Hedging

Hedging.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedge_%28linguistics%29

Examples:

  • Men are evil
  • All men are evil
  • Some men are evil
  • most men are evil
  • many men are evil
  • I think men are evil
  • I think all men are evil
  • I think some men are evil
  • I think most men are evil

“I think” weakens your relationship or belief in the idea, hedges that I usually encourage are the some|most type. It weakens your strength of idea but does not reduce the confidence of it.

  • I 100% believe this happens 80% or more of the time (most men are evil)
    Or
  • I 75% believe that this happens 100% of the time (I think all men are evil)
    Or
  • I 75% believe this happens 20% of the time (I think that some men are evil)
    Or
  • I 100% believe that this happens 20% of the time (some men are evil)
    Or
  • I (Reader Interprets)% believe that this happens (Reader Interprets)% of the time (I think men are evil)

They are all hedges.  I only like some of them.  When you hedge – I recommend using the type that doesn’t detract from the projected belief but instead detracts from the expected effect on the world.  Which is to say – be confident of weak effects, rather than unconfident of strong effects.

This relates to filters in that some people will automatically add the “This person thinks…” filter to any incoming information.  It’s not good or bad if you do/don’t filter, just a fact about your lens of the world.  If you don’t have this filter in place, you might find yourself personally attached to your words while other’s remain detached from words that seem like they should be more personally attached to.  This filter might explain the difference.

This also relates to Personhood and the way we trust incoming information from some sources.   When we are very young we go through a period of trusting anything said to us, and at some point experience failures when we do trust.  We also discover lying, and any parent will be able to tell you of the genuine childish glee when their children realise they can lie.  These experiences shape us into adults.  We have to trust some sources, we don’t have enough time to be sceptical of all knowledge ever and sometimes we outsource to proven credentialed professionals i.e. doctors.  Sometimes those professionals get it wrong.

This also relates to in-groups and out-groups because listeners who believe they are in your in-group are likely to interpret ambiguous hedges in a neutral to positive direction and listeners who believe they are in the out-group of the message are likely to interpret your ambiguous hedges in a neutral or negative direction.  Which is to say that people who already agree that All men are evil, are likely to “know what you mean” when you say, “all men are evil” and people who don’t agree that all men are evil will read a whole pile of “how wrong could you be” into the statement, “all men are evil”.


Communication is hard.  I know no one is going to argue with my example because I already covered that in an earlier post.


Meta: this took 1.5hrs to write.

Cross posted to lesswrong: http://lesswrong.com/lw/nv7

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