You’re biased, I’m not

October 5, 2009

We’re biased to think that we are less prone to biases than others.

Three studies suggest that individuals see the existence and operation of cognitive and motivational biases much more in others than in themselves. Study 1 provides evidence fromthree surveys that people rate themselves as less subject to various biases than the “average American,” classmates in a seminar, and fellow airport travelers. Data from the third survey further suggest that such claims arise from the interplay among availability biases and self-enhancement motives. Participants in one follow-up study who showed the better-than-average bias insisted that their self-assessments were accurate and objective even after reading a description of how they could have been affected by the relevant bias. Participants in a final study reported their peer’s self-serving attributions regarding test performance to be biased but their own similarly self-serving attributions to be free of bias. The relevance of these phenomena to naïve realism and to conflict, misunderstanding, and dispute resolution is discussed.

Bet on it

September 11, 2009

I once had a long discussion with Ken Steiglitz about P=NP, while I was still at Princeton…. Ken was and still is sure that P must not be equal to NP. Okay, I said to Ken, what are the odds that they are equal? Ken said that he thought the odds were a million to one. I immediately suggested a bet. I did not ask him to “bet his life,” but I did ask for a million to one bet. I would put up one dollar. If in say ten years P=NP had not been proved, then he would win my dollar. If P=NP was proved in that time frame, then I would win a million dollars from Ken. Ken said no way. After more discussion the best bet I could get out of Ken was {2} to {1}.”

Average out your own estimates for a better result

January 13, 2009

In current Psychological Science:

Wisdom of Many in One Mind:
Improving Individual Judgments With Dialectical Bootstrapping

Stefan M. Herzog and Ralph
Groups are better than individuals at making
judgments about the future and other unknowns, because individual errors tend
to cancel out. Can the power of averaging that underlies this “wisdom of
crowds” be harnessed to improve individual judgments too? This study
shows that averaging an individual’s first estimate with one made later
fosters accuracy. A single mind can thus simulate the wisdom of many.

Why Things Cost $19.95

January 28, 2008

Part of the answer: people end up paying more when the asking price is more specific, and non-“rounded off” price  – i.e., use $5240 rather than $5000

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Desire and Scarcity

December 31, 2007

A Sense of Scarcity
Wanting something makes it seem rarer than it really is.  Another case of emotions affecting judgement.

From Herbert Wray’s excellent “We’re Only Human” blog on the Association for Psychological Science website.

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Planning Fallacy

November 10, 2007

People are far too optimistic in estimating how long their projects will take.

But they make far better estimates when they take an “outside view” and ask how long, in general, projects of that sort take.

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