Here’s the column I contributed this month to my company’s internal newsletter, Indefinite Articles. (Yeah, you’re right, we’re a bit geeky and into linguistics. As it happens I wanted to call the thing My Ding-A-Ling but nobody else was having it.)
When I was asked to write a Seven Things You Didn’t Know About … article (“any subject would be fine” they said) I didn’t know what to write about. As a tester, being in a position of not knowing something is an occupational hazard. In fact, it’s pretty much a perpetual state since our work is predominantly about asking questions. And why would we ask questions if we already knew? (Please don’t send me answers to this.)
Often, the teams in Linguamatics are asking questions because there’s some data we need to obtain. Other times we’re asking more open-ended, discovery-generating questions because, say, we’re interested in understanding more about why we’re doing something, exploring the ramifications of doing something, wondering what might make sense to do next, and you can think of many others I’m sure.
We ask these kinds of questions of others and of ourselves. And plenty of times we will get answers. But I’ve found that it helps me to remember that the answers – even when delivered in good faith – can be partial, be biased, be flawed, and even be wrong. And, however little I might think it or like it, the same applies to my questions.
We are all subject to any number of biases, susceptible to any number of logical fallacies, influenced by any number of subtle social factors, and are better or worse at expressing the concepts in our heads in ways that the people we’re talking to can understand. And so even when you think you know something about something, there’s likely to be something you don’t know about the something you think you know about that something.
To help with that, here’s a list of seven common biases, oversights, logical fallacies and reasoning errors that I’ve seen and see in action, and have perpetrated myself:
- Survivorship Bias
- Impostor Syndrome
- Dunning-Kruger Effect
- Confirmation Bias
- No True Scotsman
- Opportunity Cost
- The Fallacy Fallacy
Further reading: Thou Shalt Not Commit Logical Fallacies, Mental Models I Find Repeatedly Useful, Satir Interaction Model.