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托福双语阅读素材:自由交流如何犯错

2018年05月17日14:59 来源:小站整理
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摘要:阅读作为听说读写四部分中偏向文本输入的部分,可以为我们的写作和口语这两项输出积累充分的语料素材,比如亮眼独特的词组或句式,比如地道的西方写作风格。下面我们来看一篇经济学人双语阅读素材:自由交流如何犯错。

很多童鞋认为托福阅读是托福四单项中最容易拿分的部分而掉以轻心,其实是不对的。阅读作为听说读写四部分中偏向文本输入的部分,可以为我们的写作和口语这两项输出积累充分的语料素材,比如亮眼独特的词组或句式,比如地道的西方写作风格。托福阅读能力的提升除了需要做题,更需要在平时就增加英文文章的阅读量。下面我们来看一篇经济学人双语阅读素材:自由交流如何犯错。

托福双语阅读素材:自由交流如何犯错图1

Free exchange

How to be wrong

To err is human. Society is suffering from an inability to acknowledge as much

自由交流

如何犯错

人孰无过,但我们的社会却因为不能认识到这一点而受损

A NEWSPAPER cannot publish for 174 years without some mistakes. This one has made its share. We thought Britain was safe in the European exchange-rate mechanism just weeks before it crashed out; we opined, in 1997, that Indonesia was well placed to avoid financial crisis; we noted in 1999 that oil, at $10 per barrel, might well reach $5, almost perfectly timing the bottom of the market; and in 2003 we supported the invasion of Iraq. For individuals, like publications, errors are painful—particularly now, when the digital evidence of failure is both accessible and indelible. But they are also inevitable. The trick, then, is to err well: to recognise mistakes and learn from them. Worryingly, humanity may be getting worse at owning up to its goofs.

没有哪份报纸能发行174年而从不出错,《经济学人》也不例外。我们曾认为英国在欧洲汇率机制中是安全的,结果没过几周它就遭遇惨败,黯然退出该机制;1997年我们认为印度尼西亚有足够能力避免金融危机;1999年石油每桶10美元时,我们写到油价很可能会跌到每桶5美元,但在几乎同一时间,油价触底;2003年我们还曾支持入侵伊拉克。和出版物一样,个人犯错也很痛苦,特别是现在,错误都会留下数字证据,既无从掩藏又无法抹除。但错误也是不可避免的,所以关键在于要“会”犯错:认识到错误并从中吸取经验。令人担忧的是,人类可能会越来越不会承认错误。

Few enjoy the feeling of being caught out in an error. But real trouble starts when the desire to avoid a reckoning leads to a refusal to grapple with contrary evidence. economists often assume that people are rational. Faced with a new fact, rational actors should update their view of the world in order to take better decisions in future. Yet years of economic research illuminate the ways in which human cognition veers from rationality. Studies confirm what is obvious from experience: people frequently disregard information that conflicts with their view of the world.

很少有人喜欢犯错被抓现行的感觉。但是,如果一心想要避免惩罚,以致于拒绝去面对相反的事实,真正的麻烦就来了。经济学家通常都假定人是理性的,面对新的事实,理性的人应该更新自己的世界观,好在今后做出更好的决定。然而,多年的经济研究表明,人类认知存在偏离理性的情况。研究证实了经验中显而易见的情况:人们经常会无视与自己的世界观相左的信息。

Why should that be? Last year Roland Bénabou, of Princeton, and Jean Tirole, of the Toulouse School of Economics, presented a framework for thinking about the problem. In many ways, beliefs are like other economic goods. People spend time and resources building them, and derive value from them. Some beliefs are like consumption goods: a passion for conservation can make its owner feel good, and is a public part of his identity, like fashion. Other beliefs provide value by shaping behaviour. The conviction that one is a good salesman may help generate the confidence needed to close sales; religious asceticism can help one avoid unhealthy habits.

为什么会这样呢?去年,普林斯顿大学的罗兰·贝纳布(Roland Bénabou)和图卢兹经济学院(Toulouse School of Economics)的让·蒂罗(Jean Tirole)提出了一个思考此问题的框架。在许多方面,信念就像其他经济产品一样。人们花费时间和资源制造信念,并从中获得价值。有些信念就如同消费品:对环境保护的热情可以让一个人感觉良好,这种热情和时尚一样,是他个人身份塑造中对外展示的一面。其他信念通过塑造行为来提供价值,比如深信自己是一名优秀的推销员可能有助于建立信心,做成生意;又比如宗教禁欲主义可以帮助人避免不健康的习惯。

Because beliefs, however, are not simply tools for making good decisions, but are treasured in their own right, new information that challenges them is unwelcome. People often engage in “motivated reasoning” to manage such challenges. Mr Bénabou classifies this into three categories. “Strategic ignorance” is when a believer avoids information offering conflicting evidence. In “reality denial” troubling evidence is rationalised away: house-price bulls might conjure up fanciful theories for why prices should behave unusually, and supporters of a disgraced politician might invent conspiracies or blame fake news. And lastly, in “self-signalling”, the believer creates his own tools to interpret the facts in the way he wants: an unhealthy person, for example, might decide that going for a daily run proves he is well.

不过,信念不仅仅是帮助人们做出明智决定的工具,其本身就受人珍视。因此,挑战这些信念的新信息就不受待见。人们经常通过“动机性推理”来应付这些挑战。贝纳布将动机性推理分为三类。“策略性忽视”是指持有某种信念的人回避与其信念相抵触的证据。“否定现实”的人会把令其不安的证据合理化:看涨房价的人可能会提出稀奇古怪的理论,解释价格为什么就应该表现异常;而一个遭人唾弃的政客的支持者可能会发明阴谋论或指责假新闻。最后,“自我提示”型的人为自己创造工具,以自己想要的方式来解释事实。例如,一个病人可能会认为每天跑步就能证明自己身体健康。

Motivated reasoning is a cognitive bias to which better-educated people are especially prone. Not all the errors it leads to are costly: preaching the superiority of Arsenal despite contradictory evidence does little harm. But when biases are broadly shared—within troubled firms, say, or financial markets or political parties—danger lurks. Motivated reasoning helps explain why viewpoints polarise even as more information is more easily available than ever before. That it is easy to find convincing demolitions of climate-change myths, for example, has not curbed misinformation on the topic. But the demand for good (or bad) information is uneven. Polling shows, for example, that Democrats with high levels of scientific knowledge are more concerned about climate change than fellow partisans with less scientific background; among Republicans, the level of scientific awareness has no effect on climate beliefs. Even, or especially, sophisticated news consumers look for what they want to find.

动机性推理这种认知偏见特别容易出现在受过良好教育的人身上。不是所有因这种偏见而犯的错误都会付出巨大代价:无视相反证据而鼓吹阿森纳队有多出色并没什么危害。然而,偏见如果被广为接受,比如在出现问题的公司里,或者在金融市场或政党内,就会危机四伏。动机性推理可以解释为什么虽然人们现在更容易获得更多的信息,观点却仍会两极分化。例如,如今很容易就能找到令人信服的证据来推翻有关气候变化的错误观念,但关于这一问题的不实信息却并未得到遏制。不过,对优质(或不良)信息的需求是不均衡的。例如,调查显示,科学知识水平较高的民主党人比科学背景较差的民主党人更关心气候变化;而在共和党人中,科学认知水平对个人的气候观点并没有影响。就连成熟的新闻消费者也会去找那些自己想看的东西看,或者说他们尤其会如此。

Work by Mr Bénabou suggests that groupthink is highest when people within groups face a shared fate: when choosing to break from a group is unlikely to spare an individual the costs of the group’s errors. If an individual politician’s fortunes rise and fall with his party’s, breaking from groupthink brings little individual benefit (and may impose individual costs). The incentive to engage in motivated reasoning is high as a result. Even as the facts on a particular issue converge in one direction, parties can still become increasingly polarised around starkly different belief-sets. That, in turn, can make it harder still for a member of one party to derive any benefit from breaking ranks. Indeed, the group has an incentive to delegitimise independent voices, such as statistical agencies or budget watchdogs. So the unanimity of views can be hard to escape until it contributes to a crisis.

贝纳布的研究表明,如果群体中的人面临共同命运,一个人并不可能靠脱离群体来免于承担群体错误的代价,那么这种情况下趋同思维的水平是最高的。如果某个政客的命运与所属党派的命运休戚相关,那么跳脱趋同思维就不会带来个人利益(而且个人还可能会付出代价)。如此一来,人们采取动机型推理的动力就会增强。即便某个问题的事实都已指向同一个方向,各方仍然会坚持迥然不同的看法而愈发两极分化。这样一来,一方某个成员就更难通过脱离群体来获得任何利益。事实上,团体有动机去消弭独立的声音,比如来自统计机构或预算监督机构的意见,所以它很难摆脱整齐划一的意见,直至这导致危机爆发。

Lowering the cost of admitting error could help defuse these crises. A new issue of Econ Journal Watch, an online journal, includes a symposium in which prominent economic thinkers are asked to provide their “most regretted statements”. Held regularly, such exercises might take the shame out of changing your mind. Yet the symposium also shows how hard it is for scholars to grapple with intellectual regret. Some contributions are candid; Tyler Cowen’s analysis of how and why he underestimated the risk of financial crisis in 2007 is enlightening. But some disappoint, picking out regrets that cast the writer in a flattering light or using the opportunity to shift blame.

降低承认错误的代价有助于缓解这些危机。在线杂志《经济期刊观察》(Econ Journal Watch)最新一期有一个专题研讨,请杰出的经济思想家说出他们 “最后悔的言论”。这样的活动如果定期举行,人们也许就不再那么耻于改变想法。然而,这个专题研讨也显示出,要专家们面对自己的错误判断并非易事。有些专家很坦诚:泰勒·考恩(Tyler Cowen)分析了自己如何以及为何低估了2007年金融危机的风险,富有启发性。但也有些专家令人失望。他们要么专门挑出一些实为增加自己光环的所谓错误,要么就利用这个机会来转移责任。

I don’t want to be right

Public statements of regret are risky in a rigidly polarised world. Admissions of error both provide propaganda for ideological opponents and annoy fellow-travellers. Some economists used to seethe when members of the guild acknowledged that trade liberalisation could yield costs as well as benefits—though economic models had always allowed for this. In the long run, such self-censorship probably eroded trust in economists’ arguments more than it built support for trade. It is rarely in the interest of those in the right to pretend that they are never wrong.

无需永远正确

在分化严重的世界中,公开表示后悔是有风险的。承认错误既落了敌对者的口实,又会惹恼同一阵营的人。一些经济学家曾在其他同行承认贸易自由化既有利益又有代价时怒火中烧,尽管经济模型一直都考虑到了这种情况。从长远来看,相比为自由贸易争取到更多的支持,这种自我审查可能会更多地削弱人们对经济学家观点的信任。有理的一方假装自己永不会犯错,这于他们自身无益。

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