Nov 252014
 

Monkeys understand Justice and Equity – YouTube.

This is a pretty famous clip. It bears several viewings, the moment where monkey number two realizes it is being screwed removes, I think, any doubt that we are of  similar stock.

Here is the director’s cut with additional material from the scientist guy:

▶ Two Monkeys Were Paid Unequally: Excerpt from Frans de Waal’s TED Talk – YouTube.

And here is one about Rat Morality, which sounds like the name of a punk band

 Posted by at 9:08 pm
Nov 252014
 

I am dubious of the proposition that humans are all that rational. Here is a longish list of reasons for such doubt.

List of cognitive biases – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Here are some of my favorites

Availability cascade A self-reinforcing process in which a collective belief gains more and more plausibility through its increasing repetition in public discourse (or “repeat something long enough and it will become true”)

Bias blind spot The tendency to see oneself as less biased than other people, or to be able to identify more cognitive biases in others than in oneself.

Confirmation bias The tendency to search for, interpret, focus on and remember information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.

Conservatism (Bayesian) The tendency to revise one’s belief insufficiently when presented with new evidence

Endowment effect The fact that people often demand much more to give up an object than they would be willing to pay to acquire it.

IKEA effect The tendency for people to place a disproportionately high value on objects that they partially assembled themselves, such as furniture from IKEA, regardless of the quality of the end result.

Information bias The tendency to seek information even when it cannot affect action.

Dunning–Kruger effect An effect in which incompetent people fail to realise they are incompetent because they lack the skill to distinguish between competence and incompetence. Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding.

 Posted by at 7:57 pm

How it ends

 Head Trips  Comments Off on How it ends
Mar 292014
 


“Tell me how this ends.” –David Petraeus, March 2003

How does it end?

The dictator dies, shrivelled and demented, in his bed;

he flees the rebels in a private plane;

he is caught hiding in a mountain outpost,

a drainage pipe,

a spider hole.

He is tried. He is not tried.

He is dragged, bloody and dazed, through the streets,

then executed.

The humbling comes in myriad forms, but what is revealed is always the same:

the technologies of paranoia,

the stories of slaughter and fear,

the vaults,

the national economies employed as personal property,

the crazy pets, the prostitutes, the golden fixtures.

Instinctively, when dictators are toppled, we invade their castles

and expose their vanities and luxuries—

Imelda’s shoes,

the Shah’s jewels.

We loot and desecrate, in order to cut them finally, futilely, down to size.

After the fall of Baghdad, I visited the gaudiest of Saddam’s palaces,

examined his tasteless art,

his Cuban cigars,

his private lakes with their specially bred giant fish,

his self-worshipping bronze effigies.

I saw thirty years’ worth of bodies in secret graves,

along with those of Iraqis

bound and shot just hours before liberation.

In Afghanistan, Mullah Omar,

a despot of simpler tastes,

left behind little but plastic flowers,

a few Land Cruisers with CDs of Islamic music,

and an unkempt garden where he had spent hours

petting his favorite cow.

–Jon Lee Anderson November 7, 2011   New Yorker
 Posted by at 9:15 pm

Present Bias

 Head Trips  Comments Off on Present Bias
Aug 302012
 

From Planet Money
Given a choice between $50 now and $100 in a month, many people would take the money
now. But offered $50 in a year, or $100 in 13 months, they’d wait the extra month to double
their money.

Another example from This Wikipedia page
In the experiment, subjects of the study were offered free rentals of movies which were classified into two categories – “lowbrow” (e.g. The Breakfast Club) and “highbrow” (e.g. Schindler’s List) – and researchers analyzed patterns of choices made. In the absence of dynamic inconsistency, the choice would be expected to be the same regardless of the delay between the decision date and the consumption date. In practice, however, the outcome was different. When subjects had to choose a movie to watch immediately, the choice was consistently lowbrow for the majority of the subjects. But when they were asked to pick a movie to be watched at later date, highbrow movies were chosen far more often. Among movies picked four or more days in advance, over 70% were highbrow.[3]

 Posted by at 5:47 pm

Why We Fight

 Head Trips, Podcasts  Comments Off on Why We Fight
Apr 232012
 

Here is a Planet Money podcast very much worth hearing  Why People Do Bad Things I have always been fascinated by stories about people who get involved in serious wrongdoing almost by accident. This piece has psychologists explaining how, one teensy little step at a time, we go about convincing ourselves that what we are doing, while technically totally wrong, is still OK. A maxim I invented to explain some of the stuff I see at work is that humans have an almost infinite capacity to convince ourselves that what is good for us is Good.

 Posted by at 8:21 pm