Folks were asked to name a scientific concept that deserves to be better known.
Lisa Randall nominates “effective theory.”
an effective theory tells us precisely its limitations—the conditions and values of parameters for which the theory breaks down. The laws of the effective theory succeed until we reach its limitations when these assumptions are no longer true or our measurements or requirements become increasingly precise.
Matthew D. Lieberman nominates naive realism.
If I am seeing reality for what it is and you see it differently, then one of us has a broken reality detector and I know mine isn’t broken. If you can’t see reality as it is, or worse yet, can see it but refuse to acknowledge it, then you must be crazy, stupid, biased, lazy or deceitful.
In the absence of a thorough appreciation for how our brain ensures that we will end up as naïve realists, we can’t help but see complex social events differently from one another, with each of us denigrating the other for failing to see what is so obviously true.
Matthew O. Jackson nominates homophily.
New parents learn from talking with other new parents, and help take care of each other’s children. People of the same religion share beliefs, customs, holidays, and norms of behavior. By the very nature of any workplace, you will spend most of your day interacting with people in the same profession and often in the same sub-field.
…Homophily lies at the root of many social and economic problems, and understanding it can help us better address the many issues that societies around the globe face, from inequality and immobility, to political polarization.
Dylan Evans nominates need for closure.
However great our desire for an answer may be, we must make sure that our desire for truth is even greater, with the result that we prefer to remain in a state of uncertainty rather than filling in the gaps in our knowledge with something we have made up.
Gary Klein nominates decentering.
Decentering is not about empathy—intuiting how others might be feeling. Rather, it is about intuiting what others are thinking. It is about imagining what is going through another person’s mind. It is about getting inside someone else’s head.
…Being able to take someone else’s perspective lets people disagree without escalating into conflicts.
Adam Waytz nominates the illusion of explanatory depth.
If you asked one hundred people on the street if they understand how a refrigerator works, most would respond, yes, they do. But ask them to then produce a detailed, step-by-step explanation of how exactly a refrigerator works and you would likely hear silence or stammering. This powerful but inaccurate feeling of knowing is what Leonid Rozenblit and Frank Keil in 2002 termed, the illusion of explanatory depth (IOED), stating, “Most people feel they understand the world with far greater detail, coherence, and depth than they really do.”
Cristine H. Legare nominates Cumulative Culture.
Cumulative culture requires the high fidelity transmission of two qualitatively different abilities—instrumental skills (e.g., how to keep warm during winter) and social conventions (e.g., how to perform a ceremonial dance). Children acquire these skills through high fidelity imitation and behavioral conformity. These abilities afford the rapid acquisition of behavior more complex than could ever otherwise be learned exclusively through individual discovery or trial-and-error learning.
If someone had asked me, I would have proposed something similar: cultural intelligence.
Eric R. Weinstein gives us Russell Conjugation.
the human mind is constantly looking ahead well beyond what is true or false to ask “What is the social consequence of accepting the facts as they are?” While this line of thinking is obviously self-serving, we are descended from social creatures who could not safely form opinions around pure facts so much as around how those facts are presented to us by those we ape, trust or fear. Thus, as listeners and readers our minds generally mirror the emotional state of the source, while in our roles as authoritative narrators presenting the facts, we maintain an arsenal of language to subliminally instruct our listeners and readers on how we expect them to color their perceptions.
Sarah Demers nominates blind analysis.
The idea is to fully establish procedures for a measurement before we look at the data so we can’t be swayed by intermediate results. They require rigorous tests along the way to convince ourselves that the procedures we develop are robust and that we understand our equipment and techniques. We can’t “unsee” the data once we’ve taken a look.
John Tooby nominates coalitional instincts.
These programs enable us and induce us to form, maintain, join, support, recognize, defend, defect from, factionalize, exploit, resist, subordinate, distrust, dislike, oppose, and attack coalitions. Coalitions are sets of individuals interpreted by their members and/or by others as sharing a common abstract identity
…to earn membership in a group you must send signals that clearly indicate that you differentially support it compared to rival groups. Hence, optimal weighting of beliefs and communications in the individual mind will make it feel good to think and express content conforming to and flattering to one’s group’s shared beliefs, and feel good attacking and misrepresenting rival groups.