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News on the effects of bounded rationality in economics and business, relationships and politics
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Fraud, error and debt: behavioural insights team paper - Publications - GOV.UK

Fraud, error and debt: behavioural insights team paper - Publications - GOV.UK | Bounded Rationality and Beyond | Scoop.it

The Behavioural Insights Team has published a paper on fraud, debt and error. It represents a completely new way of doing policy: by actively testing ideas with public bodies, the team has been able to demonstrate effects that, if rolled out, could save hundreds of millions of pounds.
 
This latest paper sets out some of the most effective actions which public bodies can take. Many of these are simple and highly cost effective.
 
For example, the project demonstrated that by making simple changes to tax letters, explaining that most people in the local area had already paid their taxes, repayment rates were boosted by around 15 percentage points.
 
If rolled out nationally, this would advance over £160 million of cash flow by around six weeks each year.

The paper also presents the preliminary findings from eight randomised controlled trials which BIT has run with a range of organisations - from local authorities to HMRC. 

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PLOS Biology: A Simple Mechanism for Complex Social Behavior

PLOS Biology: A Simple Mechanism for Complex Social Behavior | Bounded Rationality and Beyond | Scoop.it
Abstract The evolution of cooperation is a paradox because natural selection should favor exploitative individuals that avoid paying their fair share of any costs. Such conflict between the self-interests of cooperating individuals often results in the evolution of complex, opponent-specific, social strategies and counterstrategies. However, the genetic and biological mechanisms underlying complex social strategies, and therefore the evolution of cooperative behavior, are largely unknown. To address this dearth of empirical data, we combine mathematical modeling, molecular genetic, and developmental approaches to test whether variation in the production of and response to social signals is sufficient to generate the complex partner-specific social success seen in the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. Firstly, we find that the simple model of production of and response to social signals can generate the sort of apparent complex changes in social behavior seen in this system, without the need for partner recognition. Secondly, measurements of signal production and response in a mutant with a change in a single gene that leads to a shift in social behavior provide support for this model. Finally, these simple measurements of social signaling can also explain complex patterns of variation in social behavior generated by the natural genetic diversity found in isolates collected from the wild. Our studies therefore demonstrate a novel and elegantly simple underlying mechanistic basis for natural variation in complex social strategies in D. discoideum. More generally, they suggest that simple rules governing interactions between individuals can be sufficient to generate a diverse array of outcomes that appear complex and unpredictable when those rules are unknown.
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Foundations of Neuroeconomics: From Philosophy to Practice

Neuroeconomics is at a crossroads, poised to demonstrate that neuroscience can provide the same types of benefits it has long received from the social sciences. Ideas from game theory and expected utility theory can explain the responses of individual neurons to incoming information [2]. Similarly, aspects of utility theory can be used to describe the activity of populations of neurons within the brain's reward system [101]. There is also an opportunity for the axiomatic approach of decision theory to explain decision-making mechanisms [20], such as building from the response properties of dopaminergic neurons [102]. Without comparable examples of neuroscience data contributing to economic models, critics could argue that neuroeconomics research is a brain-centric enterprise that incorporates ideas from the social sciences without reciprocation [16,17].

We agree that neuroeconomic research has indeed been brain-centric, but stress that it need not remain so. The core criticisms of neuroeconomics constrain the practice of this field, but do not render it meaningless. Clear foundational principles remain. Neuroeconomics viaMechanistic Convergence can more efficiently direct the course of future behavioral studies. As an historical parallel, economists have explored psychological concepts (e.g., emotional influences on decision making) for many years [84,103–105], sparking a broad array of new behavioral experiments and theories. Furthermore, neuroeconomics can facilitate the creation and testing of models that adhere to Biological Plausibility. Social scientists (and neuroscientists) should not treat decision-making phenomena as irreducible and mechanism-independent. Instead, the joint investigation of brain and behavior will lead to greater success than either discipline could achieve in isolation.

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PLOS ONE: Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults

PLOS ONE: Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults | Bounded Rationality and Beyond | Scoop.it
Abstract

Over 500 million people interact daily with Facebook. Yet, whether Facebook use influences subjective well-being over time is unknown. We addressed this issue using experience-sampling, the most reliable method for measuring in-vivo behavior and psychological experience. We text-messaged people five times per day for two-weeks to examine how Facebook use influences the two components of subjective well-being: how people feel moment-to-moment and how satisfied they are with their lives. Our results indicate that Facebook use predicts negative shifts on both of these variables over time. The more people used Facebook at one time point, the worse they felt the next time we text-messaged them; the more they used Facebook over two-weeks, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time. Interacting with other people “directly” did not predict these negative outcomes. They were also not moderated by the size of people's Facebook networks, their perceived supportiveness, motivation for using Facebook, gender, loneliness, self-esteem, or depression. On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection. Rather than enhancing well-being, however, these findings suggest that Facebook may undermine it.

 
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Part Two of Scientific Proof of Law’s Overreliance On Reason: The “Reasonable Man” is Dead, Long Live the Whole Man

Part Two of Scientific Proof of Law’s Overreliance On Reason: The “Reasonable Man” is Dead, Long Live the Whole Man | Bounded Rationality and Beyond | Scoop.it
This is the second part of a three-part blog. You will need to read the first part for this segment to make sense. See Part One of Scientific Proof of Law’s Overreliance On Reason: The “Reasonable Man” is Dead, Long Live the Whole Man. Are you a die-hard rationalist and demand more proof that the Reasonable Man is a myth? More evidence? Then listen to Dan Ariely’s Doing The Right Things for The Wrong Reasons. Professor Ariely talks about more of his experiments. They show how immediate, tangible, emotions and concrete facts are a much more powerful motivator than all abstract knowledge. This means that one sanctions case invoking fear will do much more to encourage cooperation than a thousand law review articles. In my experience judges that threaten harsh punishment, that are known not to tolerate discovery misconduct, tend to have fewer disputes. Now we know why. Fear is a more powerful motivator than reason. For some people a good glass of wine is a powerful motivator too. Professor Ariely’s testimony in this video examines the big gap between everyone’s knowledge of what they should be doing, and what they actually are doing. The truth is, we often do not act reasonably. There are many other more powerful forces at work. One of the most important is environment, and thus my earlier comments on impressive court rooms, wigs, courtly conduct, and the like.
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The Psychology of Law and Discovery

The Psychology of Law and Discovery | Bounded Rationality and Beyond | Scoop.it

Reasonability is a core concept in the law, right up there with the idea of justice itself. It not only permeates negligence law, it underlies discovery law as well. For instance, a party in litigation, and the attorneys representing them, are required to make reasonableefforts to find relevant documents requested. They are required to make efforts that are good enough to be considered reasonable. But lawyers and litigants are not required to make efforts beyond that; not required to make super-human, stellar efforts, and certainly not perfect efforts.

Conversely, litigants and their lawyers are not permitted to make anything less than reasonable efforts to find the information requested. They are not permitted to make sub-standard, negligent efforts, and certainly not  grossly negligence efforts. Let us not even talk about intentionally obstructive or defiant efforts. The difference between best practice and malpractice is where the red line of unreasonable negligence is drawn.

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SUBJECTIVE MEASURES OF WELL-BEING: A PHILOSOPHICAL EXAMINATIO

Abstract

Over the last couple of decades, as part of the rise of positive psychology, psychologists have given increasing amounts of attention to so-called subjective measures of well-being. These measures, which are supposed to represent the well-being of individuals and groups, are often presented as alternatives to more traditional economic ones for purposes of the articulation, implementation and evaluation of public policy. Unlike economic measures, which are typically based on data about income, market transactions and the like, subjective measures are based on answers to questions like: "Taking things all together, how would you say things are these days - would you say you're very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy these days?" The aim of this dissertation is to explore issues in the philosophical foundations of subjective measures of well-being, with special emphasis on the manner in which the philosophical foundations of subjective measures differ from those of traditional economic measures. Moreover, the goal is to examine some arguments for and against these measures, and, in particular, arguments that purport to demonstrate the superiority of economic measures for purposes of public policy. My main thesis is that the claim that subjective measures of well-being cannot be shown to be inferior to economic measures quite as easily as some have suggested, but that they nevertheless are associated with serious problems, and that questions about the relative advantage of subjective and economic measures for purposes of public policy will depend on some fundamentally philosophical judgments, e.g. about the nature of well-being and the legitimate goals for public policy.

Angner, Erik

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Eli Levine's comment, January 26, 2014 11:42 AM
Very cool concept.<br><br>I wonder why he didn't choose to tighten up his argument by going after the scientific basis for happiness and well being.<br><br>Presumably, you can measure all of those things with brain scanning technology and examination into long term and short term causes for that biological happiness.
Eli Levine's comment, January 26, 2014 11:43 AM
Otherwise, very cool paper! :)
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13 Milliseconds: The Incredible Speed at Which Your Brain Can Identify an Image

13 Milliseconds: The Incredible Speed at Which Your Brain Can Identify an Image | Bounded Rationality and Beyond | Scoop.it
Scientist thought it took the brain at least one-tenth of a second to understand an image, until now.
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Jonathan Haidt: radici morali dei liberali e conservatori

Lo psicologo Jonathan Haidt studia i cinque principi morali che stanno alla base delle nostre scelte politiche, sia che siamo di sinistra, di destra o di centro. In questo sorprendente discorso , Haidt definisce i principi morali che liberali e conservatori tendono a onorare di piu'..
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Six ways our brains make bad financial decisions

Six ways our brains make bad financial decisions | Bounded Rationality and Beyond | Scoop.it

When it comes to money, we don’t know why we do the things we do – but behavioural economics has a few good hunches.

We all do it: hold on to a stock when every indicator screams sell, or spend our entire bonus on a new car instead of paying off debt. A whole new area of science called behavioural economics, or BE – a blend of psychology, economics, finance and sociology – has sprung up to explain why. According to BE pioneer and Duke University professor Dan Ariely (author of the bestseller Predictably Irrational) and Rotman School of Management researcher Nina Mazar, our brains are hard-wired to choose short-term payoff over long-term gain. Here are six common mistakes investors make – and how to avoid them.

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Fai uno sbaglio? Le donne lo capiscono prima

Fai uno sbaglio? Le donne lo capiscono prima | Bounded Rationality and Beyond | Scoop.it

I ‘neuroni specchio’ riconoscono azioni inappropriate in 200 millisecondi. La ricerca, condotta dal Cnr e dall’Università di Milano-Bicocca, indica anche che le donne hanno una maggiore suscettibilità alle azioni incongruenti rispetto agli uomini. Il gruppo di ricerca di Alice Mado Proverbio dell’Università di Milano-Bicocca insieme a Federica Riva e Alberto Zani dell’Istituto di bioimmagini e fisiologia molecolare (Ibfm) del Consiglio nazionale delle ricerche di Milano ha registrato i potenziali bioelettrici cerebrali negli esseri umani alla ricerca dei ‘neuroni specchio’, già identificati nella scimmia con registrazione da singola cellula.

Lo studio, recentemente apparso sulla rivista Neuropsychologia, consente di comprendere i processi neuronali che si attivano nel momento in cui osserviamo un’azione ‘sbagliata’ inducendoci, per esempio, a non imitarla.

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Influencing behaviour: The mindspace way

I

 a b s t r a c t

The ability to influence behaviour is central to many of the key policy challenges in areas such as health, finance and climate change. The usual route to behaviour change in economics and psychology has been to attempt to ‘change minds’ by influencing the way people think through information and incentives. There is, however, increasing evidence to suggest that ‘changing contexts’ by influencing the environments within which people act (in largely automatic ways) can have important effects on behaviour. We present a mnemonic, MINDSPACE, which gathers up the nine most robust effects that influence our behaviour in mostly automatic (rather than deliberate) ways. This framework is being used by policymakers as an accessible summary of the academic literature. To motivate further research and academic scrutiny, we provide some evidence of the effects in action and highlight some of the significant gaps in our knowledge.

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An Evolutionary Theory For Why You Love Glossy Things

An Evolutionary Theory For Why You Love Glossy Things | Bounded Rationality and Beyond | Scoop.it
People's taste for shiny stuff might be rooted in a very basic instinct. 

There's a great deal to like about this study. The researchers crafted their experiments carefully, tried to eliminate alternative explanations, and presented a theory for others scientists to explore further. At the same time, there's a lot to question. People may associate shiny stuff with wealth, for instance, but they associate water with wealth, too. Parsing out how much of the glossy-water connection is socialized and how much might be instinctual is a great challenge that no study can hope to conquer on its own.

Beyond that, any explanation for why we prefer glossy to matte must also account for the fact that we don't always prefer glossy to matte. Sometimes glossy interferes with readability (say, a sign that reflects bright light). Sometimes it conveys the wrong message (say, a glossy food ad that conjures up thoughts of grease). And sometimes it's just enough alreadyand we want something different. Evolution might drive some preferences, but preferences evolve, too.

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WHAT SCIENTIFIC IDEA IS READY FOR RETIREMENT

WHAT SCIENTIFIC IDEA IS READY FOR RETIREMENT | Bounded Rationality and Beyond | Scoop.it
Standard Deviation

 

The notion of standard deviation has confused hordes of scientists; it is time to retire it from common use and replace it with the more effective one of mean deviation. Standard deviation, STD, should be left to mathematicians, physicists and mathematical statisticians deriving limit theorems. There is no scientific reason to use it in statistical investigations in the age of the computer, as it does more harm than good—particularly with the growing class of people in social science mechanistically applying statistical tools to scientific problems.

Say someone just asked you to measure the "average daily variations" for the temperature of your town (or for the stock price of a company, or the blood pressure of your uncle) over the past five days. The five changes are: (-23, 7, -3, 20, -1). How do you do it?

Do you take every observation: square it, average the total, then take the square root? Or do you remove the sign and calculate the average? For there are serious differences between the two methods. The first produces an average of 15.7, the second 10.8. The first is technically called the root mean square deviation. The second is the mean absolute deviation, MAD. It corresponds to "real life" much better than the first—and to reality. In fact, whenever people make decisions after being supplied with the standard deviation number, they act as if it were the expected mean deviation.

 
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Access : Neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex encode economic value : Nature

Economic choice is the behaviour observed when individuals select one among many available options. There is no intrinsically ‘correct’ answer: economic choice depends on subjective preferences. This behaviour is traditionally the object of economic analysis1 and is also of primary interest in psychology2. However, the underlying mental processes and neuronal mechanisms are not well understood. Theories of human and animal choice1, 2, 3 have a cornerstone in the concept of ‘value’. Consider, for example, a monkey offered one raisin versus one piece of apple: behavioural evidence suggests that the animal chooses by assigning values to the two options4. But where and how values are represented in the brain is unclear. Here we show that, during economic choice, neurons in the orbitofrontal cortexOFC) encode the value of offered and chosen goods. Notably, OFC neurons encode value independently of visuospatial factors and motor responses. If a monkey chooses between A and B, neurons in the OFC encode the value of the two goods independently of whether A is presented on the right and B on the left, or vice versa. This trait distinguishes the OFC from other brain areas in which value modulates activity related to sensory or motor processes. Our results have broad implications for possible psychological models, suggesting that economic choice is essentially choice between goods rather than choice between actions. In this framework, neurons in the OFC seem to be a good candidate network for value assignment underlying economic choice.

http://www.unic.cnrs-gif.fr/media/pdf/PadoaSchioppaNature06.pdf

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Eli Levine's comment, January 29, 2014 10:50 AM
Interesting.<br><br>But who's to say that value is necessarily (or always) something that's material?<br><br>Does this apply to non-material values and non-material "things" (for want of a better word)?
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Entropy | Free Full-Text | Entropy and the Predictability of Online Life

Entropy | Free Full-Text | Entropy and the Predictability of Online Life | Bounded Rationality and Beyond | Scoop.it
Abstract: Using mobile phone records and information theory measures, our daily lives have been recently shown to follow strict statistical regularities, and our movement patterns are, to a large extent, predictable. Here, we apply entropy and predictability measures to two datasets of the behavioral actions and the mobility of a large number of players in the virtual universe of a massive multiplayer online game. We find that movements in virtual human lives follow the same high levels of predictability as offline mobility, where future movements can, to some extent, be predicted well if the temporal correlations of visited places are accounted for. Time series of behavioral actions show similar high levels of predictability, even when temporal correlations are neglected. Entropy conditional on specific behavioral actions reveals that in terms of predictability, negative behavior has a wider variety than positive actions. The actions that contain the information to best predict an individual’s subsequent action are negative, such as attacks or enemy markings, while the positive actions of friendship marking, trade and communication contain the least amount of predictive information. These observations show that predicting behavioral actions requires less information than predicting the mobility patterns of humans for which the additional knowledge of past visited locations is crucial and that the type and sign of a social relation has an essential impact on the ability to determine future behavior.
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PLOS ONE: Delineating Geographical Regions with Networks of Human Interactions in an Extensive Set of Countries

PLOS ONE: Delineating Geographical Regions with Networks of Human Interactions in an Extensive Set of Countries | Bounded Rationality and Beyond | Scoop.it
Abstract

Large-scale networks of human interaction, in particular country-wide telephone call networks, can be used to redraw geographical maps by applying algorithms of topological community detection. The geographic projections of the emerging areas in a few recent studies on single regions have been suggested to share two distinct properties: first, they are cohesive, and second, they tend to closely follow socio-economic boundaries and are similar to existing political regions in size and number. Here we use an extended set of countries and clustering indices to quantify overlaps, providing ample additional evidence for these observations using phone data from countries of various scales across Europe, Asia, and Africa: France, the UK, Italy, Belgium, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, and Ivory Coast. In our analysis we use the known approach of partitioning country-wide networks, and an additional iterative partitioning of each of the first level communities into sub-communities, revealing that cohesiveness and matching of official regions can also be observed on a second level if spatial resolution of the data is high enough. The method has possible policy implications on the definition of the borderlines and sizes of administrative regions.

 
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Perception and Persuasion in Legal Argumentation: Using Informal Fallacies and Cognitive Biases to Win the War of Words

When zealously advocating a client's position, the lawyer's ultimate

goal is winning. To win, however, the lawyer must convince a

judge or jury to accept the lawyer's (and reject opposing counsel's)

position. The best type of advocate accomplishes this goal using various

rhetorical techniques, attempting to manage other people's perceptions

of such things as the facts, the lawyer's own theory of the

case, the credibility of eyewitness testimony, the weaknesses of opposing

counsel's claims, and the praiseworthiness of the lawyer's

own client. By design, we have an adversary system. Roberto Aron

and his colleagues characterize litigation quite deftly.

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Consumer Choice and Revealed Bounded Rationality by Paola Manzini, Marco Mariotti :: SSRN

Consumer Choice and Revealed Bounded Rationality by Paola Manzini, Marco Mariotti :: SSRN | Bounded Rationality and Beyond | Scoop.it
We study two boundedly rational procedures in consumer behavior. We show that these procedures can be detected by conditions on observable demand data of the same type as standard revealed preference axioms. This provides the basis for a non-parametric analysis of boundedly rational consumer behavior mirroring the classical one for utility maximization. 

 

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Risk off

Risk off | Bounded Rationality and Beyond | Scoop.it

RISK has always had a bit of an image problem. It is associated in the popular mind with gamblers, skydivers and, more recently, the overpaid bankers who crippled the global economy. Yet long-term economic growth would be impossible without people willing to wager all they have by starting a business, expanding an existing one or trying to invent a better mousetrap. Such risk-taking has been disturbingly scarce in America of late: the number of self-employed workers, job-creation at start-ups and the sums invested in businesses have been low.

Though changing appetites for risk are central to booms and busts, economists have found it hard to explain their determinants. Instead, they tend to cite John Maynard Keynes’s catchy but uncrunchy talk of “animal spirits”. Recent advances in behavioural economics, however, are changing that.

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Don't Give Wrong Theories Funerals. Just Stop Treating Them as True.

Don't Give Wrong Theories Funerals. Just Stop Treating Them as True. | Bounded Rationality and Beyond | Scoop.it
Richard H. Thaler 

I have a problem with this question, so I will answer a somewhat different one. I suppose the intent of the question is to point to some ideas have been definitively shown to be either wrong or unhelpful, and so should be dropped from our scientific lexicon. In economics there are certainly many theories, hypotheses and models that are badly flawed descriptions of the behavior of economic agents, so one might think that I would have many nominations for ideas that should be given funerals. But I don't. That is because most of these theories, while demonstrably poor descriptions of reality, are extremely useful as theoretical baselines. As such, it would be a mistake to declare these theories dead.

Before getting to a couple specific examples, it is important to stress that in economics theories usually serve dual purposes. The first purpose is "normative" in the sense that it defines what a rational agentshould do. The second purpose of the theory is "descriptive"; that is, it is meant to be an accurate description of how firms actually behave. Economists use the same theory for both purposes, and this leads to problems.

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Dave Pizarro: La strana politica del disgusto

Che cosa ha a che fare il disgusto con il voto politico? 

 Attrezzato con indagini ed esperimenti, lo psicologo David Pizarro dimostra la correlazione tra la sensibilità a disgusto -- foto di feci, un odore sgradevole -- e il conservatorismo morale e politico.

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Behavioural Economics Events

Behavioural Economics Events | Bounded Rationality and Beyond | Scoop.it
We aim to provide a comprehensive list of events in behavioural science, behavioural economics and judgement and decision making.

 

The site was created by Joe Gladstone and is jointly run with Jon Jachimowicz, both research students in behavioural economics at the University of Cambridge. We welcome your event submissions. They will be moderated and appear on the site within 12 hours. Please include as much information as possible when submitting events, and if you encounter any problems, email Joe Gladstone at JJGladstone88@gmail.com 
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What Neuroscience Can Teach Us About Making a Deal With Iran

What Neuroscience Can Teach Us About Making a Deal With Iran | Bounded Rationality and Beyond | Scoop.it
Wondering whether the historic nuclear talks with Iran will succeed or fail? Study the brain.  

While only 14 nations, including Iran, enrich uranium (e.g. “what everyone else is doing”), Zarif’s message raises a question at the heart of ongoing talks to implement a final nuclear settlement with Tehran: Why has the Iranian government subjected its population to the most onerous sanctions regime in contemporary history in order to do this? Indeed, it’s estimated that Iran’s antiquated nuclear program needs one year to enrich as much uranium as Europe’s top facility produces in five hours. 


To many, the answer is obvious: Iran is seeking a nuclear weapons capability (which it has arguably already attained), if not nuclear weapons. Yet the numerous frameworks used to explain Iranian motivations—including geopolitics, ideology, nationalism, domestic politics, and threat perception—lead analysts to different conclusions. Does Iran want nuclear weapons to dominate the Middle East, or does it simply want the option to defend itself from hostile opponents both near and far? While there’s no single explanation for Tehran’s actions, if there is a common thread that connects these frameworks and may help illuminate Iranian thinking, it is the brain.
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These Scientists Studied Why Internet Stories Go Viral. You Won't Believe What They Found

These Scientists Studied Why Internet Stories Go Viral. You Won't Believe What They Found | Bounded Rationality and Beyond | Scoop.it
Science confirms what Buzzfeed and Upworthy already know: In the hierarchy of digital contagion content that evokes powerful emotions floats..Then again, many factors influence whether or not something goes viral. Interesting content is a must, and catching the eye of a major Twitter personality can't hurt. A heavy marketing push can also boost a video's exposure; (in fact, one of Neetzan Zimmerman's biggest fears, according to the Journal, is that advertisers will co-opt viral news). And, of course, there's the difficulty in evoking strong feelings in the first place. It's one thing to understand the emotions that compel a person to click. It's another thing entirely to produce them.
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