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January 19, 2009


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Trey Baird

I interpret the "naive scientists" remark as a double meaning. And being a psychologist, your friend is probably used to asking questions intended to elicit one of several responses.

It all depends on what you define a "scientist" as.

If, to you, a scientist is someone who is incredibly intelligent, then a "naive scientist" is an oxymoron. It is a person who is searching for answers in the wrong place. Perhaps he is answering question that don't need answers?

However, if to you, a scientist is someone who is seeking truth, and doesn't allow bias or agendas to alter his work, then a "naive scientist" is redundant. Scientists, by definition are naive of what they are doing. If they are aware of what they are doing, then they are wasting their time.

I subscribe to the second definition.

The Brandless Blog

@ Trey,
"If they are aware of what they are doing, then they are wasting their time." - Well said.

For me I wouldn't like to imagine my Financial Advisors as Naive Scientists, using our money in investment experiment without knowing what they are doing.

But I have agree with Kent that advisors would have to search and discover what the client's needs are and formulate a proper plans for him not through former questionnaires or forms but through "naive" approach, like observations, listening and understanding their needs.



To Trey,
I think the idea of the "naive scientist" that he was trying to convey was that while we all attempt to "Describe, Explain, Predict and Control," most people do these things without awareness of methodology. Scientists are purposeful and particular in methodology, and while we may make use of similar procedures every day, we do so with much less emphasis on stringent controls. In this regard scientists are not naive at all.

To Kent:
I tend to disagree with the following statement:
"Science, like philosophy, is quite logical in nature and does not often lend itself to describing, explaining, predicting or controlling those things that are non-logical in nature, such as human emotion."

While there are, no doubt, questions that the scientific method can't answer, there are psychological journals that focus exclusively on human emotion.

Kent @ The Financial Philosopher

@Trey / Rendell / prufock:

Wow! Great thoughts!

Certainly, individuals will have their own definition of "scientist," which speaks to my point...

If, for example, an investor decides to buy shares of stock in XYZ company solely for the reason that the share price for XYZ stock has been consistently rising for three months, then this purchase decision was arguably based upon false premises; however, the investor may believe they have made a rational decision...

This particular investor, arguably, has used a "scientific" method (If A, Then B) but the investor failed to look at other variables that may be affecting XYZ stock share price (i.e. technological, managerial, political, governmental, economical, market, psychological, and/or unexplainable reasons).

Our "life decisions" are also often based upon such sloppy heuristics.

To summarize other various thoughts shared today...

Intelligent people are not necessarily wise;

Scientists are (or should be) "aware" of their objective but are not always "aware" of what they may discover;

I don't believe it to be prudent to make any attempt to "quantify" emotion -- it may be described, but not easily explained, predicted or controlled;

Humans are still animals and senses tend to lead (and get in the way of) logic and reason;

and psychology, in my humble opinion, is a branch of philosophy, which, properly applied, will balance "art" along with "science" in its applications and practices.

As my informal conclusion of the blog post inferred, the proper balance of art and science, and the wisdom to know the difference and how to allocate each, may very well define the border between success and failure.

Finally, I must say that your thoughts and comments (and those from other readers like you) are what help me crystallize and provoke my own thoughts, so thank-you...

"The supreme paradox of all thought is the attempt to discover something that thought cannot think." ~ Soren Kierkegaard

Trey Baird

@ Kent

You are surely a smart dude. After thinking about it a little more, I would add your theory as a third one to my list.

I do believe firmly that nothing a psychologist says ever has one meaning. They are trained to provoke certain triggers in the human mind in order to get an understand for why a person thinks the way he does.

I think that the phrase "naive scientist" is a provocative term, that different people will interpret differently.

Simply put, I think that we're all correct.

Kent @ The Financial Philosopher


Thanks for your additional thoughts. I can certainly see that a psychologist could leverage the phrase, "naive scientist," as a trigger to underscore their intent with a particular client.

I could even see the potential for misuse of the phrase as a tool to make a client doubt their own behavior and feel in increased need to continue "therapy."

My psychologist friend, for the record, happens to adhere to my "theory" that a balance of science and art is required for best practices.

I also agree that we may all be correct.

One last thought: Could it be that once we awaken to our own naivety we are no longer naive?

This could be similar to the idea that the awareness of our ignorance is the definition of wisdom...

Here is a quote my psychologist friend shared with me:

"A man’s knowledge is like an expanding sphere, the surface corresponding to the boundary between the known and the unknown. As the sphere grows, so does its surface; the more a man learns, the more he realizes how much he does not know. Hence, the most ignorant man thinks he knows it all." ~ L. Sprague de Camp


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About Kent Thune

  • Kent Thune is a philosopher who happens to be a money manager and freelance writer... Read More


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