TagLast edit: 24 Dec 2020 20:01 UTC by Rob Bensinger

CFAR’s 2019 workshop participant handbook defines an aversion as

any sort of mental mechanism that causes us to be less likely to engage in a particular activity, or to do so only with pain, displeasure, or discomfort. Aversions can be conscious or unconscious, reasoned or felt, verbal or visceral, and they can range anywhere from a slight tinge of antipathy to outright phobias.

Aversion factoring is goal factoring for aversions: trying to understand why you’re averse to a particular thing by decomposing it into underlying preferences and experiences.

Ugh fields

Aversions make us less likely to engage in “activities,” and as Scott Alexander’s (2011) Physical and Mental Behavior notes, this includes mental as well as physical activities. Pavlovian conditioning can cause humans to unconsciously flinch from even thinking about a serious personal problem they have.

Writing in 2010, Roko introduced the term ugh field to refer to this problem:

If you fail or are punished sufficiently many times in some problem area, and acting in that area is always [preceded] by thinking about it, your brain will propagate the psychological pain right back to the moment you first begin to entertain a thought about the problem, and hence cut your conscious optimizing ability right out of the loop.

[...] The subtlety with the Ugh Field is that the flinch occurs before you start to consciously think about how to deal with the Unhappy Thing, meaning that you never deal with it, and you don’t even have the option of dealing with it in the normal run of things. I find it frightening that my lizard brain could implicitly be making life decisions for me, without even asking my permission!

The ugh field forms a self-shadowing blind spot covering an area desperately in need of optimization.

Blog posts and external links

Related pages

Ugh fields

Roko12 Apr 2010 17:06 UTC
341 points
80 comments3 min readLW link

‘Ugh fields’, or why you can’t even bear to think about that task (Rob Wiblin)

habryka11 Sep 2020 20:31 UTC
23 points
17 comments2 min readLW link

Subagents, trauma and rationality

Kaj_Sotala14 Aug 2019 13:14 UTC
97 points
4 comments19 min readLW link

Trapped Pri­ors As A Ba­sic Prob­lem Of Rationality

Scott Alexander12 Mar 2021 20:02 UTC
134 points
32 comments14 min readLW link3 reviews

De­liber­ately Vague Lan­guage is Bullshit

lsusr14 May 2021 9:17 UTC
36 points
21 comments1 min readLW link

[Question] Does the “ugh field” phe­nomenon some­times oc­cur strongly enough to af­fect im­me­di­ate sen­sory pro­cess­ing?

Rana Dexsin3 May 2022 13:42 UTC
7 points
1 comment1 min readLW link

Com­plex Be­hav­ior from Sim­ple (Sub)Agents

moridinamael10 May 2019 21:44 UTC
110 points
13 comments9 min readLW link1 review

Train­ing Regime Day 17: Deflinch­ing and Lines of Retreat

Mark Xu21 Apr 2020 17:45 UTC
23 points
0 comments3 min readLW link

Train­ing Regime Day 18: Nega­tive Vi­su­al­iza­tion

Mark Xu22 Apr 2020 16:06 UTC
9 points
2 comments2 min readLW link

Defeat­ing Ugh Fields In Practice

Psychohistorian19 Jun 2010 19:37 UTC
95 points
95 comments2 min readLW link

Guardian column on ugh fields, men­tions LW

Kaj_Sotala9 Jul 2011 12:34 UTC
34 points
45 comments2 min readLW link

Plan while your ugh field is down

XFrequentist23 Jan 2014 17:42 UTC
33 points
12 comments1 min readLW link

The Five Hin­drances to Do­ing the Thing

moridinamael25 Sep 2017 17:04 UTC
9 points
4 comments8 min readLW link

Elud­ing At­ten­tion Hijacks

ABranco17 Apr 2010 3:23 UTC
24 points
23 comments8 min readLW link

Aver­sion Factoring

CFAR!Duncan7 Jul 2022 16:09 UTC
70 points
1 comment8 min readLW link

On akra­sia: start­ing at the bottom

seecrow1 Aug 2022 4:08 UTC
31 points
2 comments3 min readLW link

Sig­nal­ing Guilt

Krieger8 Oct 2022 20:40 UTC
20 points
6 comments1 min readLW link

Who should write the defini­tive post on Ziz?

NicholasKross15 Dec 2022 6:37 UTC
9 points
45 comments3 min readLW link
No comments.