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4. Political and Perceptual Differences

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Last December, The Washington Post resurfaced a short video clip of Heather Nauert, nominee for US Ambassador to the United Nations. In the video Nauert attempted to make the case that there was a strong historical relationship between the United States and Germany. The Post described her as citing the D-Day invasion as a central example, a claim that’s clearly ridiculous. At the same time, Bret Stephens, a conservative columnist for The New York Times, criticized The Post’s story, pointing out that Nauert also mentioned the Marshall Plan and arguing that she only mentioned D-Day as a contrast. There are many ways to try to understand the above disagreement. One option is that either the author of The Post story or Stephens are acting in bad faith, defending a view that they don’t fully believe. Another option is that one or the other were being careless and not paying enough attention to her actual comments in the video. Yet another option, however, is that both are acting in good faith and paying enough attention; it’s just that the author of The Post story and Stephens are perceiving the video in different ways, by attending to different things in it. This last option is in line with research on perceptual learning, whereby people come to systematically attend in different ways due to different prior experiences. There are many studies on systematic differences in attention due to learning, several of which I discuss in my book. These studies are largely performed on expert athletes, where researchers have found that attention patterns differ between the experts and non-experts. A study on expert soccer players, for instance, found that when they defend against opponents, they focus longer on an opponent’s hips than non-experts do (Williams & Davids, 1998). A study on expert goalkeepers found that during penalty kicks, they fixate longer on the non-kicking leg, while non-experts fixate longer on the trunk area (Savelsbergh et al., 2002). As. . .

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News source: Philosophy of Mind – The Brains Blog

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