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Everyday Irrationality

Robyn M Dawes

We don't recognize our own Achilles heels - extreme case insane asylums - almost all of them perfectly rational 95% of time, except when you started discussing certain problem areas of their lives, when they became emotionally unhinged. We all do the same thing, just at lower level

We pose rhetorical Q's like "If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we ....?" Yet that was the culmination of centuries of eliminating ideas that didn't work, and focusing solely on the ones that did. But when we start thinking about social problems it's all a lot more fuzzy - preconceptions and contradictions unresolved. Here there are 2 types of thinking processes 1) association - we rely on anecdotes and stories 2) imperfect knowledge of problems and possibilities, and an ignorance of that incomplete knowledge. In fact, when confronted by ambiguous and undefined situations, what we do is grab the first plausible idea we find and then stop looking at other possibilities

More books on Mind and Memory

Even doctors do this - they are more affected by recent memories than by data. They know that clinical trials have shown that a drug is effective in a certain situation, but they are far more influenced by memory of Mrs Jones getting really sick last time I prescribed her that drug.

More books on Doctors

Confidence in making decisions increases just by virtue of making decisions - even if not getting any feedback as to effectiveness of decisions - just making decisions leads you to regard yourself as an expert

2% American population believe they have been kidnapped by aliens

More books on Space

Whenever people hear a verbal assertion, they are inclined to believe it unless they already know it's wrong or they have a reason to disbelieve the speaker. And simple repetition reinforces that belief even without any feedback in terms of results

Humans love stories - value them even above facts. But stories don't compare things or weigh alternatives - they are just a single sequence of events. They are also compelling - when American schoolkids go on shooting rampage, the usual experts trot out stories like TV violence, breakdown of family etc etc to explain. But the same things happen to thousands of other kids, who don't run amok. Need to explain what made those kids different.

More books on Teenagers

False consensus effect - smokers overestimate the proportion of population which smoke, non-smokers underestimate ie people exaggerate degree to which expect other people to be like themselves

More books on Behaviour

Groupthink - everyone checks out everyone else to get handle on how they should be behaving. So when confronted by an emergency, potential good samaritans see nobody else helping so they assume everything OK

Our memories are treacherous - they are heavily coloured by our current beliefs - polled students in 1980's and then again 10 years later - if you a light drinker now, you believe you were a light drinker then (despite records). Society much more pro- female equality and accept homosexuality so you think your 1980's beliefs were similar

When people depressed, they reported that their parents aloof and uncaring. But when their mood recovered, same subjects went back to a neutral or positive view of parents ie when you're unhappy, you have great prob even recalling happy times, let alone imagining them .

More books on Families

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