Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ordinal Awareness Fallacy – Erich

I have discovered a new fallacy of reasoning. By this I mean, I have realized that we humans often reason in an incorrect way, and I propose an explanation as to why.

I describe it thus: People tend to think that information they learned first must have come about first. That might be confusing, but I'll explain with an example my "ordinal awareness fallacy."

All my life I have known oranges. I don't mean shades of the warm color, I mean the citrus fruit. I have not always been a big fan of oranges, but I have known of their existence for as long as I can remember.

But now I am traveling. On this journey, in Southeast Asia, I was introduced to a new citrus fruit called a pomelo. It has a yellowish-green peel (greener than chartreuse, but not so green as split pea soup.) It is larger than an orange, and its flesh is lighter in color, almost a pale yellow. And when I was introduced to the pomelo I assumed it was a hybrid cross of an orange and a grapefruit or something similar.

Guess what. I was wrong! I have since learned that the orange is actually the child of the pomelo. The sweet orange, as we know it in the U.S. is a hybrid cross of a pomelo and a mandarin. (I also assumed mandarin oranges were somehow descended from oranges, and not the other way around.)

So why did I assume that the pomelo came from the orange and not the other way around? Because I have known of oranges all my life. I knew about the orange first, so I assumed the orange came first.

In Thailand, there are three wheeled motorized vehicles used as taxis called tuk-tuks. In India, there are also tuk-tuks. And I assumed the word "tuk-tuk" came from Thailand to India, because I learned of tuk-tuks in Thailand. In this case, I was right. Research shows the term "tuk-tuk" originating in Thailand. But it was just luck, or maybe not luck, but happenstance. Had I traveled to India first, I would have assumed "tuk-tuk" was an Indian term inherited by Thailand.

When we get new knowledge, we build it on a matrix of the knowledge we already have. But sometimes, since our knowledge is built early idea to later idea, we assume that's how cause and effect happened. Maybe this is why we have such a difficult time changing our opinions when presented with facts that go against what we already "know."

So far as I know, I am the first person ever to propose this particular fallacy. Now, it may turn out someone else has already described the phenomenon, and when that is brought to my attention, I will probably not believe it. Because after all, I became aware of the Ordinal Awareness Fallacy first by my own reasoning. And if that's where I learned it first, then that's where it must have originated.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting because the Spanish translation of grapefruit is pomelo. And limon is actually lime. Hmmm. Definitely semantics are affected by where one lives and what grows there Florida boy.