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8 Common Mistakes in How Our Brains Think and How to Prevent Them - Belle Beth Cooper

8 Common Mistakes in How Our Brains Think and How to Prevent Them - Belle Beth Cooper | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |

Get ready to have your mind blown.


I was seriously shocked at some of these mistakes in thinking that I subconsciously make all the time. Obviously, none of them are huge, life-threatening mistakes, but they are really surprising and avoiding them could help us to make more rational, sensible decisions.


Being aware of the mistakes we naturally have in our thinking can make a big difference in avoiding them. Unfortunately, most of these occur subconsciously, so it will also take time and effort to avoid them—if you even want to.


Regardless, I think it’s fascinating to learn more about how we think and make decisions every day, so let’s take a look at some of these thinking habits we didn’t know we had.


1. We surround ourselves with information that matches our beliefs

We tend to like people who think like us. If we agree with someone’s beliefs, we’re more likely to be friends with them. While this makes sense, it means that we subconsciously begin to ignore or dismiss anything that threatens our world views, since we surround ourselves with people and information that confirm what we already think.


This is called confirmation bias. If you’ve ever heard of the frequency illusion, this is very similar. The frequency illusion occurs when you buy a new car, and suddenly you see the same car everywhere. Or when a pregnant woman suddenly notices other pregnant women all over the place. It’s a passive experience, where our brains seek out information that’s related to us, but we believe there’s been an actual increase in the frequency of those occurrences.


Confirmation bias is a more active form of the same experience. It happens when we proactively seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs.


Not only do we do this with the information we take in, but we approach our memories this way, as well. In an experiment in 1979 at the University of Minnesota, participants read a story about a women called Jane who acted extroverted in some situations and introverted in others. When the participants returned a few days later, they were divided into two groups. One group was asked if Jane would be suited to a job as a librarian, the other group were asked about her having a job as a real-estate agent. The librarian group remembered Jane as being introverted and later said that she would not be suited to a real-estate job. The real-estate group did the exact opposite: they remembered Jane as extroverted, said she would be suited to a real-estate job and when they were later asked if she would make a good librarian, they said no.


In 2009, a study at Ohio State showed that we will spend 36 percent more time reading an essay if it aligns with our opinions. "Whenever your opinions or beliefs are so intertwined with your self-image you couldn’t pull them away without damaging your core concepts of self, you avoid situations which may cause harm to those beliefs." – David McRaney


This trailer for David McRaney’s book, You are Now Less Dumb, explains this concept really well with a story about how people used to think geese grew on trees (seriously), and how challenging our beliefs on a regular basis is the only way to avoid getting caught up in the confirmation bias.


2. We believe in the “swimmer’s body” illusion


This has to be one of my favorite thinking mistakes I came across. In Rolf Dobelli’s book, The Art of Thinking Clearly, he explains how our ideas about talent and extensive training are well off-track: "Professional swimmers don’t have perfect bodies because they train extensively. Rather, they are good swimmers because of their physiques. How their bodies are designed is a factor for selection and not the result of their activities."


The “swimmer’s body illusion” occurs when we confuse selection factors with results. Another good example is top performing universities: are they actually the best schools, or do they choose the best students, who do well regardless of the school’s influence?


What really jumped out at me when researching this section was this particular line from Dobelli’s book: "Without this illusion, half of advertising campaigns would not work."


It makes perfect sense, when you think about it. If we believed that we were predisposed to be good at certain things (or not), we wouldn’t buy into ad campaigns that promised to improve our skills in areas where it’s unlikely we’ll ever excel.


3. We worry about things we’ve already lost


No matter how much I pay attention to the sunk cost fallacy, I still naturally gravitate towards it.


The term sunk cost refers to any cost (not just monetary, but also time and effort) that has been paid already and cannot be recovered. So, a payment of time or money that’s gone forever, basically.


The reason we can’t ignore the cost, even though it’s already been paid, is that we wired to feel loss far more strongly than gain. Psychologist Daniel Kahneman explains this in his book, Thinking Fast and Slow: "Organisms that placed more urgency on avoiding threats than they did on maximizing opportunities were more likely to pass on their genes. So, over time, the prospect of losses has become a more powerful motivator on your behavior than the promise of gains. The sunk cost fallacy plays on this tendency of ours to emphasize loss over gain."


This research study is a great example of how it works: Hal Arkes and Catehrine Blumer created an experiment in 1985 which demonstrated your tendency to go fuzzy when sunk costs come along. They asked subjects to assume they had spent $100 on a ticket for a ski trip in Michigan, but soon after found a better ski trip in Wisconsin for $50 and bought a ticket for this trip too. They then asked the people in the study to imagine they learned the two trips overlapped and the tickets couldn’t be refunded or resold. Which one do you think they chose, the $100 good vacation, or the $50 great one?

Over half of the people in the study went with the more expensive trip. It may not have promised to be as fun, but the loss seemed greater.


So, just like the other mistakes I’ve explained in this post, the sunk cost fallacy leads us to miss or ignore the logical facts presented to us, and instead make irrational decisions based on our emotions—without even realizing we’re doing so:


The fallacy prevents you from realizing the best choice is to do whatever promises the better experience in the future, not which negates the feeling of loss in the past.


Being such a subconscious reaction, it’s hard to avoid this one. Our best bet is to try to separate the current facts we have from anything that happened in the past. For instance, if you buy a movie ticket only to realize the movie is terrible, you could either:

a) stay and watch the movie, to “get your money’s worth” since you’ve already paid for the ticket (sunk cost fallacy)

b) leave the cinema and use that time to do something you’ll actually enjoy.

The thing to remember is this: you can’t get that investment back. It’s gone.


Don’t let it cloud your judgement in whatever decision you’re making in this moment—let it remain in the past.


4. We incorrectly predict odds


Imagine you’re playing Heads or Tails with a friend. You flip a coin, over and over, each time guessing whether it will turn up heads or tails. You have a 50/50 chance of being right each time.


Now suppose you’ve flipped the coin five times already and it’s turned up heads every time. Surely, surely, the next one will be tails, right? The chances of it being tails must be higher now, right?

Well, no. The chances of tails turning up are 50/50. Every time. Even if you turned up heads the last twenty times. The odds don’t change.


The gambler’s fallacy is a glitch in our thinking—once again, we’re proven to be illogical creatures. The problem occurs when we place too much weight on past events, believing that they will have an effect on future outcomes (or, in the case of Heads or Tails, any weight, since past events make absolutely no difference to the odds).


Unfortunately, gambling addictions in particular are also affected by a similar mistake in thinking—the positive expectation bias. This is when we mistakenly think that eventually, our luck has to change for the better. Somehow, we find it impossible to accept bad results and give up—we often insist on keeping at it until we get positive results, regardless of what the odds of that happening actually are.


5. We rationalize purchases we don’t want


I’m as guilty of this as anyone. How many times have you gotten home after a shopping trip only to be less than satisfied with your purchase decisions and started rationalizing them to yourself? Maybe you didn’t really want it after all, or in hindsight you thought it was too expensive. Or maybe it didn’t do what you hoped, and was actually useless to you.


Regardless, we’re pretty good at convincing ourselves that those flashy, useless, badly thought-out purchases are necessary after all. This is known as post-purchase rationalization or Buyer’s Stockholm Syndrome.


The reason we’re so good at this comes back to psychology: Social psychologists say it stems from the principle of commitment, our psychological desire to stay consistent and avoid a state of cognitive dissonance.


Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort we get when we’re trying to hold onto two competing ideas or theories. For instance, if we think of ourselves as being nice to strangers, but then we see someone fall over and don’t stop to help them, we would then have conflicting veiws about ourselves: we are nice to strangers, but we weren’t nice to the stranger who fell over. This creates so much discomfort that we have to change our thinking to match our actions—i.e. we start thinking of ourselves as someone who is not nice to strangers, since that’s what our actions proved.


So in the case of our impulse shopping trip, we would need to rationalize the purchases until we truly believe we needed to buy those things, so that our thoughts about ourselves line up with our actions (making the purchases).

The tricky thing in avoiding this mistake is that we generally act before we think, leaving us to rationalize our actions afterwards.


Being aware of this mistake can help us avoid it by predicting it before taking action—for instance, as we’re considering a purchase, we often know that we will have to rationalize it to ourselves later. If we can recognize this, perhaps we can avoid it. It’s not an easy one to tackle, though!


6. We make decisions based on the anchoring effect


Dan Ariely is a behavioural economist who gave one of my favorite TED talks ever about the irrationality of the human brain when it comes to making decisions.


He illustrates this particular mistake in our thinking superbly, with multiple examples. The anchoring effect essentially works like this: rather than making a decision based on pure value for investment (time, money, etc.), we factor in comparative value—that is, how much value an option offers when compared to another option.


Let’s look at some examples from Dan, to illustrate this effect in practice:

One example is an experiment that Dan conducted using two kinds of chocolates for sale in a booth: Hershey’s Kisses and Lindt Truffles. The Kisses were one penny each, while the Truffles were fifteen cents each. Considering the quality differences between the two kinds of chocolates and the normal prices of both items, the Truffles were a great deal, and the majority of visitors to the booth chose the Truffles.


For the next stage of his experiment, Dan offered the same two choices, but lowered the prices by one cent each. So now the Kisses were free, and the Truffles cost fourteen cents each. Of course, the Truffles are even more of a bargain now, but since the Kisses were free, most people chose those instead.


Your loss aversion system is always vigilant, waiting on standby to keep you from giving up more than you can afford to spare, so you calculate the balance between cost and reward whenever possible. – You Are Not So Smart

Another example Dan offers in his TED talk is when consumers are given holiday options to choose between. When given a choice of a trip to Rome, all expenses paid, or a similar trip to Paris, the decision is quite hard. Each city comes with its own food, culture and travel experiences that the consumer must choose between.


When a third option is added, however, such as the same Rome trip, but without coffee included in the morning, things change. When the consumer sees that they have to pay 2,50 euros for coffee in the third trip option, not only does the original Rome trip suddenly seem superior out of these two, it also seems superior to the Paris trip. Even though they probably hadn’t even considered whether coffee was included or not before the third option was added.


Here’s an even better example from another of Dan’s experiments:

Dan found this real ad for subscriptions to The Economist, and used it to see how a seemingly useless choice (like Rome without coffee) affects our decisions.


To begin with, there were three choices: subscribe to The Economist web version for $59, the print version for $125, or subscribe to both the print and web versions for $125. It’s pretty clear what the useless option is here. When Dan gave this form to 100 MIT students and asked them which option they would choose, 84% chose the combo deal for $125. 16% chose the cheaper, web-only option, and nobody chose the print-only option for $125.


Next, Dan removed the ‘useless’ print-only option which nobody wanted and tried the experiment with another group of 100 MIT students. This time, the majority chose the cheaper, web-only version, and the minority chose the combo deal. So even though nobody wanted the bad-value $125 print-only option, it wasn’t actually useless—in fact, it actually informed the decisions people made between the two other options by making the combo deal seem more valuable in relation.


This mistake is called the anchoring effect, because we tend to focus on a particular value and compare it to our other options, seeing the difference between values rather than the value of each option itself.


Eliminating the ‘useless’ options ourselves as we make decisions can help us choose more wisely. On the other hand, Dan says that a big part of the problem comes from simply not knowing our own preferences very well, so perhaps that’s the area we should focus on more, instead.


7. We believe our memories more than facts


Our memories are highly fallible and plastic. And yet, we tend to subconsciously favor them over objective facts. The availability heuristic is a good example of this. It works like this: Suppose you read a page of text and then you’re asked whether the page includes more words that end in “ing” or more words with “n” as the second-last letter. Obviously, it would be impossible for there to be more “ing” words than words with “n” as their penultimate letter (it took me a while to get that—read over the sentence again, carefully, if you’re not sure why that is).However, words ending in “ing” are easier to recall than words like hand, end, or and, which have “n” as their second-last letter, so we would naturally answer that there are more “ing” words.


What’s happening here is that we are basing our answer of probability (i.e. whether it’s probable that there are more “ing” words on the page) on how available relevant examples are (i.e. how easily we can recall them). Our troubles in recalling words with “n” as the second last letter make us think those words don’t occur very often, and we subconsciously ignore the obvious facts in front of us.


Although the availability heuristic is a natural process in how we think, two Chicago scholars have explained how wrong it can be:


Yet reliable statistical evidence will outperform the availability heuristic every time.

The lesson here? Whenever possible, look at the facts. Examine the data. Don’t base a factual decision on your gut instinct without at least exploring the data objectively first.


8. We pay more attention to stereotypes than we think


The funny thing about lots of these thinking mistakes is that they’re so ingrained, I had to think long and hard about why they’re mistakes at all! This one is a good example—it took me a while to understand how illogical this pattern of thinking is.

It’s another one that explains how easily we ignore actual facts:


The human mind is so wedded to stereotypes and so distracted by vivid descriptions that it will seize upon them, even when they defy logic, rather than upon truly relevant facts.

Here’s an example to illustrate the mistake, from researchers Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky:

In 1983 Kahneman and Tversky tested how illogical human thinking is by describing the following imaginary person: Linda is thirty-one 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 antinuclear demonstrations.


The researchers asked people to read this description, and then asked them to answer this question: Which alternative is more probable?


1. Linda is a bank teller.

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


Here’s where it can get a bit tricky to understand (at least, it did for me!)—If answer #2 is true, #1 is also true. This means that #2 cannot be the answer to the question of probability.


Unfortunately, few of us realize this, because we’re so overcome by the more detailed description of #2. Plus, as the earlier quote pointed out, stereotypes are so deeply ingrained in our minds that subconsciously apply them to others.


Roughly 85% of people chose option #2 as the answer.


Again, we see here how irrational and illogical we can be, even when the facts are seemingly obvious.


I love this quote from researcher Daniel Kahneman on the differences between economics and psychology: I was astonished. My economic colleagues worked in the building next door, but I had not appreciated the profound difference between our intellectual worlds. To a psychologist, it is self-evident that people are neither fully rational nor completely selfish, and that their tastes are anything but stable.


Clearly, it’s normal for us to be irrational and to think illogically, even though we rarely realize we’re doing it. Still, being aware of the pitfalls we often fall into when making decisions can help us to at least recognize them, if not avoid them.

Via Jim Manske
Troy Crayton's curator insight, October 4, 2013 3:00 PM

Thank you for making us "aware" of this article, Duane....

donhornsby's curator insight, October 7, 2013 9:52 AM

(From the article): Clearly, it’s normal for us to be irrational and to think illogically, especially when language acts as a limitation to how we think, even though we rarely realize we’re doing it. Still, being aware of the pitfalls we often fall into when making decisions can help us to at least recognize them, if not avoid them.

Have you come across any other interesting mistakes we make in the way we think?

Lawrence Lanoff's curator insight, December 30, 2013 12:18 AM

This article is dense, but profound. Worth chomping on if you have some time. 

Bounded Rationality and Beyond
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Viewpoint: Behavioural economics: a model of thinking | Market Research Society

Viewpoint: Behavioural economics: a model of thinking | Market Research Society | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |

As behavioural economics has become more embedded in the world of research, so too have the questions that are asked of it. It no longer remains in the domain of behaviour change projects in the public sector and financial services, and there is certainly little of the discussion around its relevance to us as market research practitioners that was around even 18 months ago.

There’s lots of talk of BE as a methodology or spawning new methodologies - auto-ethnography, contextual research, System One ad testing, the blink test, and so on. But I’d propose that it’s about a holistic approach, a way of thinking that transcends every project and every aspect of a project regardless of sector or even of brief. BE has come of age, it needs to be thought of as a model of thinking rather than a series of methods and tools.

Daniel Kahneman said of BE, that ‘humans are to thinking as cats are to swimming’. In other words, we can do it if we really have to … but mostly we don’t. It is simply too effortful to do it all the time. And this is a generic issue, not one that is confined to certain types of brief.

One of the ways that we know when something has real power and relevance is to look at how it manifests in our everyday language. This is certainly the case in BE, and what’s more, being more conscious of our own language will help us spot biases at play in our own lives, giving us valuable clues as to how to take them into account in a research and marketing context.

So, let’s take a closer look at the types of language we tend to bump into on a daily basis, and what they really mean.

Miklos Szilagyi's curator insight, November 28, 2:10 AM

"Daniel Kahneman said of BE, that ‘humans are to thinking as cats are to swimming’. In other words, we can do it if we really have to … but mostly we don’t. It is simply too effortful to do it all the time..." - Very interesting to coaches, trainers, etc. too...

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The Truth About the Ways People Lie

The Truth About the Ways People Lie | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |
A new documentary explores how and why humans cheat, lie and steal. 

All of our pants are almost constantly on metaphorical fire, is the basic impression I got after watching the new documentary Dishonesty: The Truth About Lies. The film is a fascinating exploration of the current scientific research on the little things that nudge people into lying, cheating, and stealing, and most of the research comes from behavioral economist Dan Ariely, the Duke professor and best-selling author of books like Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.

The film will be screening for a short time in New York at the IFC Center, starting this Friday. (For bonus social-science nerd fun, Ariely and director Yael Melamde will be at the Friday and Saturday shows to answer audience questions.) But Science of Us got an advance screener of the film, so, herewith, some of the most interesting findings on dishonesty the documentary covers. (All direct quotes in the post are taken from the film. Honest.) 

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Turnbull government creates new 'behavioural economics' team of advisers

Turnbull government creates new 'behavioural economics' team of advisers | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |
The Turnbull government is creating a "behavioural economics" team of advisers, to be housed inside the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
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Thanksgiving and the Power of Gratitude in Business

Thanksgiving and the Power of Gratitude in Business | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |
Thanksgiving is a reminder that thankfulness is a key to business health.

"All the days of the afflicted are bad, but one with a grateful heart has a continual feast." Proverbs 15:15

November is the month of Thanksgiving and the day itself comes around next week. As an entrepreneur and as a human being it is my favorite holiday of the year--by far. It is, of course, a refreshing pause from daily business tsuris, as well as the only holiday devoted to pure gratitude for... everything -- all our abundance and our very existence.

But it is also a reminder that thankfulness is a key to business health.

I've always believed it is the simple things that make for success in business. Not the brilliant, not the celebrated, not the strategically complex. One of those simple things is the act of saying "Thank you." Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I always take time to say it, to mean it, to write it, to email it, even to tweet it (much as I hate the patent superficiality of that particular social medium. WTF.) As Texas journalist and poetWilliam Arthur Ward put it, "Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings."

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Economics and Computation (EC) 2016, July 24-28, Maastricht, Netherlands - Decision Science News

Economics and Computation (EC) 2016, July 24-28, Maastricht, Netherlands - Decision Science News | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |
The 17th ACM Conference on Economics and Computation will take place July 24-28, 2016 in Maastricht, The Netherlands.

The 17th ACM Conference on Economics and Computation will take place July 24-28, 2016 in Maastricht, The Netherlands.

Conference overview

Since 1999 the ACM Special Interest Group on Electronic Commerce (SIGecom) has sponsored the leading scientific conference on advances in theory, systems, and applications at the interface of economics and computation, including applications to electronic commerce.

The Seventeenth ACM Conference on Economics and Computation (EC’16) will feature invited speakers, paper presentations, workshops, tutorials, and poster sessions. EC’16 will be co-located with the 5th World Congress of the Game Theory Society (GAMES 2016),, in Maastricht, The Netherlands.

The conference will be held from Sunday, July 24, 2016 through Thursday, July 28, 2016 in Maastricht, The Netherlands. Accepted technical papers will be presented from July 26 through July 28; tutorials and workshops will be held on July 24 and July 25. Accepted papers will be available in the form in which they are published in the ACM Digital Library prior to the conference. AUTHORS TAKE NOTE: The official publication date is the date the proceedings are made available in the ACM Digital Library. This date may be up to two weeks prior to the first day of the conference. The official publication date affects the deadline for any patent filings related to published work.

The focus of the conference is research at the interface of economics and computation related to (but not limited to) the following three non-exclusive focus areas: Theory and Foundations; Artificial Intelligence and Applied Game Theory; Experimental, Empirical, and Applications

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Nick Naumof: Behavioral Science Explains the Failure of Free Markets

Nick Naumof: Behavioral Science Explains the Failure of Free Markets | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |
Behavioral Science Explains the Failure of Free Markets
Most of you know me as a behavioral science guy, but I have to make a confession: my initial training is in Economics and business administration. Being born in a country with a communist dictatorship, with a centralized economy and spending much of childhood and teenage years in a chaotic backwards transition to market economy, I firmly believed in the virtues for free markets.
Perhaps because of this experience and seeing what free markets can do in a society unaccustomed to how they work, made me think hard if free markets are as virtuous as I thought them to be. And the answer is ambivalent: on the one hand, yes! It is absolutely obvious that a free market economy is far better than a centralized and corrupt one. On the other hand, however, free markets can be extremely perverse and lead to severely sub-optimal results (equilibrium).
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Measuring Emotional Contagion in Social Media

Measuring Emotional Contagion in Social Media | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |
Social media are used as main discussion channels by millions of individuals every day. The content individuals produce in daily social-media-based micro-communications, and the emotions therein expressed, may impact the emotional states of others. A recent experiment performed on Facebook hypothesized that emotions spread online, even in absence of non-verbal cues typical of in-person interactions, and that individuals are more likely to adopt positive or negative emotions if these are over-expressed in their social network. Experiments of this type, however, raise ethical concerns, as they require massive-scale content manipulation with unknown consequences for the individuals therein involved. Here, we study the dynamics of emotional contagion using a random sample of Twitter users, whose activity (and the stimuli they were exposed to) was observed during a week of September 2014. Rather than manipulating content, we devise a null model that discounts some confounding factors (including the effect of emotional contagion). We measure the emotional valence of content the users are exposed to before posting their own tweets. We determine that on average a negative post follows an over-exposure to 4.34% more negative content than baseline, while positive posts occur after an average over-exposure to 4.50% more positive contents. We highlight the presence of a linear relationship between the average emotional valence of the stimuli users are exposed to, and that of the responses they produce. We also identify two different classes of individuals: highly and scarcely susceptible to emotional contagion. Highly susceptible users are significantly less inclined to adopt negative emotions than the scarcely susceptible ones, but equally likely to adopt positive emotions. In general, the likelihood of adopting positive emotions is much greater than that of negative emotions.
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Rule of Law, Individual Rights and the Free Market in the Liberal Tradition: The Case of Greece

Rule of Law, Individual Rights and the Free Market in the Liberal Tradition: The Case of Greece | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |
The western liberal tradition is closely connected with the idea of rights and the rule of law. Rule of law is the idea of a civil society governed by a Constitution which sets limits to government power and protects individual rights against any
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The Power of Nudges, for Good and Bad

The Power of Nudges, for Good and Bad | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |
Nudges, small design changes that can markedly affect individual behavior, have been catching on. These techniques rely on insights from behavioral science, and when used ethically, they can be very helpful. But we need to be sure that they aren’t being employed to sway people to make bad decisions that they will later regret.

Via Beeyond
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Musical Preferences are Linked to Cognitive Styles

Musical Preferences are Linked to Cognitive Styles | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |
Why do we like the music we do? Research has shown that musical preferences and personality are linked, yet little is known about other influences on preferences such as cognitive styles. To address this gap, we investigated how individual differences in musical preferences are explained by the empathizing-systemizing (E-S) theory. Study 1 examined the links between empathy and musical preferences across four samples. By reporting their preferential reactions to musical stimuli, samples 1 and 2 ( Ns = 2,178 and 891) indicated their preferences for music from 26 different genres, and samples 3 and 4 ( Ns = 747 and 320) indicated their preferences for music from only a single genre (rock or jazz). Results across samples showed that empathy levels are linked to preferences even within genres and account for significant proportions of variance in preferences over and above personality traits for various music-preference dimensions. Study 2 ( N = 353) replicated and extended these findings by investigating how musical preferences are differentiated by E-S cognitive styles (i.e., ‘brain types’). Those who are type E (bias towards empathizing) preferred music on the Mellow dimension (R&B/soul, adult contemporary, soft rock genres) compared to type S (bias towards systemizing) who preferred music on the Intense dimension (punk, heavy metal, and hard rock). Analyses of fine-grained psychological and sonic attributes in the music revealed that type E individuals preferred music that featured low arousal (gentle, warm, and sensual attributes), negative valence (depressing and sad), and emotional depth (poetic, relaxing, and thoughtful), while type S preferred music that featured high arousal (strong, tense, and thrilling), and aspects of positive valence (animated) and cerebral depth (complexity). The application of these findings for clinicians, interventions, and those on the autism spectrum (largely type S or extreme type S) are discussed.
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Can Your Music Listening Habits Give an Insight to Your Mental Health?

Can Your Music Listening Habits Give an Insight to Your Mental Health? | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |
Neuroscience News has recent neuroscience research articles, brain research news, neurology studies and neuroscience resources for neuroscientists, students, and science fans and is always free to join. Our neuroscience social network has science groups, discussion forums, free books, resources, science videos and more.


Brain imaging reveals how neural responses to different types of music really affect the emotion regulation of persons. The study proves that especially men who process negative feelings with music react negatively to aggressive and sad music.

Emotion regulation is an essential component to mental health. Poor emotion regulation is associated with psychiatric mood disorders such as depression. Clinical music therapists know the power music can have over emotions, and are able to use music to help their clients to better mood states and even to help relieve symptoms of psychiatric mood disorders like depression. But many people also listen to music on their own as a means of emotion regulation, and not much is known about how this kind of music listening affects mental health. Researchers at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Music Research at the University of Jyväskylä, Aalto University in Finland and Aarhus University in Denmark decided to investigate the relationship between mental health, music listening habits and neural responses to music emotions by looking at a combination of behavioural and neuroimaging data. The study was published in August in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

“Some ways of coping with negative emotion, such as rumination, which means continually thinking over negative things, are linked to poor mental health. We wanted to learn whether there could be similar negative effects of some styles of music listening,” explains Emily Carlson, a music therapist and the main author of the study.

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A multi-source dataset of urban life in the city of Milan and the Province of Trentino

A multi-source dataset of urban life in the city of Milan and the Province of Trentino | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |
Scientific Data is a new open-access, online-only publication for descriptions of scientifically valuable datasets.

The study of socio-technical systems has been revolutionized by the unprecedented amount of digital records that are constantly being produced by human activities such as accessing Internet services, using mobile devices, and consuming energy and knowledge. In this paper, we describe the richest open multi-source dataset ever released on two geographical areas. The dataset is composed of telecommunications, weather, news, social networks and electricity data from the city of Milan and the Province of Trentino. The unique multi-source composition of the dataset makes it an ideal testbed for methodologies and approaches aimed at tackling a wide range of problems including energy consumption, mobility planning, tourist and migrant flows, urban structures and interactions, event detection, urban well-being and many others.

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Diagnosing the Urge to Run for Office

Diagnosing the Urge to Run for Office | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |
Mental health practitioners answer the eternal question.

Jeb Bush might have pledged to conduct his campaign “joyfully,” but it’s hard to see the modern-day presidential campaign—months on the road, relentless attacks, kowtowing to donors—as anything but joyless. And if you make it through all that, your prize is one of the most stressful jobs in the world. Why do they do it? To understand, Politico Magazine asked leading psychologists and psychiatrists to get inside the candidates’ heads and diagnose the urge to run. Is it narcissism? Masochism? Psychosis? Are presidential candidates just like the rest of us—or are they just out of their minds?


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‘Grandiose narcissism levels are higher in more recent than in earlier presidents’

Research going back as far as 1998 suggests that modern politicians are more narcissistic than people in other professions. But in fact, politicians—at least those in positions of high power—might also be more narcissistic than ever. In a 2013 study published in Psychological Science, we and several colleagues examined a trait called grandiose narcissism, which comprises immodesty, boastfulness and interpersonal dominance (a certain presidential candidate in a gold-plated tower in Manhattan comes to mind). For every president up to and including George W. Bush, we asked eminent biographers and experts to complete extensive personality ratings for the five years before each president took office. The ratings revealed an intriguing trend: Grandiose narcissism levels are higher in more recent presidents than in earlier ones. Despite some caveats to this result, we also found that levels of several other traits, such as those linked to interpersonal oddity, were not higher in more recent presidents. Ultimately, our findings raise the possibility that the mounting pressures on candidates to be telegenic and adept at self-presentation may be selecting for heightened self-centeredness.

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Behavioral Economics and Public Health: Christina A. Roberto, Ichiro Kawachi: 9780199398331: Books

Behavioral Economics and Public Health

Product by Oxford University Press ~ More about this product
Price: £41.99

Behavioral economics has potential to offer novel solutions to some of today's most pressing public health problems: How do we persuade people to eat healthy and lose weight? How can health professionals communicate health risks in a way that is heeded? How can food labeling be modified to inform healthy food choices? 

Behavioral Economics and Public Health is the first book to apply the groundbreaking insights of behavioral economics to the persisting problems of health behaviors and behavior change. In addition to providing a primer on the behavioral economics principles that are most relevant to public health, this book offers details on how these principles can be employed to mitigating the world's greatest health threats, including obesity, smoking, risky sexual behavior, and excessive drinking. With contributions from an international team of scholars from psychology, economics, marketing, public health, and medicine, this book is a trailblazing new approach to the most difficult and important problems of our time.

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A Course in Behavioral Economics 2e - Erik Angner - Palgrave Macmillan

A Course in Behavioral Economics 2e - Erik Angner - Palgrave Macmillan | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |
A Course in Behavioral Economics 2e is an accessible and self-contained introduction to the field of behavioral economics. The author introduces students to the subject by comparing and contrasting its theories and models with those of mainstream economics. Full of examples, exercises and problems, this book emphasises the intuition behind the concepts and is suitable for students from a wide range of disciplines.
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Location, location, location: Effects of cross-religious primes on prosocial behaviour

Location, location, location: Effects of cross-religious primes on prosocial behaviour | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |
Priming with religious concepts is known to have a positive effect on prosocial behavior, however the effects of religious primes associated with outgroups remain unknown. To explore this, we conducted a field experiment in a multi-cultural,
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Every Flaw in Consumers Is Worse in Voters

Every Flaw in Consumers Is Worse in Voters | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |

I have been making a mistake for most of my life. See, I’m an economist, and one of the things that attracted me to economics is the notion of the “ideal economy.”

Of course, there are valid objections to the use of markets. There are people who cheat and commit fraud, and there are problems with information and market power and externalities. Sometime consumers make mistakes. In fact, some of those mistakes, as my friend and Duke colleague Dan Ariely is fond of telling me, raise questions about the very nature of our “model” of consumption.

In his book Predictably Irrational, Dan makes two main points. First, consumers are not “rational,” at least not in the sense economists assume.  Consumers have trouble choosing among several alternatives; new product prices are arbitrary; and people are seduced by “free” stuff.  Second, sellers and marketers know that consumers are predictably irrational, and they take advantage of that weakness by advertising, packaging, and carefully framed comparisons.

So what’s the mistake I’ve been making for most of my life? I’ve been trying to defend the perfection of markets. I’ve been sucked in to the notion that markets are “ideal”: “Markets aren’t so bad!” “Consumers are generally better off!” and so on. Friends, if you have been defending the perfection of markets you have been played for a sap. Stop it.
The simple fact is that people can be hoodwinked. People. Human beings. The results of behavioral economists and psychologists such as Dan Ariely, Richard Thaler, and others are correct, and persuasive. But when someone uses those results to criticize markets – and stops there – they are not playing fair. Because the criticism of markets always has to be in reference to some other system: markets are bad, compared to what?

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An economy run to benefit producers?

An economy run to benefit producers? | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |

Consumer irrationality creates great opportunities for producers.

MOST people are aware of their faults and foibles, and understand they are shared by others. They may also understand how these foibles may have significant effects, such as the marshmallow test (kids who resist temptation achieve more later in life) or loss aversion (people sell their winning stocks but hang on to their losers).

These findings have made a bit of a dent in orthodox economics, hence the acceptance of "nudge" approaches which aim to influence consumer behaviour by framing their choices in particular ways. Auto-enrolment into pension schemes (requiring workers to opt out, rather than opt in) is the best example. In broad terms, however, I don't think behavioural insights have changed the way that people think about economics. A free market is one in which producers compete to sell goods to consumers on the basis of price, or quality. Competition works to the benefit of consumers, leading to innovation and the elimination of shoddy goods; a restaurant that serves disgusting food, or has terrible service, will soon go out of business.

However, while we can all think of markets that do work like that (smartphones, for example), we can also think of plenty that don't.  In their new book, "Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception", Robert Shiller and George Akerlof look at markets where customers are enticed to buy imperfect goods or to make choices that are not good for their long-term welfare (smoking, for example). Our review of the bookwas rather lukewarm and it certainly has flaws; the evidence is very anecdotal, many of the examples seem familiar and the replacement of "f" with "ph" (as in phishing) gets tiresome. 

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The "Over-Sharing" Epidemic: How the Internet Makes Us Devalue Our Private Lives

The "Over-Sharing" Epidemic: How the Internet Makes Us Devalue Our Private Lives | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |
Over-sharing has made us into "approval-seeking machines." Every thought needs to be broadcasted, and we've lost a sense of what should be kept private. 

The internet and social media give us the ability to broadcast our thoughts and feelings to the world at a moment’s notice. While there are many advantages to this ability to instantly communicate and reach out to others, it also breeds an environment of over-sharing.

Today, everyone seems to have a “digital self.” Our status updates on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest reveal a bit about who we are to the public. And as we know from countless controversies regarding celebrities and politicians, our “digital self” is intertwined with our public image and reputation.

Social scientists sometimes refer to this phenomenon as “ambient awareness,” which is a peripheral social awareness that we pick up about a person depending on what they “like” and “share” on social media. I first heard about this concept in the book Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better.

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We don’t save for the future because we lie to ourselves. This app might change that

We don’t save for the future because we lie to ourselves. This app might change that | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |

As humans, our failings are epic. We eat too much, lie to ourselves, never exercise enough, and spend so much money we have nothing left for that vacation in Hawaii. But technology, Dan Ariely believes, might save us from ourselves.

Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University is an investor and chief behavioral economist at Qapital, a Swedish-startup geared toward making millennials save.He tells Quartz the reason we fail to save—or spend effectively:

The most difficult problem is our lack of desire to think about it. You go to the supermarket and you buy and buy and buy.

People always underestimate. Even the cashier underestimates. We don’t add up all our costs. We are supposed to think about it and think of all the things we want to spend on now vs. later. But the reality is, we live in the moment and we make decisions in a myopic way without thinking about the big picture. It’s really, really hard. So we don’t do it.

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Math’s Beautiful Monsters - Issue 11: Light - Nautilus

Math’s Beautiful Monsters - Issue 11: Light - Nautilus | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |

uch like its creator, Karl Weierstrass’ monster came from nowhere. After four years at university spent drinking and fencing, Weierstrass had left empty handed. He eventually took a teaching course and spent most of the 1850s as a schoolteacher in Braunsberg. He hated life in the small Prussian town, finding it a lonely existence. His only respites were the mathematical problems he worked on between classes. But he had nobody to talk to about mathematics, and no technical library to study in. Even his results failed to escape the confines of Braunsberg. Instead of publishing them in academic journals as a university researcher would, Weierstrass added them to articles in the school prospectus, baffling potential students with arcane equations.

Eventually Weierstrass submitted one of his papers to the respected Crelle’s Journal. While his previous articles had made barely a ripple, this one created a flood of interest. Weierstrass had found a new way to deal with a fiendish class of equations known as Abelian functions. The paper only contained an outline of his methods, but it was enough to convince mathematicians they were dealing with a unique talent. Within a year, the University of Königsberg had given Weierstrass an honorary doctorate, and soon afterward the University of Berlin offered him a professorship. Despite having gone through the intellectual equivalent of a rags to riches story, many of his old habits remained. He would rarely publish papers, preferring instead to share his work among students. It was not just the publication process he had little regard for: He was also not afraid to target mathematics’ sacred cows.

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Music Training Increases Phonological Awareness and Reading Skills in Developmental Dyslexia: A Randomized Control Trial

Music Training Increases Phonological Awareness and Reading Skills in Developmental Dyslexia: A Randomized Control Trial | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |
There is some evidence for a role of music training in boosting phonological awareness, word segmentation, working memory, as well as reading abilities in children with typical development. Poor performance in tasks requiring temporal processing, rhythm perception and sensorimotor synchronization seems to be a crucial factor underlying dyslexia in children. Interestingly, children with dyslexia show deficits in temporal processing, both in language and in music. Within this framework, we test the hypothesis that music training, by improving temporal processing and rhythm abilities, improves phonological awareness and reading skills in children with dyslexia. The study is a prospective, multicenter, open randomized controlled trial, consisting of test, rehabilitation and re-test (ID NCT02316873 ). After rehabilitation, the music group (N = 24) performed better than the control group (N = 22) in tasks assessing rhythmic abilities, phonological awareness and reading skills. This is the first randomized control trial testing the effect of music training in enhancing phonological and reading abilities in children with dyslexia. The findings show that music training can modify reading and phonological abilities even when these skills are severely impaired. Through the enhancement of temporal processing and rhythmic skills, music might become an important tool in both remediation and early intervention programs. Trial Registration NCT02316873
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Perceived legitimacy of normative expectations motivates compliance with social norms when nobody is watching

Perceived legitimacy of normative expectations motivates compliance with social norms when nobody is watching | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |

By Luca Tummolini and Daniela Grieco in Experimental Economics and Trust. Three main motivations can explain compliance with social norms: fear of peer punishment, the desire for others' esteem and the desire to meet others' expectations. Three main motivations can explain compliance with social norms: fear of peerpunishment, the desire for others’ esteem and the desire to meet others’ expectations. Though all play a role, only the desire to meet others’ expectations can sustaincompliance when neither public nor private monitoring is possible. Theoretical modelshave shown that such desire can indeed sustain social norms, but empirical evidenceis lacking. Moreover it is unclear whether this desire ranges over others’ “empirical”or “normative” expectations. We propose a new experimental design to isolate thismotivation and to investigate what kind of expectations people are inclined to meet.Results indicate that, when nobody can assign either material or immaterial sanctions,the perceived legitimacy of others’ normative expectations can motivate a significantnumber of people to comply with costly social norms.

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Superforecasting - Decision Science News

Superforecasting - Decision Science News | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |
A new book by Phil Tetlock and Dan Gardner on Super-Forecasting. 

Everyone would benefit from seeing further into the future, whether buying stocks, crafting policy, launching a new product, or simply planning the week’s meals. Unfortunately, people tend to be terrible forecasters. As Wharton professor Philip Tetlock showed in a landmark 2005 study, even experts’ predictions are only slightly better than chance. However, an important and underreported conclusion of that study was that some experts do have real foresight, and Tetlock has spent the past decade trying to figure out why. What makes some people so good? And can this talent be taught?

In Superforecasting, Tetlock and coauthor Dan Gardner offer a masterwork on prediction, drawing on decades of research and the results of a massive, government-funded forecasting tournament. The Good Judgment Project involves tens of thousands of ordinary people—including a Brooklyn filmmaker, a retired pipe installer, and a former ballroom dancer—who set out to forecast global events. Some of the volunteers have turned out to be astonishingly good. They’ve beaten other benchmarks, competitors, and prediction markets. They’ve even beaten the collective judgment of intelligence analysts with access to classified information. They are “superforecasters.”

In this groundbreaking and accessible book, Tetlock and Gardner show us how we can learn from this elite group. Weaving together stories of forecasting successes (the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound) and failures (the Bay of Pigs) and interviews with a range of high-level decision makers, from David Petraeus to Robert Rubin, they show that good forecasting doesn’t require powerful computers or arcane methods. It involves gathering evidence from a variety of sources, thinking probabilistically, working in teams, keeping score, and being willing to admit error and change course. Superforecasting offers the first demonstrably effective way to improve our ability to predict the future—whether in business, finance, politics, international affairs, or daily life—and is destined to become a modern classic.

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This Trick Might Make You Slightly Better at Spotting a Lie

This Trick Might Make You Slightly Better at Spotting a Lie | Bounded Rationality and Beyond |

When people try to spot a lie, they generally make a judgment on a number of factors, including body language, expression, and word choice. This may be a mistake. People are complicated creatures, and they send mixed messages. Picking just one criterion to indicate truthfulness improves the odds of ferreting out a lie—but only a little bit.

This was the case in a recent experiment, run by the University of Huddersfield, where people asked to participate in a fake travel documentary were instructed to lie. Fake production assistants told the participants that they were running low on time, and would appreciate it if, on camera, they talked about one or two places they had traveled to and added in a couple of places they hadn’t traveled to. Under these circumstances, an evaluator looking for signs of guilt would probably be thrown off by people who believed that, by lying, they were helping people out, not hurting them. Nervousness might be a lie, or it might just be a response to being on camera.

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