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Hedgehog Metacognition

Ars Technica summarizes a new study from University College London that seeks to understand why some people don't learn from their own mistakes.

One common feature of radicalism is a confidence in the rightness of your ideas, even if they go against those of society at large.

The people labeled "radicals" in this study are the "hedgehogs" from Philip Tetlock's studies from the 1980s.

So why do radicals have so much certainty? A new study pins the blame on a faulty metacognition, the process by which people recognize when their ideas might not be correct and update their beliefs accordingly. While the study didn't directly measure political radicalism, it did look at two traits that associate with it: dogmatism and authoritarianism.

This new study focused on metacognition, the process of "thinking about thinking". This is the process we use to re-evaluate our thoughts based on new information. It is how we learn and grow.

Participants identified as radicals did not suffer from overconfidence in general; they simply were not able to evaluate the correctness of their decisions. What's more, they were unable to re-evaluate their opinions even after receiving additional information. It did not matter whether the participant was aligned with left-wing or right-wing thinking; radicals of all stripes failed at metacognition.

The researchers' original paper can be found online at Current Biology.

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