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The Science of Irrational Decisions

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the why-you-do-what-you-do dept.

Science 244

The Rat Race Trap blog has a look at one aspect of the irrational decision-making process humans employ, based on the book Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. "Professor Ariely describes some experiments which demonstrated something he calls 'arbitrary coherence.' Basically it means that once you contemplate a decision or actually make a decision, it will heavily influence your subsequent decisions. That's the coherence part. Your brain will try to keep your decisions consistent with previous decisions you have made. I've read about that many times before, but what was surprising in this book was the the 'arbitrary' part. ... [In an experiment] the fact that the students contemplated a decision at a completely arbitrary price, the last two digits of their social security number, very heavily influenced what they were willing to pay for the product. The students denied that the anchor influenced them, but the data shows something totally different. Correlations ranged from 0.33 to 0.52. Those are extremely significant."

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244 comments

Yeehaw (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29846575)

So this science basically involves saying things everyone knows about using big words?

Re:Yeehaw (4, Funny)

Aklyon (1398879) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846605)

define "big words". do you mean closer to "potato" or closer to "superstructure"

Re:Yeehaw (5, Insightful)

compro01 (777531) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847203)

Science basically involved checking whether what "everyone knows" is actually correct, and then trying to find out why.

Re:Yeehaw (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29847281)

Wow. I knew the "hurr durr, what good is this study, it's only repeating common sense, what a waste of time/resources" response was coming as soon as I read the summary title, but I didn't expect it would be the first post. Especially since this story is specifically ABOUT the way that people are prone to believe "obvious" things in spite of actual evidence.

Please, get this through your heads: "common sense" (another name for biases gained from anecdotes and cultural groupthink) is often misleading, unreliable, over-broad, or outright wrong. At one time it was "common sense" that heavy objects fall faster than light objects. It was "common sense" that large, heavy objects can't float in water. It was "common sense" that the world is flat and women and blacks are intellectually inferior to white men and that the planets and moons are perfect spheres orbiting in perfect circles.

Science is about testing claims through empirical experiment--sometimes the results match up with "common sense", sometimes they don't. Sure, this story an example of a place where experiment confirmed something that is fairly obvious on its face--but the data goes a long way towards better understanding the WHYS and HOWS of this "obvious" phenomenon. Data is never a bad thing.

Not sure (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29846593)

I think Im 50 / 50 on this one

So (4, Funny)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846597)

Will it help me to understand why I read Slashdot instead of doing something productive with my time?

Re:So (5, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846695)

Yes. You arbitrarily decided to read Slashdot one day. In order to maintain internal consistency, your brain had to make it seem like this is a good idea, and continually offers up excuses for reading Slashdot.

Re:So (5, Interesting)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846705)

In case you were actually curious which I'm sure you are...

Humans are naturally curious, and we have a love for information. These are great things, clearly evolving to strive for greater knowledge and understanding is a good thing. And a certain level of curiousity is also good. So there are mechanisms in our brain that reward us for gaining knowledge... generally you feel good learning something.

That said, the implementation is terrible. We get rewarded (chemically) for ANY information we learn. There is no natural mechanism that filters out useless information. So at our base we feel equally rewarded learning about britney spears' baby as we do about our political system. This results in you feeling good learning the tidbits of information though they may not be very pertinent to your life. If you are good at trivial pursuit you are likely more of an addict and so on.

Re:So (3, Informative)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846857)

I disagree. I find watching E-Daily, or Entertainment Tonight, or any other celebrity show physically nauseating. It's literally an assault on my brain.

Re:So (4, Funny)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846987)

You probably do it too much, though, as you obviously have never spent any time with a dictionary. If you did, you would realize that you just stated that certain shows show intent to physically harm your brain.

Please use the word "literally" literally in the future.

Re:So (3, Informative)

Mr Z (6791) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847301)

You're literally full of it. "Literally" has been used as an intensifier since the 17th Century. [slate.com] Get over it. And before you go off on the author of the article I just linked... He's a dictionary editor. I think he spends more time with a dictionary than any of us.

Re:So (2, Insightful)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847607)

I appreciate the link, but the improper and confusing use of a word throughout history doesn't make it correct. Even the author of the article you linked decries the use of the word in a confusing manner.

I really did like the article, though :)

Re:So (5, Interesting)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847099)

I disagree. I find watching E-Daily, or Entertainment Tonight, or any other celebrity show physically nauseating. It's literally an assault on my brain.

That's because such trivia is designed for children who never really grew up. Y'know, the ones who have adult bodies. That's why they think someone else's personal life is so much more fascinating than their own, merely because that person can sing or dance or act. They don't seem to notice that the truly famous entertainers are some of the most out-of-touch people who are least worthy of this kind of adoration. The doctor who finally cures cancer will be an anonymous, unknown figure by comparison.

They're impressed with the entertainer's ability to entertain and that's their only real criteria; any critical thinking or other evaluation shuts down at that point. Their appetite for the superficial and insignificant is absolutely endless, even though those same mental faculties could be put towards educating themselves, establishing deep and meaningful connections with people like their neighbors, and finding real purpose and meaning in their own lives. They see nothing wrong with this or the waste that it represents.

It's an assault on your brain because the underlying message is "it's okay to devote so much time and energy to something completely devoid of any real meaning." There's also the implication that it's okay to form grossly asymmetric relationships instead of mutual relationships, that there is anything healthy or nurturing about this, like when a person learns all about the personal and romantic life of an actor when that actor doesn't even know that he or she exists. The message is that you should eagerly do such things merely because it's encouraged by the industry that was built around it. If you have any understanding whatsoever, how could you do anything but reject this notion?

Re:So (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29847449)

So, what you're saying is, you're jealous of the ability of an entertainer to entertain, and because you once arbitrarily used the defense that what you do is more worthwhile than what they do in order to get a false sense of superiority, your brain keeps doing it to stay internally consistent?

Re:So (5, Informative)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847619)

So, what you're saying is, you're jealous of the ability of an entertainer to entertain, and because you once arbitrarily used the defense that what you do is more worthwhile than what they do in order to get a false sense of superiority, your brain keeps doing it to stay internally consistent?

You remind me of those people who call others "racist" because they disagree with Barack Obama on matters of public policy. Just like them, I am sure that you do it knowing that no one can rationally argue against something so absurd. For one thing, it would require them to prove a negative. That's why you never feel that before making such statements, you have a burden of proof to establish a) that jealousy of entertainers is the only possible reason to suggest that maybe there is something wrong with obsessing over strangers, or b) that the reasoning I openly explained is fatally flawed and that you know how it may be corrected.

Your failure to address or even to recognize that such a burden of proof goes along with your claim, combined with your insistence on making this into a personal matter instead of giving your counter-argument, can be taken as evidence that you are reacting emotionally, perhaps because I offended you. There was nothing malicious in what I said, so your offense is your own and it begins and ends with you. Therefore, you get to deal with it and will receive no relief from me.

I'll give you a free tip for the future: try these tactics on people who are unable to see right through them. You'll be much more "successful" if you really want to call it that.

Re:So (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847609)

Grats, i said 'base'. You have gotten over part of it using logic and processing in your fore-brain. That said, I bet you still listen and remember bits of it even if you find it abhorrent. I'm sure I can list other flaws in your brain if you'd like. I'll go with... procrastination, you don't do things as quickly as you could which is clearly inefficient, were you to design a life you'd likely not have it procrastinate. Unless you were trying to approximate a human.

Re:So (4, Interesting)

linguizic (806996) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847295)

Studies have shown that 80-90% of everything that humans talk about is gossip. When you think about this from an evolutionary perspective it makes sense. We're highly social animals and our biggest competitors are other humans. Sharing information about the members of tribe is a HUGE advantage. Unfortunately, today we have the same brains that our tribal ancestors did and these brains seem to include celebrities in our tribes, so we eat up gossip about them. The implementation isn't terrible, it's just legacy :)

Re:So (3, Interesting)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847545)

Exactly. The human brain is like a computer program that has constantly been patched for millions of years. The original intent of the program is completely different from how we use it now. And we have never had a version change or rewrite. Oh and we were programmed by inputting code semi-randomly.

When you think of it from that point of the it isn't at all surprising we have a few hundred stupid flaws.

I'll let someone else come up with a car analogy if they like.

Re:So (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847777)

Studies have shown that 80-90% of everything that humans talk about is gossip. When you think about this from an evolutionary perspective it makes sense. We're highly social animals and our biggest competitors are other humans. Sharing information about the members of tribe is a HUGE advantage. Unfortunately, today we have the same brains that our tribal ancestors did and these brains seem to include celebrities in our tribes, so we eat up gossip about them. The implementation isn't terrible, it's just legacy :)

That makes a lot of sense to me. Before technology allowed anything other than face-to-face communication, such a tendency might have been valuable. You can, after all, be greatly affected by the decisions of those closest to you. However, it seems to break down due to telecommunications. Telecommunications and mass media mean that this mechanism is being used for strangers that the individual will probably never meet. Due to that, it loses the meaningful function of "staying in touch" that it once served.

I don't know if "instinct" is the correct word here, but I'll use it knowing that there may be a better one. I have always felt that human beings don't have to be slaves to their instincts. Their instincts are strong influences; they are not absolute masters. Wise/enlightened individuals can recognize when following an instinct in a certain way no longer serves their interests. They can find healther and more fulfilling ("higher") ways to take care of the same needs. In this case, they can choose to become more involved in their family and community life instead of adoring strangers who don't even know that they exist. This would, however, require a mindful awareness of the situation and the willingness to perform a little self-examination, what you might call the ability to be in the driver's seat of your own life. These are traits that superficial people are not known for having, which may explain why celebrity-worship is most often associated with people who are childish and easily impressed.

Re:So (1)

war4peace (1628283) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847389)

So at our base we feel equally rewarded learning about Britney spears' baby as we do about our political system.

...Which are both nonsensical, stupid and unrewarding things to learn about and retain. Does that mean there's no escape from idiocy?

Re:So (1)

The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847525)

Cool. This means that I can stop trying to get my wife to make more rational decisions. At least until someone invents a time machine.

Personalized Ads (1)

Baby Duck (176251) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846607)

Remember those personalized hologram ads in Minority Report? Now, if they know your SSN, they can personalize a "deal" for you at a price you might be more willing to pay for it.

Re:Personalized Ads (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846823)

Sweet.
Mine ends in 000!

Re:Personalized Ads (1)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847021)

Mine ends in 0002...damn that Roosevelt.

I'm not one to normally complain about articles... (4, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846615)

How the hell did this article make it off the firehose?

There is a quote in the summary from a blog referenced. The blog is not linked to -- instead the only link is to a site (Amazon, I think) selling the book.

Where's the actual discussion of what's in the book? Where's the article (or blog entry)?

If you're going to post a book review... please, include the review. Otherwise it looks like you're just hocking a book.

Re:I'm not one to normally complain about articles (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846861)

And I just want to give props to kdawson (or whoever) for correcting the oversight... link to the blog is now there.

Re:I'm not one to normally complain about articles (1)

phlamingo (629479) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847109)

Hawking, you mean.

Re:I'm not one to normally complain about articles (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847547)

Hawking, you mean.

No, I meant hocking. As in, "hocking a loogie". Or as in "hamhocks", e.g. the lower shanks of pig's legs that have too much gristle for regular eating, but are good for soup base, or for adding flavor to boiled greens, just like a slashvertisement would do.

What do paraplegic astrophysicists have to do with poor article summaries and book promotion, anyway?

Re:I'm not one to normally complain about articles (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847557)

A book on 'irrational thinking'....aka "Chicks Think the Darndest Things".

Re:I'm not one to normally complain about articles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29847251)

I agree, slashdot's article descriptions have really gone flat. You should be able to read the description and get a full understanding of what's going on. This doesn't happen anymore, hence why I go to TechDirt

TFA (4, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846625)

Re:TFA (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846767)

Editors sleeping on the job

They were probably asked to write down the last two digits of the SS# as "the number of hours to sleep on the job" during their orientation.

Re:TFA (2, Funny)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846945)

Maybe they were flying a plane.

Re:TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29847379)

No shit. Some of us who are unemployed are damned sure about one thing: we could do a much better job than some of the editors I have seen here. Of course, that could mean anything from using a spell-checker once in a while, checking that a link goes where you intended before submitting it to an audience of millions, and otherwise acting like quality is truly important to you.

Re:TFA (1)

RyoShin (610051) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847831)

The editors were merely following a previous decision. From the first, they never actually edited, so to do so now would be contradictory. It's irrational cohesion. The ad revenue influenced them.

Re:TFA (1)

prunedude (806692) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847889)

Editors sleeping on the job
What a sweet job

Slashdot editors and airline pilots [nytimes.com]

Still, GIGO (3, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846627)

Your brain will try to keep your decisions consistent with previous decisions you have made.

People tend to forget that logic is just a set of rules. If you load it up with bad data, especially data that is driven by pure emotions, you'll rationalize yourself into neat, coherent clusterfuck. The difference between wisdom and intelligence is that the former is an a priori mental filter for bad data, the latter is just raw capacity. That's why a wise person need not follow a life based on reason alone to generally make good decisions.

Re:Still, GIGO (1)

Aklyon (1398879) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846663)

a neat, coherent clusterfuck.

WTF?

Re:Still, GIGO (5, Insightful)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846819)

To bring it full circle... you made a logical decision to do x, this sets a rule in your mind that x is true. Once you made x decision, you had no further reason to question that, and you would base many more decisions on that "logical rule". When x is challanged, it would require you to re-think all past decisions that were based on x, which might include who you married, why you took this job, your religious beliefs and other important life decisions.

Is it any wonder our minds are wired to assume we were right and keep on moving in the same directions? The brain is trying to keep you alive; anything you have done up to this point won't kill you, so why would the brain try to change that? That's why few people really have a life changing moment unless forced upon them by war, death, or other bad things. When the going is good, you will keep going.

Re:Still, GIGO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29847105)

Now I've got a question. Can you train/condition the brain to establish a rule where you constantly challenge previously made assumptions and rules?

Re:Still, GIGO (4, Interesting)

Bat Country (829565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847287)

Yes, we call that generalized anxiety disorder [wikipedia.org] . You probably don't want that.

Re:Still, GIGO (1)

Reziac (43301) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847375)

Or to put it more simply "This worked yesterday, so it'll work today too". Clearly a survival mechanism.

Re:Still, GIGO (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847591)

Once you made x decision, you had no further reason to question that, and you would base many more decisions on that "logical rule". When x is challanged, it would require you to re-think all past decisions that were based on x, which might include who you married, why you took this job, your religious beliefs and other important life decisions.

That's not entirely a bad thing, however (which I think is probably the point of your second paragraph). If you had to re-evaluate every decision you ever made throughout your entire life, you would find that never did anything else. For there to be any progress, you must assume that the decisions that lead to where you are currently were good.

Hindsight may be 20/20, but at some point, you've got to stop second guessing yourself and actually act on your decisions.

Re:Still, GIGO (2, Interesting)

517714 (762276) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847705)

Our brains are wired this way because as predators, it was more successful to continue chasing the same animal from the herd than to continually change targets who were not already tired from the chase. It predates anything we would likely call logic since this behavior is found in lower life forms.

Re:Still, GIGO (4, Interesting)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847951)

What's more, I would say it's very unclear that we'd be able to live, let alone become intelligent, without such irrational assumptions. This is something that people miss a lot when they talk about intelligence and AI: irrationality is part of intelligence.

Imagine you didn't generally make basic assumptions that your past actions and beliefs were appropriate. Let's say you wake up in the morning and feel a pain in your belly. Well, yesterday and the day before that, you ate a bowl of cereal with milk in it, and that seemed to make the pain go away. But you're not just going to follow habit or assume that it's a good decision. You're going to wake up every morning from now on and try random things. Maybe you'll try scratching your belly with a stick, or maybe you'll throw yourself out the window. How is intelligence ever going to emerge from that?

People are creatures of habit, and people are mimics. We do what other people around us are doing. We role-play and we follow fads and we talk the way our neighbors talk. We see friends and family and people on TV eating breakfast in the morning, and so we do it too. Our brains then try to tie all of that habit and mimicry up in a nice tidy logical explanation so that we can understand what we're doing, so that we can explain it to ourselves and to others.

Re:Still, GIGO (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847343)

No, if your logic is internally consistent, it will form a valid base of logic-space and will only lead to correct results. The problem is a lot of people have and defend broken logic. It doesn't matter if you rationalize about emotions or the bible, if you can manage to make it coherent you are right. I do admit that cohorent emotions are hard, and the bible itself is incoherent, but those are just examples.

except decisions aren't made in a vaccum (1)

lapsed (1610061) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846673)

...so when we're faced with an uncertain decision, we take cues from those around us rather than from our social insurance numbers. As a result, industries characterized by high technological uncertainty -- like those discussed on /. -- tend to be governed less by the the clarity of perfect information in competitive markets and more by inherently social processes: imitation of either past behavior or the behavior of successful competitors.

Re:except decisions aren't made in a vaccum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29846927)

Exactly. Contemplating a price ending in 97 cents might make me think of Walmart, which might bring worries about cheap construction to mind (if that's my perception of Walmart) or might bring expectations of high value to mind (if *that's* my perception of Walmart). We already know that top-of-mind worries and expectations color our decisions, but I wouldn't call that irrational so much as just that we're not entirely the same person from second-to-second.

That said, I don't disagree that our mind attempts to create coherence, even at the cost of the currently-rational.

Re:except decisions aren't made in a vaccum (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Monkey (795756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847017)

Think about home sales right now, not long ago homes in my area were selling for about $1,000,000. However the price has decreased to around $800,000 to $700,000 and they are still dropping (Yeah the joy of CA). However homes are being pulled off the market and sitting, vacant, not even being rented. Why? Because they have already decided that they need to get more than the current sale price. Logically, they know it is imposable, and that bubble prices won't be back soon enough to make holding on to the real-estate and paying maintenance profitable. Still they are anchored to one million dollars. (PS My area is mostly people who purchased back in the 60's and 70's and have lived in there homes seance then. Mostly homes for sale are inheritance, or some one who is down sizing because the kids moved away. We don't have many people who bought in the bubble and can't afford to sell because sale price is lower than the mortgage)

Extremely significant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29846675)

Since when is r = 0.32 anything like a strong correlation?

Re:Extremely significant? (5, Informative)

WAG24601G (719991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846843)

TFS never claimed it was a strong correlation. It's a highly SIGNIFICANT correlation (meaning that the probability that the result occurred by chance and not systematically is very low, less than 5%).

Now, whether or not .33 is a STRONG correlation is another matter. By most definitions, it is not, although .52 would be a moderate correlation. However, the correlation does suggest that about 10-30% (r-squared) or more of the variation in subjects' decisions was accounted for by their social security numbers (accounted for != caused by, but we can make inferences based on the experimental design). Over a lifetime, 10% variation due to random irrelevant factors (like SS number) is serious, and 30% is HUGE. In that sense, it is a meaningful result, even if the correlation is not a "strong" one in terms of proportion.

Re:Extremely significant? (1)

WAG24601G (719991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846947)

suggest that about 10-30% (r-squared) or more of the variation

Correction: Cut the "or more". It was left over from a previous version of that comment... if you can believe that I actually read and revise my comments before posting! (although apparently not well enough)

Re:Extremely significant? (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847041)

Since someone was trying to sell a book.

Paul Simon said it (1)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846699)

"A man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest."
- Paul Simon, The Boxer

Hmmm (1)

CorTechs (584912) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846725)

Science? ...

Re:Hmmm (1)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847139)

Correlations ranged from 0.33 to 0.52. Those are extremely significant.

Social scientists might find that significant...I sure don't. It is sort of cute how they think they are performing actual science, though.

Re:Hmmm (1)

WAG24601G (719991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847185)

Social scientists and anyone else who passed STAT 101 might find that significant[1]. It is sort of cute how you think you are critiquing science.

[1] Previous post explaining the difference [slashdot.org]

Re:Hmmm (1)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847397)

I'm not critiquing science, I'm critiquing social science.

Calling a sociologist a scientist analogous to calling a chiropractor a doctor.

Re:Hmmm (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29847479)

It's sort of cute how you think that you have any credibility to dismiss sociologists when you've already made it obvious that you don't understand basic statistics. But hey, don't let a little thing like facts intrude on your smug condescension.

Re:Hmmm (2, Interesting)

hazem (472289) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847953)

Calling a sociologist a scientist analogous to calling a chiropractor a doctor.

Are you saying that there is no scientific merit to studying systems of people people and societies? Or are you saying that sociologists don't know how to apply the scientific method in their studies?

If it's the former, that seems to me an ignorant position to take. Social systems may be messier and less predictable than other physical systems, but that just means the job of trying to derive laws of social science is harder than in the "hard" sciences. If it's the latter, why don't you apply some scientific method and publish some ground-breaking paper that will show those sociologists how it's done and win yourself the Nobel prize?

Yard Sales (3, Interesting)

dschmit1 (1353767) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846737)

This is exactly why I never buy anything that is not previously labeled with a price. I will negotiate but not if I have to contemplate a starting value myself.

Re:Yard Sales (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847223)

Which is why car salesmen almost always open negotiations with some variation of "name me a price."

Re:Yard Sales (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847393)

Am I the only one that names a really low price when people do this? It's not a thrift shop, it's a car dealership. I always feel insulted when people do this.

On the other hand, at a thrift shop, yard sale, or flea market, I feel obligated to haggle. And if they don't give at all, I generally don't buy.

Re:Yard Sales (1)

neo (4625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847337)

Just out of curiosity, what is your social security number?

Common law system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29846763)

The scary thing is... the entire English common law system (US, UK, others) is based on "arbitrary coherence", better known as precedent.

Anchoring (4, Informative)

INeededALogin (771371) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846773)

Nothing really new here. Decisions making based on anchors is a large part of why we use Planning Poker [wikipedia.org] when doing our estimations. All it takes is that one guy that says everything is easy to influence everyone's brain to under-estimate a project.

The implications (2, Interesting)

AdmiralXyz (1378985) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846883)

Our brains favor consistency over correctness... we're finally coming close to understanding the biological origins of conservativism. Here's hoping this research eventually leads to a cure.

Re:The implications (1, Insightful)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847045)

As opposed to the liberal belief that killing a violent criminal is bad, but killing an unborn child is good. Or that problems created by government intervention are best solved by additional government intervention.

I'm an Objectivist libertarian, and my beliefs are in fact based on rationality. Both sides of mainstream American politics are equally inconsistent, though the right tends to get things right slightly more often than the left - say, a 60/40 split or so.

Re:The implications (3, Insightful)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847191)

As opposed to the liberal belief that...killing an unborn child is good.

I'm an Objectivist libertarian, and my beliefs are in fact based on rationality.

beep...boop...DOES NOT COMPUTE! How'd rationality lead you to think that "liberal belief" includes the idea that killing an unborn child is "good?"

Re:The implications (4, Interesting)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847515)

How'd rationality lead you to think that "liberal belief" includes the idea that killing an unborn child is "good?"

More objectively stated: "Liberal belief" includes the idea that being allowed to kill an unborn child without legal ramifications is "good", but only if the one making the decision is the mother; for anyone else, it's a crime.
For perspective: from a "Conservative" mindset, this is exactly like saying "being allowed to murder is 'good' as it does not restrict our innate freedom to act." Thus, why many Conservatives oppose legalized abortion.

Mods: Please remember what the definitions for Troll and Flamebait are before moderating. I'm reasonably on topic and continuing a civil dialogue without inflammatory language. If you happen to disagree politically or grammatically, that's what the "reply to this" button is for.

Re:The implications (5, Insightful)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847803)

Yes, I clarified this point in a response to another reply.

I split from the conservative movement a long time ago due to issues like this. Truthfully, I've not made my mind up about abortion, because I can't objectively nail down when a child should be considered a human life.

It bothers me that so many people hold positions on issues of great importance based on how they "feel", rather than seeking to find the truth.

Re:The implications (1)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847683)

Perhaps it was the current President of the United States, who ran on the Democratic Party ticket, stating that a young lady shouldn't be "punished" with a child. Logically, if bearing an unplanned child is a punishment, avoiding said punishment is desirable.

Besides, I wasn't taking a moral stance on either issue, I was merely pointing out the inconsistency in the beliefs of many leftists. If you'd like to modify it as "... killing a violent criminal should be unlawful, but killing an unborn child should be lawful."

My point stands.

Re:The implications (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29847213)

YOU SANK MY BATTLESHIP!!!

Re:The implications (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29847757)

Conservative consistency is, having decided not to shoot yourself in the right foot, deciding (without examination) not to shoot yourself in the left foot.

Modern "liberalism" is shooting yourself first in the left foot, then the right, then advocating gun control.

Re:The implications (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29847815)

As opposed to the liberal belief that killing a violent criminal is bad, but killing an unborn child is good.

I like how you folks twist arguments around, and then believe your own bull.

a) Nobody thinks that killing an unborn child "is good". People only think that having a right to do so if the situation demands it is good. Everybody agrees that such situations are far from ideal. You should understand your rights vs. the state's rights to interfere with your life if at all you're any kind of a good Objectivist libertarian you claim to be. And stop twisting words. The word "killing" in "killing a violent criminal" and in "killing an unborn child" is used in completely different contexts. If you're too dumb to understand that, don't try to argue about it or base a belief on it.

b) When there is no agreement on when a fetus becomes a "child", you can't place an arbitrary definition on it and expect people to buy your arguments before debating that through. Makes your claim of having your beliefs based on rationality ridiculous, unless you call blocking your years and screaming your ideology "rational".

Re:The implications (1)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847987)

As opposed to the liberal belief that killing a violent criminal is bad, but killing an unborn child is good.

I like how you folks twist arguments around, and then believe your own bull.

a) Nobody thinks that killing an unborn child "is good". People only think that having a right to do so if the situation demands it is good. Everybody agrees that such situations are far from ideal. You should understand your rights vs. the state's rights to interfere with your life if at all you're any kind of a good Objectivist libertarian you claim to be. And stop twisting words. The word "killing" in "killing a violent criminal" and in "killing an unborn child" is used in completely different contexts. If you're too dumb to understand that, don't try to argue about it or base a belief on it.

The state has no moral right to interfere in an individual's rights, period, provided they are not causing violence against another individual. Further, whether or not you argue that a fetus is a child, I don't see how you can rationally argue that it is not alive.

I did not state a belief on abortion in my post.

b) When there is no agreement on when a fetus becomes a "child", you can't place an arbitrary definition on it and expect people to buy your arguments before debating that through. Makes your claim of having your beliefs based on rationality ridiculous, unless you call blocking your years and screaming your ideology "rational".

This is one reason that I hesitate to use the term "Objectivist" sometimes - because there are those who take Rand's books as gospel and Ayn herself as a god. I'm not one of them. While I've broken from most of Christianity over time, I cannot come to the firm conclusion that there is no creator, because there is indeed evidence that suggests that there is.

A fetus is a child - whether they are entitled to the full legal protections of a person is somewhat debatable, but it is clearly a child.

My choice of words in dealing with abortion was poor, but my point still stands - the parent of my post was calling conservatives inconsistent, while liberals are no less inconsistent.

Re:The implications (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847331)

After all, why would we want engineers designing bridges to be conservative about safety margins?

As Brought To You By Your Criminals-In-Congress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29846969)

Unregulated OTC Derivatives [youtube.com]

Good luck in the next financial meltdown.

Yours In Vladivostok,
K. T.

correlation != statistical significance (4, Informative)

crmarvin42 (652893) | more than 4 years ago | (#29846977)

Apparently I'm in a very pedantic mood today.

Correlation is a measure of how well the model describes the data. So according to the summary, 33 to 52% of the variation in the data was explained by the model. Depending on the inherent variability in the criteria being evaluated, that could be very good or very bad. In my line of work that would be very bad, but for social sciences such as sociology, that is very high. It all comes down to how many variables you can control. The more control, the less variation, the higher the correlation when the model is a good fit.

Significance is a measure of the probability that the response seen is due to random variation or errors in sampling. They may have given a measure of significance in the article, but the summary did not.

Re:correlation != statistical significance (1)

WAG24601G (719991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847059)

I think you're confusing correlation (R) with coefficient of determination (R-squared). Only 10-30% (cautiously limiting to 1 sig fig) of the variation is accounted for, but this is still huge. See my other post [slashdot.org] .

Re:correlation != statistical significance (1)

NoOneInParticular (221808) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847169)

It could still be insignificant. An R-squared of 30% based on 3 datapoints is insignificant. On 10000 it is highly significant.

Re:correlation != statistical significance (1)

WAG24601G (719991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847219)

You're definitely right about that. Since the review doesn't give a p-value, I took it on good faith that it was covered in the book... but then again, a reviewer who doesn't note the p-value probably didn't know what significant meant anyway... hrm...

Re:correlation != statistical significance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29847833)

I do hope things are better explained in the book, with at least an annex containing all the nice statistical data he used along with hypothesis tests and confidence intervals, etc.

He seems to be a professor of behavioral economics so I do hope he knows his way around econometric models but this might be asking a bit too much of people.

Re:correlation != statistical significance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29847573)

If your model has an R squared of 30% and you think that's ok you should go relearn your statistics.

A coefficient of determination of 30% tells you that only 30% of the results are explained by the model, this leaves a whole 70% unexplained, which is obviously not really awesome. The article, however, doesn't say that the R^2 of the model is 30%, only that they have a confidence interval (probably with a significance level between 90% and 95%, those are the most common values) that puts the correlation between the social security number (of all things) and the chosen price point between 0.33 and 0.52. This doesn't make the model awesome or anything though as it is easily possible (and IMO fairly likely) that the relation between those two numbers is completely spurious. Honestly this is about as valuable as relating the price of coffee in the US to the weekly bathing frequency of people in Norway. You might find some correlation, you might even have a lovely R^2 but if you exercise some judgement and common sense you'll realize the model is crap.

Cognitive Dissonance (2, Insightful)

Mister Fright (1559681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847067)

So, it is basically about cognitive dissonance? [wikipedia.org]

Correlation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29847083)

Since when correlation between 0.33 and 0.52 has been significant?

eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29847159)

but i'm not american and therefore don't have a social security number! does that mean i cant be irrational?! where's the logic in that? anyhow, correlation is not causation... what if the experiments caused the social security numbers?? eh? it's just another FAILED attempt of american secret services attempting to CONTROL our minds and steal our LOLZ!!! and a correlation of 0.52 is rubbish - explains ONLY 27% of the variance. and that's not worth getting out of bed for. no sir. cunt bubbles.

Religion is fraught with irrational decisions. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29847205)

I submit that religion illustrates perfectly our ability to make irrational decisions in the absence of evidence, and cling to obviously false explanations in spite of real facts subsequently brought to light.

I wonder if this human trait can shed light on (1)

raybob (203381) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847263)

another current /. headline: http://yro.slashdot.org/story/09/10/23/1249256/Data-Entry-Errors-Resulted-In-Improper-Sentences [slashdot.org]

Think the prosecutors & defense attorneys allowed their set point to be an assumption that the data must be correct ? Sure they did.

And I've always wondered about the moral certitude which seems to guide the decisions of various group adherents, like the Moral Majority back in the 80's. Say even the Acorn folks now. Once the premise is accepted, all further reasoning is derived there from.

I think this is sort of common sense, though and we all know that this is how the mind operates. Otherwise, how could organisms effectively process all of the stimulus information present in their environments with the outcome being a rational decision, in the time span necessary for survival decisions, with the limited 'computing resources' that our brains provide. ?

Don't we all generally accept that human thought processes work from categorization ? Hence we get bad affects like biggotry, prejudice, racism, genocide, etc. along with the ability to decide quickly and hence survive our environment.

Re:I wonder if this human trait can shed light on (1)

raybob (203381) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847333)

Cr@p, missed this on previewing my post: 'effects', not 'affects'. Big pet peeve of mine. I guess my setpoint is that I would never make that mistake !!

Windows (2, Funny)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847313)

In other words, a company that installs Windows on its first PC will probably install it on thousands of additions, instead of installing Linux on hundreds.

Laziness and Pride (4, Insightful)

Temujin_12 (832986) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847349)

To me laziness and pride are the two biggest obstacles to rational thinking.

Laziness since, more often than not, simply sitting down and thinking things through you can avoid most irrational decisions. Time constraints can make this difficult. But I'm surprised at how often I see family/friends make poor decisions simply because they don't know how to stop and think. I like this quote from Samuel Johnson since it articulates the fact that easy access to information does not mean people will spend the energy to even look at it (let alone use it wisely):

Mankind have a great aversion to intellectual labor; but even supposing knowledge to be easily attainable, more people would be content to be ignorant than would take even a little trouble to acquire it.

Next to laziness, is pride. This boils down to the fact that culturally we're often taught to focus on being right rather than focusing on what's right. This comes from the illusion that one can own or control truth. I've seen this affect friendships, marriages, professional atmospheres, politics, etc. Truth is independent. You either align yourself with it or continue to live in ignorance. Of course, objective indisputable truth is rare or even non-existent in humanity, but it's the honest, humble desire to align oneself with truth (not the other way around) that's important here.

The wife's ends in 99 (3, Funny)

threaded (89367) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847363)

The wife's number ends in 99, which explains everything.

So, it is bad to have sales (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847401)

When a store puts a product on sale, and it gets a new customer, it also loses that customer when the sale is off? Interesting that a number sticks so hard, not just the relative scale.

So always open high (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29847427)

This is why everyone from market stall traders, to Governments will pitch an initial amount that's ludicrously high. Not only is there a sense of relief when you haggle downwards (or an initial estimate is lowered, or whatever) but also, if you've previously contemplated the effects of the higher number, then here's the proof that you're more likely to accept a higher cost when it comes down to business.

Shopaholics Explained? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29847473)

the last two digits of their social security number, very heavily influenced what they were willing to pay for the product.

So apparently those with an SSN ending in 99 now have an excuse for their previously inexplicable impulse to BUY EVERYTHING.

Arbitrary my nose (1)

hrimhari (1241292) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847713)

Some clarifications:

- The SSN is not itself important to the experiment. They could have asked for their driver's license and have the same correlation.
- About 40% of the people would base their decisions on a previous decision that was not taken by themselves (starting price in this case), meaning that the coherence would apply to the situation rather than their own decisions.

So what we have here is a confirmation that a significant number of people can be pushed around if they didn't have a previous opinion on the matter. Not exactly novel and I fail to see the arbitrariness.

Looking for patterns (1)

Nexus7 (2919) | more than 4 years ago | (#29847917)

Hey, I can be a quack evolutionary biologist too! The mind is constantly trying to cast objects and phenomena into patterns, so that it can identify similar patterns of events that happen in the future. That way, it'll have some idea of how a certain decision turned out in a situation patterned a certain way. So naturally, it doesn't just describe or identify patterns, it also constructs them. So by trying to construct the coherences described in the TFA, it is trying to construct a world in which it has an advantage, because it has a tool (pattern matching) that works quite well in it.

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