On narratives in introspection

Saturday, 2 Jan 2010

I have noticed that when people try to figure out the reason for some behaviour, particularly one of their own, they will often ask themselves what the cause is, come up with a list of candidates, and then try to find the prinicipal factor in this list.

Most of the time when I see such a list, it seems to me that that the answer is really “all of the above”. The answer is not to be found in any one of the items – it is to be found in the relationships and the forces between all of them. So it occurred to me that instead of coming up with a list of candidate reasons by asking which one it could be, a more productive approach would be to simply try to think of all plausible reasons, and then try to analyse them in relation to each other.

People don’t do this naturally. A major factor is probably that doing so requires higher ambiguity tolerance than working out an intuitively attractive narrative does.