Thursday, January 20, 2011

IQ or Wits Check; Fallacies and Cognitive Biases

What are instances where PCs make an IQ check? Asking that question, I've come to observe how often people make IQ checks when someone is pulling a fast one on them.

Here introspection comes to help observe reality and model it for the purposes of an designing a Game. Ok my gamer blog has been "meta" of late, I can't help it because growing up RPGs have given me the basic tools to Model what I observe or how understand things work, and strangely pushed me into the rest of the Empirical Method by refining the technique of Modeling Reality as effectively and fun as possible.

Back to the Topic: IQ or Wits checks. Now if you pick up a list of Cognitive Biases or the Fallacies, and look at how people effectively follow the method of analysis one begins to notice gaps and leaps in reasoning that is not all that strongly funded.

Sorry if Philosophy can be boring, but let me get this out: It can help one ask the right questions. Philo makes us be aware of Assumptions, Epistemology, Context, and "meta" thinking process terms. This awareness, or for me appreciation, brings to light how often we make leaps of conclusions using rather weak evidence or proof, or purely intuition.

Ok to the gaming part. When your aware of these weak leaps that everyone, including myself, can't someone take advantage of that? One of the basic methods of gamers is looking at things and asking questions to help discover weaknesses to take advantage... and basic operating cognition is pretty susceptible to manipulations.

I apologize for the strangeness of the topic and its relations to gaming, I've been reading "The New Sales Methodology", basically a Sales Book that talks about "Old School" Sales and how much it tends to be Fast Talking. So the New Sales "theory" is to get rid of Fast talk, so in order to do that, it has to Identify how short-sighted and what is fast talking or BS persuasion.


So this is where my interests, my work and my hobby collides: The frailty of the mind and how understanding it allows the GM to create more instances of Wits Checks.

An example.
Confirmation Bias, is pretty much talked about in DnD regarding Bluff and in GURPS regarding Fast Talk: How much the listener wants what he's hearing to be true. If you've read up on Confirmation Bias then checked out the Fallacy: No True Scotsman, Shifting Goal Posts, Cherry Picking, etc. one begins to notice that when someone is in Denial no amount of convincing will ever work.

In this case, this calls for a IQ or Psychology check to realize what the Character is witnessing is Confirmation Bias in someone else or a Will and Psychology Check at -5 to realize the PC being Biased, catching himself/herself. The will check may require an external stimuli to for the character to have cause to reflect.
What is strange looking at these Biases or Fallacies is that, realizing what skills come into the characters defense. How vulnerable is someone to attacks that prey on their biases? How much margin of success allows the "attacker" to come away without the "sucker" even knowing or not figuring things out until much later.

Law (Trial*)
Psychology (Biases)
Philosophy (Argument, Logic)

I'm an Emotional Intelligence proponent so I'm all for negotiation and Role-playing to help develop conflict resolution, negotiation, and communication skills. I realize these tools: the Fallacies and the Biases, help to create more realistic models of social situations.

Looking again at the Confirmation Bias, what if the "King" or powerful 3rd party, won't ally with the PCs because of a number of biases: the King wants to believe there is no problem, that his sons are not plotting to kill him, that all the accidents he's survive are mere coincidental.

Whats worse: the array of Red Herrings arguments the Villains can use to discredit and muddy the waters for the PCs. A real spectacular villain is one that can be within the PC's reach but they can't do any harm without ruining their greater good goal.

If you are aware of leading questions and speculative arguments, then you realize how one is able to verbally damage credibility without even saying a single falsehood. These two: leading questions and hypothetical arguments/Speculative arguments when employed (and often are employed by politicians or anyone who wants to manipulate grounds of morality for their cause) are really scary because regular people save at -5. You NEED Philosophy (argument) or Law (trial) to argue against it, and because these two arguments can be so effectively ladened with emotional rhetoric, it is easy whip a crowd into a frenzy or to drown out all reasonable or rational argument.

You need a judge to point this out, but even a judge can't convince the mob effectively.

Hope this is informative.


*trial lawyers are a Philippine Specialization of Lawyers, specializing in argument.
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