The "useful technique filter". Not drawn to scale!

Some people seem to get a lot more benefit out of the "rationality community" -- blogs, meetups, workshops, etc. -- than others. What accounts for the variation?"

CFAR research associate Dan Keys investigated this question via a survey of about 1,400 people who are all involved, in varying degrees, with the rationality community either online or in person. As a way of quantifying "benefit" from rationality, he asked about the frequency with which people acquired useful new techniques or habits. Detailed results in this post, but here's the bullet point summary:

  • Benefit is correlated more with in-person participation, like meetup groups and workshops, than with purely online participation.
  • Benefit is correlated with having a "growth mindset" (that is, believing that your traits are malleable and can be improved with effort).
  • A substantial portion of the benefit seems to come from simply getting people to try more techniques.

Dan emphasizes that these are correlations, not necessarily causal effects, but they still constitute some evidence for the benefit of coming to rationality meetups and workshops. (Put another way: if we found no correlation between in-person participation and reported benefits, we'd consider that some evidence against a causal link, so the presence of a correlation must be evidence for a causal link.)