Posts tagged “decisions”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] America: Land of Loners? [The Wilson Quarterly] – [Thoughtful commentary on the notion of "friends," a watered-down word these days, thanks to Facebook.] Friendship, like baseball, always seems to send intellectuals off the deep end. Yet there is more biological justification for our predecessors’ paeans to friendship than for our modern-day tepidity. Friendship exists in all the world’s cultures, likely as a result of natural selection. People have always needed allies to help out in times of trouble, raise their status, and join with them against their enemies. It doesn’t seem much of a stretch to conclude that a talent for making friends would bestow an evolutionary advantage by corralling others into the project of promoting and protecting one’s kids—and thereby ensuring the survival of one’s genes.
  • [from julienorvaisas] Ewwwwwwwww! [The Boston Globe] – [Scientists are working on unpacking the psychology of physical disgust and it's role in moral decisions, which are obviously also based in powerful socio-cultural factors. Food for thought on just how layered the decision-making process is.] Just as our teeth and tongue first evolved to process food, then were enlisted for complex communication, disgust first arose as an emotional response to ensure that our ancestors steered clear of rancid meat and contagion. But over time, that response was co-opted by the social brain to help police the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Today, some psychologists argue, we recoil at the wrong just as we do at the rancid, and when someone says that a politician’s chronic dishonesty makes her sick, she is feeling the same revulsion she might get from a brimming plate of cockroaches.
  • [from steve_portigal] iPad/Kindle combo proving deadly to rest of e-reader market [ars technica] – The show floor of January's Consumer Electronics Show was swamped with E-Ink-based e-readers of all shapes and sizes, to the point that it seemed that a tsunami of Kindle knock-offs was going to hit the US market in the first quarter of 2010. But in hindsight, it turns out that the wave actually crested at CES, and has now almost entirely subsided. The problem for these products is that the e-reader market appears to consist almost exclusively of people who want to use the devices to read, which means that they don't really care about being able to bend or flex the e-reader a little bit, nor are they willing to pay the huge premium that a touchscreen commands. Neither of these features enhances the basic reading experience that's at the core of why people pick an E-Ink device over a reader with an LCD screen. For those who just want to read, the Kindle is now very cheap. And if you're going to pay for a touchscreen, you might as well spend a bit extra get an iPad.
  • [from steve_portigal] Persona [a set on Flickr] – [An ongoing series of photographs of people, and the stuff they are carrying with them. This sort of raw documentationism is without explicit analysis or articulated insight but of course the act of creation and the act of editing/selecting introduces a curatorial voice and implicit point of view on the world. It's just up to us to figure out what that is]

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] The Sketchbook Project: 2011[] – [For $25 and an output of your own artistic energy, you can be part of this traveling sketchbook project. Choose from themes like "Adhere to me," "Help!" and "Down your street." Great way to practice sketching and story-telling!] Thousands of sketchbooks will be exhibited at galleries and museums as they make their way on tour across the country. After the tour, all sketchbooks will enter into the permanent collection of The Brooklyn Art Library, where they will be barcoded and available for the public to view. Anyone – from anywhere in the world – can be a part of the project. To participate and have us send you a sketchbook that will go on tour, start by choosing a theme.
  • [from steve_portigal] Want Smart Kids? Here’s What to Do [The Chronicle of Higher Education] – [It seems like this confuses correlation and causality, but it is a very actionable finding in that way] Buy a lot of books. That seems kind of obvious, right? But what's surprising, according to a new study published in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, is just how strong the correlation is between a child's academic achievement and the number of books his or her parents own. It's even more important than whether the parents went to college or hold white-collar jobs. Books matter. A lot.
  • [from steve_portigal] Google Research Director Peter Norvig on Being Wrong [Slate] – We do it by trying to fail faster and smaller. The average cycle for getting something done at Google is more like three months than three years. And the average team size is small, so if we have a new idea, we don't have to go through the political lobbying of saying, "Can we have 50 people to work on this?" Instead, it's more done bottom up: Two or three people get together and say, "Hey, I want to work on this." They don't need permission from the top level to get it started because it's just a couple of people; it's kind of off the books. …Within the company, we're really good at making decisions based on statistics. So if we have an idea—"You know, here's a way I can make search better"—we're really good at saying, "Well, let's do an experiment. Let's compare the old way with the new way and try it out on some sample searches." And we'll come back with a number and we'll know if it's better and how much better and so on. That's our bread and butter.
  • [from steve_portigal] Dangerous Ideas [Big Think] – [When we lead ideation exercises, we often talk about the importance of "bad" ideas and try to empower or teams to be free to come up with bad ideas; it's a way of coming un-stuck, to free yourself from "solving" the problem and just play with the problem. When we suggest trying things that are dangerous or immoral, people laugh, but they are immediately get it. Here's a more serious consideration of the power of "bad" ideas] Throughout the month of August, Big Think will introduce a different "dangerous idea" each day. Brace yourself: these ideas may at first seem shocking or counter-intuitive—but they are worth our attention, even if we end up rejecting them. Every idea in the series will be supported by contributions from leading experts.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • PETA (hopefully tongue-in-cheek) attempts to rebrand fish as "Sea Kittens" – Sorta reductio ad absurdum re: my latest interactions column, Poets, Priests, and Politicians
  • Rug company Nanimarquina brings global warming to your living room – "If there is an iconic image that represents the natural devastation of global warming, it is the lone polar bear stuck on a melting ice flow. Now eco rug company Nanimarquina has teamed up with NEL artists to create a beautiful ‘Global Warming Rug’ – complete with stranded polar bear floating in the middle of the sea – to represent the most pressing issue of our time. Rugs have been traditionally used throughout the ages to tell stories and communicate messages, and we think this is a lovely, poignant new take on a time-honored tradition." What effect does it have when an issue like global warming gets iconified and aestheticized like this? Does it drive home the seriousness of the situation, or make it more palatable?
  • Asch conformity experiments – (via Eliezer Yudkowsky) Asch asked people about similarity of height between several lines. Confederates answered incorrectly and this influenced the subject themselves to support this incorrect answer.
  • Confirmation bias: the tendency to seek out information that supports what we already believe – (via Eliezer Yudkowsky) The 2-4-6 problem presented subjects with 3 numbers. Subjects were told that the triple conforms to a particular rule. They were asked to discover the rule by generating their own triples, where the experimenter would indicate whether or not the triple conformed to the rule. While the actual rule was simply “any ascending sequence”, the subjects often proposed rules that were far more complex. Subjects seemed to test only “positive” examples—triples the subjects believed would conform to their rule and confirm their hypothesis. What they did not do was attempt to challenge or falsify their hypotheses by testing triples that they believed would not conform to their rule.
  • Overcoming Bias – Blog by Eliezer Yudkowsky and others about (overcoming) biases in perception, decisions, etc.
  • Hindsight bias: when people who know the answer vastly overestimate its predictability or obviousness, – (via Eliezer Yudkowsky)
    Sometimes called the I-knew-it-all-along effect.
    "…A third experimental group was told the outcome and also explicitly instructed to avoid hindsight bias, which made no difference."
  • Planning fallacy – the tendency to underestimate task-completion times – (via Eliezer Yudkowsky) Asking people what they did last time turns out to be more accurate than what they either hope for or expect to happen this time
  • Cognitive Biases in the Assessment of Risk – (via Eliezer Yudkowsky) Another example of extensional neglect is scope insensitivity, which you will find in the Global Catastrophic Risks book. Another version of the same thing is where people would only pay slightly more to save all the wetlands in Oregon than to save one protected wetland in Oregon, or people would pay the same amount to save two thousand, twenty thousand, or two hundred thousand oil-stroked birds from perishing in ponds. What is going on there is when you say, “How much would you donate to save 20,000 birds from perishing in oil ponds,” they will visualize one bird trapped, struggling to get free. That creates some level of emotional arousal, then the actual quantity gets thrown right out the window.

    [I am not sure that's the reason why; I think there could be other explanations for the flawed mental model that leads to those responses]

  • Conjunction fallacy – (via Eliezer Yudkowsky) A logical fallacy that occurs when it is assumed that specific conditions are more probable than a single general one. Example: Linda is 31 years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice, and also participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations.

    Which is more probable?

    1. Linda is a bank teller.
    2. Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement.

    85% of those asked chose option 2 [2]. However, mathematically, the probability of two events occurring together (in "conjunction") will always be less than or equal to the probability of either one occurring alone.

Reality is Consumed by Perception

Interesting methodology (and findings) for understanding the factors that influence our eating behaviors at the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell

In an eight-seat lab designed to look like a cozy kitchen, Dr. Wansink offers free lunches in exchange for hard data. He opened the lab at Cornell in April, after he moved it from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he spent eight years conducting experiments in cafeterias, grocery stores and movie theaters.

Although people think they make 15 food decisions a day on average, his research shows the number is well over 200. Some are obvious, some are subtle. The bigger the plate, the larger the spoon, the deeper the bag, the more we eat. But sometimes we decide how much to eat based on how much the person next to us is eating, sometimes moderating our intake by more than 20 percent up or down to match our dining companion.

Moviegoers in a Chicago suburb were given free stale popcorn, some in medium-size buckets, some in large buckets. What was left in the buckets was weighed at the end of the movie. The people with larger buckets ate 53 percent more than people with smaller buckets. And people didn’t eat the popcorn because they liked it, he said. They were driven by hidden persuaders: the distraction of the movie, the sound of other people eating popcorn and the Pavlovian popcorn trigger that is activated when we step into a movie theater.

Dr. Wansink is particularly proud of his bottomless soup bowl, which he and some undergraduates devised with insulated tubing, plastic dinnerware and a pot of hot tomato soup rigged to keep the bowl about half full. The idea was to test which would make people stop eating: visual cues, or a feeling of fullness.

People using normal soup bowls ate about nine ounces. The typical bottomless soup bowl diner ate 15 ounces. Some of those ate more than a quart, and didn’t stop until the 20-minute experiment was over. When asked to estimate how many calories they had consumed, both groups thought they had eaten about the same amount, and 113 fewer calories on average than they actually had.

A sidebar listing other experiments and results is here (link may expire).


About Steve