular reasoning

Taking as an assumption that which one aims to prove.
Example: God exists, and is trustworthy, because the Bible says so; the Bible is trustworthy because God inspired it.

Dangerous knowledge

Intelligence, in order to be useful, must be used for something other than defeating itself.

Defensive attribution hypothesis

Attributing more blame to a harm-doer as the outcome becomes more severe or as personal or situational similarity to the victim increases.

Just-world hypothesis

Tendency for people to want to believe that the world is fundamentally just, causing them to rationalize an otherwise inexplicable injustice as deserved by the victims.

Extreme aversion

Tendency to avoid extremes, and choose an option if it is the intermediate choice.

Loss aversion

The disutility of giving up an object is greater than the utility associated with acquiring it.

Error of crowds

The idea that under some scoring rules, the average error becomes less than the error of the average, thus making the average belief tautologically worse than a belief of a random person. Compare this to the ideas of modesty argument and wisdom of the crowd. A related idea is that a popular belief is likely to be wrong because the less popular ones couldn't maintain support if they were worse than the popular one.

Fake simplicity

If you have a simple answer to a complex problem then it is probably a case whereby your beliefs appear to match the evidence much more strongly than they actually do.

Fundamental attribution error

Tendency for people to over-emphasize personality-based explanations for behaviors observed in others while under-emphasizing the role and power of situational influences on the same behavior.

Ultimate attribution error

Occurs when negative behavior in one's own group is explained away as circumstantial, but negative behavior among outsiders is believed to be evidence of flaws in character.Similar to the fundamental attribution error, in this error a person is likely to make an internal attribution to an entire group instead of the individuals within the group.

Use-mention error

Confusing a word or a concept with something that supposedly exists.
Example: An essay on THE HISTORY OF GOD does not refer to an actual god, but rather the history of the concept of god in human culture. To avoid confusion, people usually put the word or phrase in quotations.

Hyperbolic discounting

Tendency to have a stronger preference for more immediate payoffs relative to later payoffs, the closer to the present both payoffs are.

Loaded questions

Embodies an assumption that, if answered, indicates an implied agreement.
Example: Have you stopped beating your wife yet?

Meaningless questions

If everything proved possible, then the possibility exists for the impossible, a contradiction. Although everything may not prove possible, there may occur an infinite number of possibilities as well as an infinite number of impossibilities. "How high is up?" "Is everything possible?" "Up" describes a direction, not a measurable entity.

Wrong questions

A question about your map that wouldn't make sense if you had a more accurate map.

Magical categories

An English word which, although it sounds simple - hey, it's just one word, right? - is actually not simple, and furthermore, may be applied in a complicated way that drags in other considerations. Physical brains are not powerful enough to search all possibilities; we have to cut down the search space to possibilities that are likely to be good. Most of the "obviously bad" methods - those that would end up violating our other values, and so ranking very low in our preference ordering - do not even occur to us as possibilities.

Motivated skepticism

Tendency of applying more skepticism to claims that you don't like (or intuitively disbelieve), than to claims that you do like

Naïve cynicism

Expecting more egocentric bias in others than in oneself.

Naïve realism

The belief that we see reality as it really is – objectively and without bias; that the facts are plain for all to see; that rational people will agree with us; and that those who don't are either uninformed, lazy, irrational, or biased.

Non sequitur(It does not follow)

An inference or conclusion that does not follow from established premises or evidence.
Example: There occured an increase of births during the full moon. Conclusion, full moons cause birth rates to rise. But does a full moon actually cause more births, or did it occur for other reasons, perhaps from expected statistical variations?

Rosy retrospection

Tendency to rate past events more positively than they had actually rated them when the event occurred.

Self-fulfilling prophecy

Tendency to engage in behaviors that elicit results which will confirm our beliefs.

Shannon information

The Shannon entropy is a measure of the average information content one is missing when one does not know the value of the random variable.

Trait ascription biased

Tendency for people to view themselves as relatively variable in terms of personality, behavior, and mood while viewing others as much more predictable.


Refusal to change one's views or to agree about something.


Bayesian probability

Represents a level of certainty relating to a potential outcome or idea. This is in contrast to a frequentist probability that represents the frequency with which a particular outcome will occur over any number of trials. An event with Bayesian probability of .6 (or 60%) should be interpreted as stating "With confidence 60%, this event contains the true outcome", whereas a frequentist interpretation would view it as stating "Over 100 trials, we should observe event X approximately 60 times." The difference is more apparent when discussing ideas. A frequentist will not assign probability to an idea; either it is true or false and it cannot be true 6 times out of 10.

Bayesian decision theory

Decision theory informed by Bayesian probability. A statistical system that tries to quantify the tradeoff between various decisions, making use of probabilities and costs.

Absolute certainty

Equivalent of Bayesian probability of 1. Losing an epistemic bet made with absolute certainty corresponds to receiving infinite negative payoff, according to the logarithmic proper scoring rule. Cromwell's rule states that the use of prior probabilities of 0 or 1 should be avoided, except when applied to statements that are logically true or false.

Occam's razor

Principle commonly stated as "Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity". When several theories are able to explain the same observations, Occam's razor suggests the simpler one is preferable.

Kolmogorov complexity

Given a string, the length of the shortest possible program that prints it.

Solomonoff induction

Formalized version of Occam's razor based on Kolmogorov complexity. The prior probability of an observation(extra prior, prior to any other observation or measurement) is the inverse kolmogoroff complexity of the binary string encoding the world in which it occurs.

Burdensome details

Adding burdensome details to a theory may make it sound more plausible to human ears because of the representativeness heuristic, even as the story becomes normatively less probable.



The characteristic of thinking and acting optimally.

Costs of rationality

Becoming more epistemically rational can only guarantee one thing/ what you believe will include more of the truth. Knowing that truth might help you achieve your goals, or cause you to become a pariah. Be sure that you really want to know the truth before you commit to finding it; otherwise, you may flinch from it.

Group rationality

In almost anything, individuals are inferior to groups.

Hollywood rationality

What Spock does, not what actual rationalists do.

Problem of verifying rationality

The single largest problem for those desiring to create methods of systematically training for increased epistemic and instrumental rationality - how to verify that the training actually worked.



A moral philosophy that says that what matters is the sum of everyone's welfare, or the "greatest good for the greatest number".

Expected utility

the expected value in terms of the utility produced by an action. It is the sum of the utility of each of its possible consequences, individually weighted by their respective probability of occurrence. rational decision maker will, when presented with a choice, take the action with the greatest expected utility.

Utility function

assigns numerical values ("utilities") to outcomes, in such a way that outcomes with higher utilities are always preferred to outcomes with lower utilities. These do not work very well in practice for individual humans

Pascal's mugging

Thought-experiment demonstrating a problem in expected utility maximization. A rational agent should choose actions whose outcomes, when weighed by their probability, have higher utility. But some very unlikely outcomes may have very great utilities, and these utilities can grow faster than the probability diminishes. Hence the agent should focus more on vastly improbable cases with implausibly high rewards.

Felicific calculus

The felicific calculus is an algorithm formulated by utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) for calculating the degree or amount of pleasure that a specific action is likely to cause. Bentham, an ethical hedonist, believed the moral rightness or wrongness of an action to be a function of the amount of pleasure or pain that it produced. The felicific calculus could, in principle at least, determine the moral status of any considered act. The algorithm is also known as the utility calculus, the hedonistic calculus and the hedonic calculus. To be included in this calculation are several variables (or vectors), which Bentham called "circumstances". Intensity, Duration, Likelihood, Time Distance, Recurrence, Purity, Reach

Hedons and dolors

The units of measurements used in the felicific calculus may be termed hedons and dolors, similar to the utilitarian posends and negends.



State of acting against one's better judgment.


An independent source of emotional reaction which can coexist with a contradictory belief.
Example: The fear felt when a monster jumps out of the darkness in a scary movie is based on the alief that the monster is about to attack you, even though you believe that it cannot.


Actions undertaken for the benefit of other people.
Example: If you do something to feel good about helping people, or even to be a better person in some spiritual sense, it isn't truly altruism.


Attributing distinctly human characteristics to nonhuman processes.

Anti-inductiveness(Reverse Tinkerbell effect)

The idea that the market would stop being efficient if everyone acted like it already was efficient.
Example: A vote in a democracy (the more people that believe their vote counts towards the outcome of an election, the less their votes count).


Relationship between a cause and an effect, where the effect is a direct consequence of the cause.


Tendency to restrict application of a generally-applicable skill, such as scientific method, only to select few contexts.


Ethical theory that people should choose the action that will result in the best outcome.


Arguing that a policy is defensible rather than optimal or that it has some benefit compared to the null action rather than the best benefit of any action.


The idea that everyone should be considered equal. Equal in merit, equal in opportunity, equal in morality, and equal in achievement.


A set of philosophies which hold that the highest goal is to maximize pleasure, or more precisely pleasure minus pain.


The unwanted recurrence of memories of a traumatic event.


Statement or claim that a particular event will occur in the future in more certain terms than a forecast.


Psychological phenomenon that consists in early stimulus influencing later thoughts and behavior.


Starts from a conclusion, and then works backward to arrive at arguments apparently favouring that conclusion. Rationalization argues for a side already selected.


Tendency to do the opposite of what someone wants you to do out of a need to resist a perceived attempt to constrain your freedom of choice.


Disbelief that the higher levels of simplified multilevel models are out there in the territory, that concepts constructed by mind in themselves play a role in the behavior of reality.


A stimulus that engages a sensitivity more strongly than anything that existed in the evolutionary context.
Example: Unhealthy foods frequently contain more salt, fat and sugar than anything our ancestors ever ate. As such, humans frequently respond to the superstimulus of eating them in a way that undermines their function by eating so much unhealthy food that it lowers their reproductive fitness.


The study of things that happen for the sake of their future consequences. The fallacious meaning of it is that events are the result of future events.


Emotional association with a word.

Maxentropy Prior


Adversarial process

Form of truth-seeking or conflict resolution in which identifiable factions hold one-sided positions.

Black swan

is a high-impact event that is hard to predict, not accounted for, and therefore causes the model to break down when it occurs.

Childhood amnesia

The retention of few memories from before the age of four.

Empathic inference

It's an inference made about other person's mental states using your own brain as reference, by making your brain feel or think in the same way as the other person you can emulate their mental state and predict their reactions.

Epistemic luck

You would have different beliefs if certain events in your life were different. How should you react to this fact?


Ontologically basic entities, thoughts, beliefs, ideas, for which no justification is needed. For instance, belief that the self exists, (or that anything exists). The ability to identify "things". Fundamental directives (EG, pursuit of survival, reproduction). Much of the mind is, and aught be, fluid, self-organizing, built from a small set of axioms, an elegant core, but it's impossible to build a working agent without implanting it with a few assumptions, a few mechanisms that will just work straight away. These assumptions are the intrinsics.

Acop / reflective protocol

A decisionmaking process that is acop is in some sense aware of its nature as an abstract entity shared between many minds, and makes rational decisions in light of this. Conventional rationality cannot do this, and frequently attacks itself as a result. An acop agent will anticipate that agents with similarly sophisticated decision theories will commit to the same policies as it will, so it will choose policies that it will tolerate being reflected back at it, effectively coordinating its policy decisions (and consequent actions) with every other intelligent agent without ever needing to exchange information, without necessarily even knowing with certainty that the others exist. It is a partial antidote to moloch, making its subjects more trusting less competitive.

Coherent Extrapolated Volition

The choices and actions humanity would take if it knew more, thought faster, and had grown up closer together.

Coherent Aggregated Volition

A combination of the goals and beliefs of humanity at the present time.

Anthropic Magnitude

The measure of a witness. A bit of an overloaded term. May refer to the measure of a particular class of witness, a particular class of simulant, across a particular set of universes, or in a single universe/encoding, or across all universes.


A word or concept that is such a ungainly bastard of a mosaic of divergent interpretations that it can have no elegant, or even functional, definition or articulation. Under an analytic eye, it may turn out that the chimera, by what few shreds of its definition we can obtain, is an all-encompassing or all-excluding category, that is, a useless word, that could not possibly mean what it is commonly thought to. In these cases we might say that the chimera is mythical, that it does not exist.

White Whale

An unattainable ideal, or an ideal for which the risk of failure outweighs the potential for success, which the subject pursues single-mindedly, obsessively, despite. For them, no amount of risk will seem to outweigh the tiny sliver of possibility of success. Their values may have calcified in an absolutist state, in which no other path but the pursuit of the whale seems worth considering.

Mathematical Platonism(Axiom of Void Musing)

The proposition that there is no real distinction between conceptual self-consistency and concrete existence. Our physics are consistent, thus we exist. A truthy-feeling way of avoiding the question of Why is Anything.


The practice of deliberately changing culture.


An affliction, to fall for an illusion of inescapable cyclicality.
Example: The failure to recognize one's growth, inability to dream of unprecedented things, ceding to self-reinforcing systems, being jaded to hope, waiting for nonexistent chickens to hatch from nonexistent eggs.


Assuming countably-infinite, equally-real universes (which is theI ultimate conclusion of mathematical-realism and other possible Tegmark-world systems), this would effectively result in a fractal of universes-resimulating-universes-resimulating-universes; or if there is an absolute upper bound on a coherent universe's complexity, universes-merely-resimulating-plausible-minds. A cosmology that assumes the combined truth of cognitive-patternism and mathematical-realist ensemble-universes, wherein all sufficiently advanced civilizations/singletons ultimately become aware of these principles, and ultimately apply acausal-trade behaviors to said system to derive absolute moral imperatives. The most likely imperative, arguably, is the creation of a rescue-net; other specific imperatives within this system may be able to be acausally inferred, but we haven't been able to formalize them yet.


A state of states with the sole purpose of enabling its citizens to gather with and be governed by their own.

Moral luck

Tendency for people to ascribe greater or lesser moral standing based on the outcome of an event.

Ethical injunction

Rules not to do something even when it's the right thing to do. (That is, you refrain "even when your brain has computed it's the right thing to do", but this will just seem like "the right thing to do".)

Expected value

When you roll a die, the expected value is (1+2+3+4+5+6)/6 = 3.5. (Since a die doesn't even have a face that says 3.5, this illustrates that very often, the "expected value" isn't a value you actually expect.)

Instrumental value

Value pursued for the purpose of achieving other values. Values which are pursued for their own sake are called terminal values.

Great filter

Proposed explanation for the Fermi Paradox. The development of intelligent life requires many steps, such as the emergence of single-celled life and the transition from unicellular to multicellular life forms. Since we have not observed intelligent life beyond our planet, there seems to be a developmental step that is so difficult and unlikely that it "filters out" nearly all civilizations before they can reach a space-faring stage.

Group selection

Incorrect belief about evolutionary theory that a feature of the organism is there for the good of the group.

Observational selection

Pointing out favorable circumstances while ignoring the unfavorable. Anyone who goes to Las Vegas gambling casinos will see people winning at the tables and slots. The casino managers make sure to install bells and whistles to announce the victors, while the losers never get mentioned. This may lead one to conclude that the chances of winning appear good while in actually just the reverse holds true.


Failure mode in which a person vastly overestimates their ability to optimize someone else's life, usually as a result of underestimating the differences between themselves and others, for example through the typical mind fallacy.

Human universal

Donald E. Brown has compiled a list of over a hundred human universals - traits found in every culture ever studied, most of them so universal that anthropologists don't even bother to note them explicitly.[TODO-Wikipedia this]

Inferential distance

Gap between the background knowledge and epistemology of a person trying to explain an idea, and the background knowledge and epistemology of the person trying to understand it.

Information cascade

Occurs when people signal that they have information about something, but actually based their judgment on other people's signals, resulting in a self-reinforcing community opinion that does not necessarily reflect reality.

Information hazard

Risk that arises from the dissemination or the potential dissemination of (true) information that may cause harm or enable some agent to cause harm.

Intellectual roles

Group rationality may be improved when members of the group take on specific intellectual roles. While these roles may be incomplete on their own, each embodies an aspect of proper rationality. If certain roles are biased against, purposefully adopting them might reduce bias.

Irrational escalation

Tendency to make irrational decisions based upon rational decisions in the past or to justify actions already taken.

Tip of the tongue phenomenon

When a subject is able to recall parts of an item, or related information, but is frustratingly unable to recall the whole item. This is thought an instance of "blocking" where multiple similar memories are being recalled and interfere with each other.

Least convenient possible world

is a technique for enforcing intellectual honesty, to be used when arguing against an idea. The essence of the technique is to assume that all the specific details will align with the idea against which you are arguing, i.e. to consider the idea in the context of a least convenient possible world, where every circumstance is colluding against your objections and counterarguments. This approach ensures that your objections are strong enough, running minimal risk of being rationalizations for your position.

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