Grandmasters are Popperians

In no sphere of human life is self-deception punished so brutally as in chess:

…novices were more likely to convince themselves that bad moves would work out in their favour, because they focused more on the countermoves that would benefit their strategy while ignoring those that led to the downfall of their cherished hypotheses.

Conversely, masters tended to correctly predict when the eventual outcome of a move would weaken their position. “Grand masters think about what their opponents will do much more,” says Byrne. “They tend to falsify their own hypotheses.”

I enjoyed this bit:

…in reality, many people find falsification difficult. Until the latest study, scientists were the only group of experts that had been shown to use falsification. And sociological studies of scientists in action have revealed that even they spend a great deal of their time searching for results that would bolster their theories.

Here is the full story. The recent saga of Bobby Fischer indicates, however, that such fidelity to the truth is often strictly context-specific. And here is a depressing account of medical experts and possible self-deception.

I have long believed that chess players are an especially unhappy lot. If you lose, you cannot even blame it on the weather. And everyone is ranked on a common rating scale with a clearly defined dimension of winning or losing. Sad to say, but a strict meritocracy is not great fun for the majority of participants.


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