What is the G.I. Joe Fallacy?
And it's a fallacy that's kind of near and dear to my heart because I invented it with my colleague, Tamar Gendler, who's a philosopher here at Yale. Joe is this show about these like military guys, this action stuff, and it was like different things will happen every week. And to get a sense of this, I wanted to kind of give you this little metaphor of a spot where you can see that knowing is not enough to really change how you actually think about it, and how you actually behave.
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This thought that I, because I know this stuff, should be good at it and that’s all we need to do. You need to kind of read these studies, and then you’re going to be golden. That actually is going to be one of the first fallacies that we talk about in the context of this course. And it’s a fallacy that’s kind of near and dear to my heart because I invented it with my colleague, Tamar Gendler, who’s a philosopher here at Yale. But it’s a fallacy known as the G.I. Joe Fallacy. And as you might guess, the G.I. Joe Fallacy is named after G.I. Joe, the cartoon. How many of guys saw G.I. Joe the cartoon as a kid? Heard of G.I. Joe the cartoon? Some people, you’re missing out, it’s a fantastic show from the 80s. Get your 80s culture and watch G.I. Joe cartoons. But the fallacy is named after G.I. Joe because G.I. Joe is this show about these like military guys, this action stuff, and it was like different things will happen every week. But at the end of the show, every week, because it was a show for kids, they would have this public service announcement. Look both ways when you cross the street, and don’t talk to strangers, and all these kinds of things. And at the end of it, the kid in the public service announcement would say, “Thank you G. I. Joe. Now, I know”. And then, G.I. Joe would say, their kind of canonical phrase, which is that “Knowing is half the battle”. And so, this is the fallacy. It’s this mistaken idea that knowing is half the battle. G.I. Joe used to think that when you learn look both ways when you cross the street, then you’re kind of done. Now you know how to do it. And G.I. Joe even has this kind of awesome like graphic if you Google it on the Internet. But the claim is that this actually isn’t true. Merely knowing something is not enough to put into practice. Merely knowing something is not enough to actually change your behavior. And that’s the G. I. Joe Fallacy. And to get a sense of this, I wanted to kind of give you this little metaphor of a spot where you can see that knowing is not enough to really change how you actually think about it, and how you actually behave. And to do that, we’re going to use a bit of a metaphor. Sometimes seeing our own thought patterns aren’t as easy as we think. And we’re going to use the metaphor of vision in part because we’re used to seeing that our vision is off. We’re used to seeing things like optical illusions and so on. Some of you may have seen this one before it’s the Muller-Lyer illusion. How many have actually seen it before? And some folks, right? And so, for the folks who maybe haven’t seen it before, which of these two lines, the top one or the bottom one looks longer? Or even if you know it, say which one to you looks like it’s longer. The bottom one. Thank you. Well, if you’ve seen the image before, you know that in fact they’re the same length. You know you could take it away. But this is the thing about knowing not being half the battle. You guys have learned about this in Intro Psych, or on the internet, and so on, but you can’t teach your eyes not to see the bottom one as longer, even though you know what the problem is, your eyes are still seeing in the wrong way. Merely knowing it doesn’t make it better. Here’s an even more fun illusion I think, which is why maybe some of you haven’t seen which is the these Shepard’s Tables after the vision scientist, Roger Shepard. And here’s the illusion, which of the two tables is kind of longer in depth, the one on the left, or the one on the right? Which of these two tables is kind of longer both ways? The one on the left? Other people think so too? All right. Here’s where we do the awesomeness because I planned for this, is that we’re going to measure it and see that your vision is wrong. You’re ready? So, here is the one on the left. Put that there, it’s like basically, Did I do it right? No, it’s upside down. Hold on, we got this. Here we go, one on the left. And here we go, one on the right. This is where you’re supposed to go, Whoa! Oh my goodness, right? And I actually invested in this construction paper. I did this whole demo. But now, you know this but you’re going to look at it, and you’re going to see it exactly the same way. It doesn’t change how your mind perceives it. I can teach you how these illusions work. I could teach you the vision science behind it, which I’m not going to do. It’s still not going to change how you see it. And this is the part of the G.I. Joe Fallacy. This idea that knowing is half the battle. It’s not. We actually have to do all kinds of stuff other than just knowing stuff to change our behavior. If we really want to change our behavior, we have to change habits. We can’t just learn the stuff. And that is why your professor is kind of just as mopey, and just as not good at this well-being stuff as you guys. The hope is that we, together, as a socially supported community, can put these habits into place. We can commit to them, and then we’re all going to get better. Anyway, these are the three reasons why I wanted to teach this course, and why I want to teach this course now. Now, we’ll get into the part about these kinds of misconceptions. Misconceptions in terms of what we think is going to make us happy, and also why it kind of doesn’t. We’ll focus more on why it doesn’t in the next round.
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