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Hieronymous Alloy
Jan 30, 2009


Why! Why!! Why must you refuse to accept that Dr. Hieronymous Alloy's Genetically Enhanced Cream Corn Is Superior to the Leading Brand on the Market!?!






Morbid Hound

Welcome goonlings to the Awful Book of the Month!
In this thread, we choose one work of literature absolute crap and read/discuss it over a month. If you have any suggestions of books, choose something that will be appreciated by many people, and has many avenues of discussion. We'd also appreciate if it were a work of literature complete drivel that is easily located from a local library or book shop, as opposed to ordering something second hand off the internet and missing out on a week's worth of reading. Better yet, books available on e-readers.

Resources:

Project Gutenberg - http://www.gutenberg.org

- A database of over 17000 books available online. If you can suggest books from here, that'd be the best.

SparkNotes - http://www.sparknotes.com/

- A very helpful Cliffnotes-esque site, but much better, in my opinion. If you happen to come in late and need to catch-up, you can get great character/chapter/plot summaries here.

:siren: For recommendations on future material, suggestions on how to improve the club, or just a general rant, feel free to PM me. :siren:

Past Books of the Month

[for BOTM before 2016, refer to archives]

2016:
January: Three Men in a Boat (To say nothing of the Dog!) by Jerome K. Jerome
February:The March Up Country (The Anabasis) of Xenophon
March: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
April: Plain Tales from the Hills by Rudyard Kipling
May: Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima
June:The Vegetarian by Han Kang
July:Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees
August: Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
September:Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
October:Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
November:Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
December: It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

2017:
January: Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
February: The Plague by Albert Camus
March: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin
April: The Conference of the Birds (مقامات الطیور) by Farid ud-Din Attar
May: I, Claudius by Robert Graves
June: Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
July: Ficcionies by Jorge Luis Borges
August: My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber
September: The Peregrine by J.A. Baker
October: Blackwater Vol. I: The Flood by Michael McDowell
November: Aquarium by David Vann
December: Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight [Author Unknown]

2018
January: Njal's Saga [Author Unknown]
February: The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
March: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
April: Twenty Days of Turin by Giorgio de Maria
May: Lectures on Literature by Vladimir Nabokov
June: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
July: Warlock by Oakley Hall
August: All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriott
September: The Magus by John Fowles
October: I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
November: Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
December: Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens

2019:
January: Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
February: BEAR by Marian Engel
March: V. by Thomas Pynchon
April: The Doorbell Rang by Rex Stout

Current:



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqXVAo7dVRU

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Book available here:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00555X8OA/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

About the book:

quote:

Thinking, Fast and Slow is a best-selling[1] book published in 2011 by Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences laureate Daniel Kahneman. It was the 2012 winner of the National Academies Communication Award for best creative work that helps the public understanding of topics in behavioral science, engineering and medicine.[2]

The book summarizes research that Kahneman conducted over decades, often in collaboration with Amos Tversky.[3][4] It covers all three phases of his career: his early days working on cognitive biases, his work on prospect theory, and his later work on happiness.[not verified in body]

The central thesis is a dichotomy between two modes of thought: "System 1" is fast, instinctive and emotional; "System 2" is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The book delineates cognitive biases associated with each type of thinking, starting with Kahneman's own research on loss aversion. From framing choices to people's tendency to replace a difficult question with one which is easy to answer, the book highlights several decades of academic research to suggest that people place too much confidence in human judgment.[not verified in body]

quote:

In the book's first section, Kahneman describes two different ways the brain forms thoughts:

System 1: (Fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, unconscious) vs System 2: (Slow, effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, conscious).

The second section offers explanations for why humans struggle to think statistically . . .documenting a variety of situations in which we either arrive at binary decisions or fail to precisely associate reasonable probabilities with outcomes. Kahneman explains this phenomenon using the theory of heuristics.

  • Anchoring: The "anchoring effect" names our tendency to be influenced by irrelevant numbers. Shown higher/lower numbers, experimental subjects gave higher/lower responses.
  • Availability: The availability heuristic is a mental shortcut that occurs when people make judgments about the probability of events on the basis of how easy it is to think of examples.
  • Substitution: System 1 is prone to substituting a difficult question with a simpler one.
  • Optimism and Loss Aversion: Kahneman writes of a "pervasive optimistic bias", which "may well be the most significant of the cognitive biases." This bias generates the illusion of control, that we have substantial control of our lives.
  • Framing: the context in which choices are presented.
  • Overconfidence: this section of the book is dedicated to the undue confidence in what the mind believes it knows.
The third section covers "prospect theory":

quote:

Kahneman developed prospect theory, the basis for his Nobel prize, to account for experimental errors he noticed in Daniel Bernoulli's traditional utility theory.[11] According to Kahneman, Utility Theory makes logical assumptions of economic rationality that do not reflect people's actual choices, and does not take into account cognitive biases.

One example is that people are loss-averse: they are more likely to act to avert a loss than to achieve a gain. Another example is that the value people place on a change in probability (e.g., of winning something) depends on the reference point: people appear to place greater value on a change from 0% to 10% (going from impossibility to possibility) than from, say, 45% to 55%, and they place the greatest value of all on a change from 90% to 100% (going from possibility to certainty). This occurs despite the fact that under traditional utility theory all three changes give the same increase in utility. Consistent with loss-aversion, the order of the first and third of those is reversed when the event is presented as losing rather than winning something: there, the greatest value is placed on eliminating the probability of a loss to 0.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thinking,_Fast_and_Slow



About the Author(s)

quote:

Daniel Kahneman (/ˈkɑːnəmən/; Hebrew: דניאל כהנמן‎; born March 5, 1934) is an Israeli-American psychologist and economist notable for his work on the psychology of judgment and decision-making, as well as behavioral economics, for which he was awarded the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (shared with Vernon L. Smith). His empirical findings challenge the assumption of human rationality prevailing in modern economic theory.

With Amos Tversky and others, Kahneman established a cognitive basis for common human errors that arise from heuristics and biases (Kahneman & Tversky, 1973; Kahneman, Slovic & Tversky, 1982; Tversky & Kahneman, 1974), and developed prospect theory (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979).

In 2011, he was named by Foreign Policy magazine to its list of top global thinkers.[2] In the same year, his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, which summarizes much of his research, was published and became a best seller.[3]

He is professor emeritus of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School. Kahneman is a founding partner of TGG Group, a business and philanthropy consulting company. He was married to cognitive psychologist and Royal Society Fellow Anne Treisman, who died on February 9, 2018.[4]

In 2015, The Economist listed him as the seventh most influential economist in the world.[5]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Kahneman

Themes

The limits of what we know; limits of our ability to understand ourselves; the absolute-scale idiocy of even relatively intelligent people

Pacing

Read as thou wilt is the whole of the law.

That said, I may approach this as a bit of a "let's read" going through the book chapter by chapter if I have time. If I don't and other people want to take that and run with it, feel free.

Please post after you read!

Please bookmark the thread to encourage discussion.



References and Further Reading


quote:

The Irony Effect: How the scientist who founded the science of mistakes ended up mistaken.

Danny Kahneman’s love affair with Amos Tversky began in the spring of 1969, when his dazzling and clever colleague, also a professor of psychology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, came to give a talk to Kahneman’s graduate seminar. Tversky told the students about a new study being done by researchers in Michigan on how regular people tend to think about statistics. The work suggested that we all have a natural grasp of probability, Tversky said. We’re all inclined to be rational.

“Brilliant talk,” said Kahneman when Tversky finished, “but I don’t believe a word of it.” He had strong reasons to be skeptical. For years, his own research had been derailed by faulty intuitions about how to use statistics. Even though Kahneman was highly trained in research methods, he’d kept on falling victim to the same mistake: His sample sizes were too small.

Kahneman also knew that he was not the only scholar screwing up. He’d seen a recent paper showing that the problem was ubiquitous: Even studies in the leading journals of psychology, performed by scientists who specialized in quantitative research, were underpowered as a rule. And now Tversky meant to argue that everyone’s a natural statistician?

. . . .

Kahneman had been terrified to write the book; according to Lewis, he worried that it would destroy his reputation. (Like a good behavioral economist, he even paid his colleagues to read the manuscript and provide anonymous advice about whether to abandon it.) To his surprise, Thinking, Fast and Slow became a huge success—a critically acclaimed, best-selling, award-winning culmination of his long career.

Within a few months of its publication, though, the study of psychology went into a state of crisis. Many of the findings that Kahneman had cited in the book—and lots of others, too—suddenly appeared to be quite fragile, maybe even spurious. In a section on “The Marvels of Priming,” for example, Kahneman had described the way that “primed” ideas spread across the mind like ripples on a pond, and that “the mapping of these ripples is now one of the most exciting pursuits in psychological research.” But shortly after he finished the book, the enterprise of social-priming research fell into scandal and uncertainty. An influential scholar in the field was outed as a fraud. A bedrock finding in the field—drawn from a study that Kahneman called an “instant classic”—crumbled under scrutiny.

. . . .

The replication crisis in psychology does not extend to every line of inquiry, and just a portion of the work described in Thinking, Fast and Slow has been cast in shadows. Kahneman and Tversky’s own research, for example, turns out to be resilient. Large-scale efforts to recreate their classic findings have so far been successful. One bias they discovered—people’s tendency to overvalue the first piece of information that they get, in what is known as the “anchoring effect”—not only passed a replication test, but turned out to be much stronger than Kahneman and Tversky thought.

Still, entire chapters of Kahneman’s book may need to be rewritten. The psychologist Uli Schimmack has devised a statistical measure called the R-index to estimate the trustworthiness of a given body of research based on its reported sample sizes and effects. (It’s like a “doping test for science,” Schimmack says.) He recently applied this measure to the studies cited in each of 11 different chapters from Thinking, Fast and Slow, then assigned letter grades to each result. (The book has 38 chapters total.) A couple of the chapters came out looking very good, with R-index scores of 93 and 99—worthy of an A-plus grade from Schimmack for their rigor. But five other chapters, including the one on social priming, ended up with scores of less than 40—what Schimmack called an F. Taken all together, the chapters Schimmack looked at earned an average grade of C-minus.


How could Kahneman, of all people—a man so brilliant at describing weakness, so canny in his doubts, so quick to cut through bullshit—have signed his name to all this suspect science? Had his thinking gotten credulous, as Tversky had suggested in that letter written in the midst of their divorce? Or had he succumbed to normal human error, like the one that he discovered in the 1960s, right around the time he and Tversky met?

No one is a natural statistician, he’d argued at the time. Even scientists make mistakes. As usual, when it came to being wrong, Kahneman was right.

https://slate.com/technology/2016/12/kahneman-and-tversky-researched-the-science-of-error-and-still-made-errors.html


Here's the replication analysis by Schimmack -- basically, the errors seem to all focus around the priming studies turning out to not be replicable:

quote:

Schimmack and Brunner (2015) developed an alternative method for the estimation of replicability. This method takes into account that power can vary across studies. It also provides 95% confidence intervals for the replicability estimate. The results of this method are presented in the Figure above. The replicability estimate is similar to the R-Index, with 14% replicability. However, due to the small set of studies, the 95% confidence interval is wide and includes values above 50%. This does not mean that we can trust the published results, but it does suggest that some of the published results might be replicable in larger replication studies with more power to detect small effects. At the same time, the graph shows clear evidence for a selection effect. That is, published studies in these articles do not provide a representative picture of all the studies that were conducted. The powergraph shows that there should have been a lot more non-significant results than were reported in the published articles. The selective reporting of studies that worked is at the core of the replicability crisis in social psychology (Sterling, 1959, Sterling et al., 1995; Schimmack, 2012). To clean up their act and to regain trust in published results, social psychologists have to conduct studies with larger samples that have more than 50% power (Tversky & Kahneman, 1971) and they have to stop reporting only significant results. We can only hope that social psychologists will learn from the train wreck of social priming research and improve their research practices.
(emphasis added)

https://replicationindex.com/category/thinking-fast-and-slow/

quote:

What the blog gets absolutely right is that I placed too much faith in underpowered studies. As pointed out in the blog, and earlier by Andrew Gelman, there is a special irony in my mistake because the first paper that Amos Tversky and I published was about the belief in the “law of small numbers,” which allows researchers to trust the results of underpowered studies with unreasonably small samples. We also cited Overall (1969) for showing “that the prevalence of studies deficient in statistical power is not only wasteful but actually pernicious: it results in a large proportion of invalid rejections of the null hypothesis among published results.” Our article was written in 1969 and published in 1971, but I failed to internalize its message.

Kahneman, posting on replication index :
https://retractionwatch.com/2017/02/20/placed-much-faith-underpowered-studies-nobel-prize-winner-admits-mistakes/

Kahneman's full post: https://replicationindex.com/2017/02/02/reconstruction-of-a-train-wreck-how-priming-research-went-of-the-rails/comment-page-1/#comment-1454

quote:

A bit over four years ago I wrote a glowing review of Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. I described it as a “magnificent book” and “one of the best books I have read”. I praised the way Kahneman threaded his story around the System 1 / System 2 dichotomy, and the coherence provided by prospect theory.

What a difference four years makes. I will still describe Thinking, Fast and Slow as an excellent book – possibly the best behavioural science book available. But during that time a combination of my learning path and additional research in the behavioural sciences has led me to see Thinking, Fast and Slow as a book with many flaws.

First, there is the list of studies that simply haven’t held up through the “replication crisis” of the last few years. The first substantive chapter of Thinking, Fast and Slow is on priming, so many of these studies are right up the front. These include the Florida effect, money priming, the idea that making a test harder to read can increase test results, and ego depletion (I touch on each of these in my recent talk at the Sydney Behavioural Economics and Behavioural Science Meetup).
(other errors mentioned: the "hot hand" studies, organ donation framing forms)

https://jasoncollins.blog/2016/06/29/re-reading-kahnemans-thinking-fast-and-slow/

Other interesting behavioral psych books:

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness
https://www.amazon.com/Nudge-Improv...SZ3F2TWYVZ2TG1V

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
https://www.amazon.com/Influence-Ps...SZ3F2TWYVZ2TG1V

Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002C949KE/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Final Note:

Thanks, and I hope everyone enjoys the book!

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Discendo Vox
Mar 21, 2013




Gosh darn it you posted all the corrections stuff I was gonna post


vvvvv:
they're ok but not my strongest work

Discendo Vox fucked around with this message at 02:05 on May 2, 2019

ultrafilter
Aug 23, 2007

It's okay if you have any questions.
:fart:



Vox has some good and accessible articles on the replication crisis. Here are a couple that are worth reading:
More social science studies just failed to replicate. Here’s why this is good.
What psychology’s crisis means for the future of science

Peggotty
May 9, 2014



I wanted to read this a few weeks ago but I didn't get past page 70 or so.
Is the entire book written like a self help book where every little facet of his theory is explained ten times in a row with five almost identical examples? If that's the reason it has 500 pages I definitely won't read all of them.

anilEhilated
Feb 17, 2014

But I say fuck the rain.



Grimey Drawer

cebrail posted:

I wanted to read this a few weeks ago but I didn't get past page 70 or so.
Is the entire book written like a self help book where every little facet of his theory is explained ten times in a row with five almost identical examples? If that's the reason it has 500 pages I definitely won't read all of them.
It's basically psychology aimed at the Average Joe and the style reflects that, yeah. That being said, it's definitely way above self-help stuff. I'd say it's worth giving a chance.

anilEhilated fucked around with this message at 14:37 on May 2, 2019

Hieronymous Alloy
Jan 30, 2009


Why! Why!! Why must you refuse to accept that Dr. Hieronymous Alloy's Genetically Enhanced Cream Corn Is Superior to the Leading Brand on the Market!?!






Morbid Hound

anilEhilated posted:

It's basically psychology aimed at the Average Joe and the style reflects that, yeah. That being said, it's definitely way above self-help stuff. I'd say it's worth giving a chance.

yeah, the difference here is that it isn't just some dude's self-help bullshit; it's (mostly) confirmed scientific theory, backed up with studies and evidence. The goal isn't to teach you Core Wisdom for Life or anything, it's just to describe how everyone's brain works.

It ends up being, effectively, a user's manual for your brain, a detailed description of how your brain works and where the points of failure are in people's thinking processes.

The reason I ended up picking this one is that I actually think it's an important book for people to read. One of the most important life lessons anyone can learn is that everyone, all human beings, including they themselves personally, is extremely bad at thinking. We're all just sacks of hamburger that learned a few heuristic thinking tricks we use to stumble and guess our way through our days.

This was a book I found both very humbling and very freeing: on the one hand, we're all idiots; on the other, it's ok, we're all idiots.

pangstrom
Jan 25, 2003



Wedge Regret

It's a really good book and it's a shame a chunk of the "thinking fast" part uses the "sexy" priming stuff which was largely unethical research / bullshit.

Kahneman / Tversky heuristics work were probably the most important cognitive psychology stuff done in recent times.

Apsyrtes
May 16, 2004



I read this about 6 years ago - it's amazing. No self-help here, it presents the evidence based work of a Nobel Prize winner - and tells you nothing about what to do with that information.

I rarely ever re-read a book. I've been really wanting to re-read this one, but have always put that off in favour of making progress on my Want to Read list... I picked it up last night and started re-reading thanks to BOTM.

anilEhilated
Feb 17, 2014

But I say fuck the rain.



Grimey Drawer

Actually - I'm thinking of getting it on my Kindle because my printed copy is a bit out of reach right now - that link does point to the revised edition, right?
(Because the Amazon page says 2011)

Hieronymous Alloy
Jan 30, 2009


Why! Why!! Why must you refuse to accept that Dr. Hieronymous Alloy's Genetically Enhanced Cream Corn Is Superior to the Leading Brand on the Market!?!






Morbid Hound

I'm still not clear that there is in fact a revised edition. I think we're gonna have to police the mistakes ourselves.

pangstrom
Jan 25, 2003



Wedge Regret

Somebody might rise to that challenge and comb through each and every mention, but if you want a HEURISTIC: if it is "cool" social priming that might get a blurb in mainstream journalism (say, a 60 second science podcast), it doesn't replicate.

Tree Goat
May 24, 2009

argania spinosa


pangstrom posted:

Somebody might rise to that challenge and comb through each and every mention, but if you want a HEURISTIC: if it is "cool" social priming that might get a blurb in mainstream journalism (say, a 60 second science podcast), it doesn't replicate.

the "thinking about the elderly makes people walk slower" study was one i remember being particularly silly

A human heart
Oct 10, 2012



Apsyrtes posted:

I read this about 6 years ago - it's amazing. No self-help here, it presents the evidence based work of a Nobel Prize winner - and tells you nothing about what to do with that information.

I rarely ever re-read a book. I've been really wanting to re-read this one, but have always put that off in favour of making progress on my Want to Read list... I picked it up last night and started re-reading thanks to BOTM.

the nobel prize in economics isn't even a real nobel prize.

Apsyrtes
May 16, 2004



A human heart posted:

the nobel prize in economics isn't even a real nobel prize.

It's administered by the Nobel Foundation, listed on their website under the section "Nobel Prizes and Laureates," with the others and awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences just like the Nobel Prize for Physics and the Nobel Prize for Chemistry - at the same time in the same ceremony even. It is commonly referred to by most people as "The Nobel Prize for Economics" --- so....

Is there a heuristic in this book concerning pedantry?

Good Book. Not Self-Help. Written by someone with real credentials, not a blogger. Better?

DACK FAYDEN
Feb 25, 2013

Bear Witness

A human heart posted:

the nobel prize in economics isn't even a real nobel prize.
I wish I could find the quote, but in the immortal words of someone I've totally forgotten, if I ever wanted to win a Nobel prize I'd build myself a time machine and go back and win the economics prize some random year because it's still easier than getting a real one with my actual time machine.

Discendo Vox
Mar 21, 2013




I'm really sorry, y'all, I could've sworn he released a revised version with an amended foreword and the offending material stripped out. When I dig up my copy I'll try to flag all the offending studies.

Hieronymous Alloy
Jan 30, 2009


Why! Why!! Why must you refuse to accept that Dr. Hieronymous Alloy's Genetically Enhanced Cream Corn Is Superior to the Leading Brand on the Market!?!






Morbid Hound

Ok, as I go through and re-read I'm going to highlight particular passages:

quote:

To appreciate the autonomy of System 1, as well as the distinction between impressions and beliefs, take a good look at figure 3.

This picture is unremarkable: two horizontal lines of different lengths, with fins appended, pointing in different directions. The bottom line is obviously longer than the one above it. That is what we all see, and we naturally believe what we see. If you have already encountered this image, however, you recognize it as the famous Müller-Lyer illusion. As you can easily confirm by measuring them with a ruler, the horizontal lines are in fact identical in length.



Figure 3

Now that you have measured the lines, you—your System 2, the conscious being you call “I”—have a new belief: you know that the lines are equally long. If asked about their length, you will say what you know. But you still see the bottom line as longer. You have chosen to believe the measurement, but you cannot prevent System 1 from doing its thing; you cannot decide to see the lines as equal, although you know they are. To resist the illusion, there is only one thing you can do: you must learn to mistrust your impressions of the length of lines when fins are attached to them. To implement that rule, you must be able to recognize the illusory pattern and recall what you know about it. If you can do this, you will never again be fooled by the Müller-Lyer illusion. But you will still see one line as longer than the other.

Not all illusions are visual. There are illusions of thought, which we call cognitive illusions. As a graduate student, I attended some courses on the art and science of psychotherapy. During one of these lectures, our teacher imparted a morsel of clinical wisdom. This is what he told us: “You will from time to time meet a patient who shares a disturbing tale of multiple mistakes in his previous treatment. He has been seen by several clinicians, and all failed him. The patient can lucidly describe how his therapists misunderstood him, but he has quickly perceived that you are different. You share the same feeling, are convinced that you understand him, and will be able to help.” At this point my teacher raised his voice as he said, “Do not even think of taking on this patient! Throw him out of the office! He is most likely a psychopath and you will not be able to help him.”

Many years later I learned that the teacher had warned us against psychopathic charm, and the leading authority in the study of psychopathy confirmed that the teacher’s advice was sound. The analogy to the Müller-Lyer illusion is close. What we were being taught was not how to feel about that patient. Our teacher took it for granted that the sympathy we would feel for the patient would not be under our control; it would arise from System 1. Furthermore, we were not being taught to be generally suspicious of our feelings about patients. We were told that a strong attraction to a patient with a repeated history of failed treatment is a danger sign—like the fins on the parallel lines. It is an illusion—a cognitive illusion—and I (System 2) was taught how to recognize it and advised not to believe it or act on it.

The question that is most often asked about cognitive illusions is whether they can be overcome. The message of these examples is not encouraging. Because System 1 operates automatically and cannot be turned off at will, errors of intuitive thought are often difficult to prevent. Biases cannot always be avoided, because System 2 may have no clue to the error. Even when cues to likely errors are available, errors can be prevented only by the enhanced monitoring and effortful activity of System 2. As a way to live your life, however, continuous vigilance is not necessarily good, and it is certainly impractical. Constantly questioning our own thinking would be impossibly tedious, and System 2 is much too slow and inefficient to serve as a substitute for System 1 in making routine decisions. The best we can do is a compromise: learn to recognize situations in which mistakes are likely and try harder to avoid significant mistakes when the stakes are high. The premise of this book is that it is easier to recognize other people’s mistakes than our own.

This one is from the very beginning, where he's introducing the concepts of "system 1" (reflexive thought) and "system 2" (conscious thought). For me at least, this little passage here was one of the first paradigm shift moments I had reading this book.

Before, I'd always assumed that biases were correctable; that with proper education and training, people could overcome them. Turns out, that's wrong! People's brains are bad at thinking; our biases and intellectual reflexes are not only limiting, they are more limiting than we are capable of correcting, even when we are consciously trying to correct them. We are all, all of us, always, much dumber than we are even capable of correcting for. No matter what we tell ourselves as we look at the two lines, one will always look shorter and the other longer!


On the other hand, though, this is another one of those areas where there's more to the example than we're getting in the book:

quote:

Research has shown that perception of the Müller-Lyer illusion can vary. Around the turn of the 20th century, W. H. R. Rivers noted that indigenous people of the Australian Murray Island were less susceptible to the Müller-Lyer illusion than were Europeans.[4] Rivers suggested that this difference may be because Europeans live in more rectilinear environments than the islanders. Similar results were also observed by John W. Berry in his work on Inuit, urban Scots, and the Temne people in the 1960s.[5]

In 1963, Segall, Campbell and Herskovitz compared susceptibility to four different visual illusions in three population samples of Caucasians, twelve of Africans, and one from the Philippines. For the Müller-Lyer illusion, the mean fractional misperception of the length of the line segments varied from 1.4% to 20.3%. The three European-derived samples were the three most susceptible samples, while the San foragers of the Kalahari desert were the least susceptible.[6]

In 1965, following a debate between Donald T. Campbell and Melville J. Herskovits on whether culture can influence such basic aspects of perception such as the length of a line, they suggested that their student Marshall Segall investigate the problem. In their definitive paper of 1966, they investigated seventeen cultures and showed that people in different cultures differ substantially on how they experience the Müller-Lyer stimuli. They wrote that "European and American city dwellers have a much higher percentage of rectangularity in their environments than non-Europeans and so are more susceptible to that illusion."[7]

They also used the word "carpentered" for the environments that Europeans mostly live in - characterized by straight lines, right angles, and square corners.

These conclusions were challenged in later work by Gustav Jahoda, who compared members of an African tribe living in a traditional rural environment with members of same group living in African cities. Here, no significant difference in susceptibility to the M-L illusion was found. Subsequent work by Jahoda suggested that retinal pigmentation may have a role in the differing perceptions on this illusion,[8] and this was verified later by Pollack (1970). It is believed now that not "carpenteredness", but the density of pigmentation in the eye is related to susceptibility to the M-L illusion. Dark-skinned people often have denser eye pigmentation.[9]

A later study was conducted in 1978 by Ahluwalia on children and young adults from Zambia. Subjects from rural areas were compared with subjects from urban areas. The subjects from urban areas were shown to be considerably more susceptible to the illusion, as were younger subjects.[10] While this by no means confirms the carpentered world hypothesis as such, it provides evidence that differences in the environment can create differences in the perception of the Müller-Lyer illusion, even within a given culture. Experiments have been reported suggesting that pigeons perceive the standard Müller-Lyer illusion, but not the reversed.[11] Experiments on parrots have also been reported with similar results.[12]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%BCller-Lyer_illusion

Turns out, the muller-lyer illusion is a white people problem! Of course, this doesn't change its usefulness as an example for Kahneman's purposes -- our System 1's have just been trained in such a way that they respond to this illusion, perhaps from growing up in "carpentered environments" -- but still! Maybe we can correct our biases, it just might take a LOT more effort --- not just a matter of thinking in the moment, but long-term re-training of our unconscious reflexes. So maybe a better world is possible.

killer crane
Dec 30, 2006



I keep wondering, as I read through this, what results are contingent on culture, and which are universally human responses. Like the experiments on priming with images of money; is it specifically money? Are there other objects that give the same responses? Is there some people, cultures, condition that priming isn't as effective?

Hieronymous Alloy
Jan 30, 2009


Why! Why!! Why must you refuse to accept that Dr. Hieronymous Alloy's Genetically Enhanced Cream Corn Is Superior to the Leading Brand on the Market!?!






Morbid Hound

killer crane posted:

I keep wondering, as I read through this, what results are contingent on culture, and which are universally human responses. Like the experiments on priming with images of money; is it specifically money? Are there other objects that give the same responses? Is there some people, cultures, condition that priming isn't as effective?

Pretty much all the priming stuff we can discount as at least not *proven* yet. Some of it might be accurate but studies of good enough quality have yet to be done to confirm or disprove.

But yeah, another lurking general bias in psychology is that most of the core studies are based on studies of grad students at big western universities and that is not a diverse population.

anilEhilated
Feb 17, 2014

But I say fuck the rain.



Grimey Drawer

Yep. Back when I was in college, an oft-repeated joke among the lecturers was that psychology is the study of mind of mice and psychology students.

Sax Solo
Feb 17, 2011





I read this in 2011. One of minor cute parts I remember is the example of how, because system 2 grabs resources, you can have a conversation while walking, but if you need to really engage your brain you stop walking.

More substantially, ISTR a part about how using system 2 is exhausting, and how oppressed people (read: ppl w/ shittier lives) have to engage it more just to navigate their day to day, and so they're already more exhausted by the time they get to school or work when they need to use system 2 to improve themselves or earn money. I believe a study was cited where people doing mentally strenuous tests do better if they drink a sugary drink right beforehand. (Of course I'm not sure at all if that study is worth anything, now.)

chernobyl kinsman
Mar 18, 2007

a friend of the friendly atom



Soiled Meat

you should start with the basic assumption that no psychology or social science paper is worth anything

Hieronymous Alloy
Jan 30, 2009


Why! Why!! Why must you refuse to accept that Dr. Hieronymous Alloy's Genetically Enhanced Cream Corn Is Superior to the Leading Brand on the Market!?!






Morbid Hound

quote:

A disturbing demonstration of depletion effects in judgment was recently reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The unwitting participants in the study were eight parole judges in Israel. They spend entire days reviewing applications for parole. The cases are presented in random order, and the judges spend little time on each one, an average of 6 minutes. (The default decision is denial of parole; only 35% of requests are approved. The exact time of each decision is recorded, and the times of the judges’ three food breaks—morning break, lunch, and afternoon break—during the day are recorded as well.) The authors of the study plotted the proportion of approved requests against the time since the last food break. The proportion spikes after each meal, when about 65% of requests are granted. During the two hours or so until the judges’ next feeding, the approval rate drops steadily, to about zero just before the meal. As you might expect, this is an unwelcome result and the authors carefully checked many alternative explanations. The best possible account of the data provides bad news: tired and hungry judges tend to fall back on the easier default position of denying requests for parole. Both fatigue and hunger probably play a role.

Think about what this says about our legal system. If this study is valid, then Legal decisions aren't governed by laws or reasoning; they're governed by whether or not the judge has eaten or napped within the past few hours!

On the other hand,

quote:

Glöckner’s analysis doesn’t prove that extraneous factors weren’t influencing the judges, but he shows how the same effect could be produced by entirely rational judges interacting with the protocols required by the legal system.

The main analysis works like this: we know that favourable rulings take longer than unfavourable ones (~7 mins vs ~5 mins), and we assume that judges are able to guess how long a case will take to rule on before they begin it (from clues like the thickness of the file, the types of request made, the representation the prisoner has and so on). Finally, we assume judges have a time limit in mind for each of the three sessions of the day, and will avoid starting cases which they estimate will overrun the time limit for the current session.

It turns out that this kind of rational time-management is sufficient to generate the drops in favourable outcomes. How this occurs isn’t straightforward and interacts with a quirk of original author’s data presentation (specifically their graph shows the order number of cases when the number of cases in each session varied day to day – so, for example, it shows that the 12th case after a break is least likely to be judged favourably, but there wasn’t always a 12 case in each session. So sessions in which there were more unfavourable cases were more likely to contribute to this data point).

This story of claim and counter-claim shows why psychologists prefer experiments, since only then can you truly isolate causal explanations (if you are a judge and willing to go without lunch please get in touch). Also, it shows the benefit of simulations for extending the horizons of our intuition. Glöckner’s achievement is to show in detail how some reasonable assumptions – including that of a rational judge – can generate a pattern which hitherto seemed only explainable by the influence of an irrelevant factor on the judges decisions. This doesn’t settle the matter, but it does mean we can’t be so confident that this graph shows what it is often claimed to show. The judges decisions may not be irrational after all, and the timing of the judges meal breaks may not be influencing parole decision outcome.


https://mindhacks.com/2016/12/08/rational-judges-not-extraneous-factors-in-decisions/

(The difference would appear to be whether or not the order of the cases chosen is truly random).

Hieronymous Alloy fucked around with this message at 23:18 on May 8, 2019

chernobyl kinsman
Mar 18, 2007

a friend of the friendly atom



Soiled Meat

Hieronymous Alloy posted:

If this study is valid, then Legal decisions aren't governed by laws or reasoning; they're governed by whether or not the judge has eaten or napped within the past few hours!

if

Discendo Vox
Mar 21, 2013




I should note that PNAS has a bit of a reputation as a dumping ground for academy researchers when they run studies that don’t turn out well; “P-values Not Accepted Somewhere”. It’s not uniformly garbage or anything, but should be read with caution, like most non-discipline outlets.
Edit: this reputation was due to pnas’s parallel submission pipeline for nas members (which google tells me was partly reformed in 2017), but, again as a non-field-specific, big name journal , it has problems with really inconsistent review standards and headline chasing.

Discendo Vox fucked around with this message at 19:03 on May 10, 2019

Bar Ran Dun
Jan 21, 2006



Freakinomics has done a couple shows about Kahneman / Tversky worth listening to.

Also I think there is overlap with the work of McGilchrist specifically what he desribes in The Master and His Emissary. The biases inherent in system two may be as dangerous as those of system 1 particularly if system one is what let's us see the gestalt.

Back when I was in grad school I produced a rough model (that I've posted in the trade thread) that the program head was particularly impressed with it, as the thinking nessisary to produce models of that type was what he was trying to teach with the program. He asked how I had come up with it. The real answer was, I saw it and merely put it on paper. But he wanted a system 2 / emissary style procedure that I had used to create it. I gave him a half assed one.

Another thing, the feeding the probation board study came up. Something one sees in a lot of cultures is that one must feed the guest before business is discussed. I encounter this a lot boarding merchant vessels with a large diversity of crew nationalities. It could be a simple as coffee to a full multi course meal ( followed by tea) or even alcohol. The very question of feeding the probation board is a good illustration of the system 1 / master vs the system 2 / emissary. It's plainly obvious this cultural practice to feed the other likely is functional. It's also very hard to really prove experimentally. In that word "experimentally" I think we can why the division between these two thinking systems is going to have huge far ranging consequences. I'd also caution the "pfft social sciences" crowd. Right now these types of mind problems are being tested experimentally with truly massive datasets on social media platforms. My understanding is that there are starting to be robust repeatable results for some of these questions.

Hieronymous Alloy
Jan 30, 2009


Why! Why!! Why must you refuse to accept that Dr. Hieronymous Alloy's Genetically Enhanced Cream Corn Is Superior to the Leading Brand on the Market!?!






Morbid Hound

There was one particular part of this book that I wanted to talk about before the end of the month because I think it's actually an extremely important life lesson -- well, this book is full of those, but this one in particular is particularly important (that's the joke). I'll quote:

quote:


The Focusing Illusion

We can infer from the speed with which people respond to questions about their life, and from the effects of current mood on their responses, that they do not engage in a careful examination when they evaluate their life. They must be using heuristics, which are examples of both substitution and WYSIATI. Although their view of their life was influenced by a question about dating or by a coin on the copying machine, the participants in these studies did not forget that there is more to life than dating or feeling lucky. The concept of happiness is not suddenly changed by finding a dime, but System 1 readily substitutes a small part of it for the whole of it. Any aspect of life to which attention is directed will loom large in a global evaluation. This is the essence of the focusing illusion, which can be described in a single sentence:

Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking about it.

The origin of this idea was a family debate about moving from California to Princeton, in which my wife claimed that people are happier in California than on the East Coast. I argued that climate is demonstrably not an important determinant of well-being—the Scandinavian countries are probably the happiest in the world. I observed that permanent life circumstances have little effect on well-being and tried in vain to convince my wife that her intuitions about the happiness of Californians were an error of affective forecasting.

A short time later, with this debate still on my mind, I participated in a workshop about the social science of global warming. A colleague made an argument that was based on his view of the well-being of the population of planet Earth in the next century. I argued that it was preposterous to forecast what it would be like to live on a warmer planet when we did not even know what it is like to live in California. Soon after that exchange, my colleague David Schkade and I were granted research funds to study two questions: Are people who live in California happier than others? and What are the popular beliefs about the relative happiness of Californians?

We recruited large samples of students at major state universities in California, Ohio, and Michigan. From some of them we obtained a detailed report of their satisfaction with various aspects of their lives. From others we obtained a prediction of how someone “with your interests and values” who lived elsewhere would complete the same questionnaire.

As we analyzed the data, it became obvious that I had won the family argument. As expected, the students in the two regions differed greatly in their attitude to their climate: the Californians enjoyed their climate and the Midwesterners despised theirs. But climate was not an important determinant of well-being. Indeed, there was no difference whatsoever between the life satisfaction of students in California and in the Midwest. We also found that my wife was not alone in her belief that Californians enjoy greater well-being than others. The students in both regions shared the same mistaken view, and we were able to trace their error to an exaggerated belief in the importance of climate. We described the error as a focusing illusion.

The essence of the focusing illusion is WYSIATI, giving too much weight to the climate, too little to all the other determinants of well-being. To appreciate how strong this illusion is, take a few seconds to consider the question:

How much pleasure do you get from your car?

An answer came to your mind immediately; you know how much you like and enjoy your car. Now examine a different question: “When do you get pleasure from your car?” The answer to this question may surprise you, but it is straightforward: you get pleasure (or displeasure) from your car when you think about your car, which is probably not very often. Under normal circumstances, you do not spend much time thinking about your car when you are driving it. You think of other things as you drive, and your mood is determined by whatever you think about. Here again, when you tried to rate how much you enjoyed your car, you actually answered a much narrower question: “How much pleasure do you get from your car when you think about it?” The substitution caused you to ignore the fact that you rarely think about your car, a form of duration neglect. The upshot is a focusing illusion. If you like your car, you are likely to exaggerate the pleasure you derive from it, which will mislead you when you think of the virtues of your current vehicle as well as when you contemplate buying a new one.

A similar bias distorts judgments of the happiness of Californians. When asked about the happiness of Californians, you probably conjure an image of someone attending to a distinctive aspect of the California experience, such as hiking in the summer or admiring the mild winter weather. The focusing illusion arises because Californians actually spend little time attending to these aspects of their life. Moreover, long-term Californians are unlikely to be reminded of the climate when asked for a global evaluation of their life. If you have been there all your life and do not travel much, living in California is like having ten toes: nice, but not something one thinks much about. Thoughts of any aspect of life are more likely to be salient if a contrasting alternative is highly available.

People who recently moved to California will respond differently. Consider an enterprising soul who moved from Ohio to seek happiness in a better climate. For a few years following the move, a question about his satisfaction with life will probably remind him of the move and also evoke thoughts of the contrasting climates in the two states. The comparison will surely favor California, and the attention to that aspect of life may distort its true weight in experience. However, the focusing illusion can also bring comfort. Whether or not the individual is actually happier after the move, he will report himself happier, because thoughts of the climate will make him believe that he is. The focusing illusion can cause people to be wrong about their present state of well-being as well as about the happiness of others, and about their own happiness in the future.

What proportion of the day do paraplegics spend in a bad mood?

This question almost certainly made you think of a paraplegic who is currently thinking about some aspect of his condition. Your guess about a paraplegic’s mood is therefore likely to be accurate in the early days after a crippling accident; for some time after the event, accident victims think of little else. But over time, with few exceptions, attention is withdrawn from a new situation as it becomes more familiar. The main exceptions are chronic pain, constant exposure to loud noise, and severe depression. Pain and noise are biologically set to be signals that attract attention, and depression involves a self-reinforcing cycle of miserable thoughts. There is therefore no adaptation to these conditions. Paraplegia, however, is not one of the exceptions: detailed observations show that paraplegics are in a fairly good mood more than half of the time as early as one month following their accident—though their mood is certainly somber when they think about their situation. Most of the time, however, paraplegics work, read, enjoy jokes and friends, and get angry when they read about politics in the newspaper. When they are involved in any of these activities, they are not much different from anyone else, and we can expect the experienced well-being of paraplegics to be near normal much of the time. Adaptation to a new situation, whether good or bad, consists in large part of thinking less and less about it. In that sense, most long-term circumstances of life, including paraplegia and marriage, are part-time states that one inhabits only when one attends to them.

One of the privileges of teaching at Princeton is the opportunity to guide bright undergraduates through a research thesis. And one of my favorite experiences in this vein was a project in which Beruria Cohn collected and analyzed data from a survey firm that asked respondents to estimate the proportion of time that paraplegics spend in a bad mood. She split herrespondents into two groups: some were told that the crippling accident had occurred a month earlier, some a year earlier. In addition, each respondent indicated whether he or she knew a paraplegic personally. The two groups agreed closely in their judgment about the recent paraplegics: those who knew a paraplegic estimated 75% bad mood; those who had to imagine a paraplegic said 70%. In contrast, the two groups differed sharply in their estimates of the mood of paraplegics a year after the accidents: those who knew a paraplegic offered 41% as their estimate of the time in that bad mood. The estimates of those who were not personally acquainted with a paraplegic averaged 68%. Evidently, those who knew a paraplegic had observed the gradual withdrawal of attention from the condition, but others did not forecast that this adaptation would occur. Judgments about the mood of lottery winners one month and one year after the event showed exactly the same pattern.

We can expect the life satisfaction of paraplegics and those afflicted by other chronic and burdensome conditions to be low relative to their experienced well-being, because the request to evaluate their lives will inevitably remind them of the life of others and of the life they used to lead. Consistent with this idea, recent studies of colostomy patients have produced dramatic inconsistencies between the patients’ experienced well-being and their evaluations of their lives. Experience sampling shows no difference in experienced happiness between these patients and a healthy population. Yet colostomy patients would be willing to trade away years of their life for a shorter life without the colostomy. Furthermore, patients whose colostomy has been reversed remember their time in this condition as awful, and they would give up even more of their remaining life not to have to return to it. Here it appears that the remembering self is subject to a massive focusing illusion about the life that the experiencing self endures quite comfortably.

Daniel Gilbert and Timothy Wilson introduced the word miswanting to describe bad choices that arise from errors of affective forecasting. This word deserves to be in everyday language. The focusing illusion (which Gilbert and Wilson call focalism) is a rich source of miswanting. In particular, it makes us prone to exaggerate the effect of significant purchases or changed circumstances on our future well-being.

Compare two commitments that will change some aspects of your life: buying a comfortable new car and joining a group that meets weekly, perhaps a poker or book club. Both experiences will be novel and exciting at the start. The crucial difference is that you will eventually pay little attention to the car as you drive it, but you will always attend to the social interaction to which you committed yourself. By WYSIATI, you are likely to exaggerate the long-term benefits of the car, but you are not likely to make the same mistake for a social gathering or for inherently attention-demanding activities such as playing tennis or learning to play the cello. The focusing illusion creates a bias in favor of goods and experiences that are initially exciting, even if they will eventually lose their appeal. Time is neglected, causing experiences that will retain their attention value in the long term to be appreciated less than they deserve to be.

This is born out by lots of additional evidence and studies. The same data on people returning to baseline happiness after about six months turns out to also be true for lottery winners. For most of us most of the time, this, too, shall pass. What matters is how you react in the moment.

Hieronymous Alloy fucked around with this message at 01:46 on May 31, 2019

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Hieronymous Alloy
Jan 30, 2009


Why! Why!! Why must you refuse to accept that Dr. Hieronymous Alloy's Genetically Enhanced Cream Corn Is Superior to the Leading Brand on the Market!?!






Morbid Hound

Next months' thread maybe a little late getting up but it will be 1491: A History of the Americas Before Columbus.

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