“In their article Fitness Beats Truth in the Evolution of Perception, Chetan Parakash et al. use evolutionary game theory to show that the likelihood for higher organisms to have evolved to see the world as it is (to have veridical perception) is exceedingly small.
… [A]n evolutionary game is a game where at least two types of organisms compete over the same resources. By comparing different possible strategies, one can compute the likelihood for a stable equilibrium.
Parakash et al. apply this concept to the evolution of perception. Simplifying a bit, we can take a veridical perception to be a perceptual state x of an organism such that x corresponds to some world state w. Suppose there are two strategies. One where the organism estimates the world state that is most likely to be the true state of the world. And another where the organism estimates which perceptual state yields the highest fitness. Then, the first strategy is consistently driven into extinction.”
Is Semantics in Fact Syntax?
Catchy caption, huh?
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:
And here is one about Rat Morality, which sounds like the name of a punk band
I am dubious of the proposition that humans are all that rational. Here is a longish list of reasons for such doubt.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.