A stated preference survey was used to investigate the potential discrepancy between the priorities of public administrators and the general public regarding risk reductions. Both groups of respondents were asked to assume the role of a public policy-maker and choose between different public safety projects. We investigate differences in three areas: (i) large vs. small accidents, (ii) actual vs. subjective risk, and (iii) the trade-off between avoiding fatalities and serious injuries for different age groups and accidents. We find only minor differences between the responses of administrators and the general public, the most important of which is the difference in priorities between reducing the risk of many small or one large accident. In this area the most common response from the general public is that they prefer avoiding many small accidents rather than one large accident while among the administrators there is almost an equal split between the two options.
Next in our series of decision making science In The Wild is Rory Sutherland, the Vice-Chairman of Ogilvy Group, one of the largest communications groups in the UK with 11 specialist companies ranging from PR, design, digital and advertising agencies. He’s the former president of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising in the UK, and a vocal advocate for the use of behavioural economics in social policy, marketing, advertising and market research. He’s also the founder of their newest division,OgilvyChange, that combines the behavioural academic research with the communications expertise of Ogilvy Group.
Everything is Obvious *Once You Know The Answer - How Common Sense Fails Us - Duncan J. Watts: Why did Facebook succeed when other social networking sites failed? Did the surge in Iraq really lead to less violence?
Models of networked diffusion that are motivated by analogy with the spread of infectious disease have been applied to a wide range of social and conomic adoption processes, including those related to new products, ideas, norms and behaviors. However, it is unknown how accurately these models account for the empirical structure of diffusion over networks. Here we escribe the diffusion patterns arising from seven online domains, ranging from communications platforms to networked games to microblogging services, each involving distinct types of content and modes of sharing. We ﬁnd trikingly similar patterns across all domains. In particular, the vast majority of cascades are small, and are described by a handful of simple tree structures that terminate within one degree of an initial adopting “seed.” In addition we ﬁnd that structures other than these account for only a tiny fraction of total adoptions; that is, adoptions resulting from chains of referrals are extremely rare. Finally, even for the largest cascades that we observe, we ﬁnd that the bulk of adoptions often takes place within one degree of a few dominant individuals. Together, these observations suggest new directions for modeling of online adoption processes.
Understanding how the brain works is arguably one of the greatest scientific challenges of our time. Although there have been piecemeal efforts to explain how different brain regions operate, no general theory of brain function is universally accepted. A fundamental underlying limitation is our ignorance of the brain's microcircuitry, the synaptic connections contained within any given brain area, which Cajal referred to as “impenetrable jungles where many investigators have lost themselves” (Ramón y Cajal, 1923). To explore these jungles, neuroscientists have traditionally relied on electrodes that sample brain activity only very sparsely—from one to a few neurons within a given region. However, neural circuits can involve millions of neurons, so it is probable that neuronal ensembles operate at a multineuronal level of organization, one that will be invisible from single neuron recordings, just as it would be pointless to view an HDTV program by looking just at one or a few pixels on a screen.
Neural circuit function is therefore likely to be emergent—that is, it could arise from complex interactions among constituents. This hypothesis is supported by the well-documented recurrent and distributed architecture of connections in the CNS. Indeed, individual neurons generally form synaptic contacts with thousands of other neurons. In distributed circuits, the larger the connectivity matrix, the greater the redundancy within the network and the less important each neuron is. Despite these anatomical facts, neurophysiological studies have gravitated toward detailed descriptions of the stable feature selectivity of individual neurons, a natural consequence of single-electrode recordings. However, given their distributed connections and their plasticity, neurons are likely to be subject to continuous, dynamic rearrangements, participating at different times in different active ensembles. Because of this, measuring emergent functional states, such as dynamical attractors, could be more useful for characterizing the functional properties of a circuit than recording receptive field responses from individual cells. Indeed, in some instances where large-scale population monitoring of neuronal ensembles has been possible, emergent circuit states have not been predictable from responses from individual cells.
In times of crisis, mentally ill leaders—including Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill—can see what others don't. Adapted from A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness by Nassir Ghaemi.
IL GENIO SINGOLO PUÒ ESSERE AFFASCINANTE, MA IL GRUPPO È SPESSO PIÙ SCALTRO DEL MIGLIOR ESPERTO. PER POTER FUNZIONARE IN MANIERA OTTIMALE, PERÒ, L’INTELLIGENZA COLLETTIVA HA BISOGNO DEL CONTESTO GIUSTO
Un gruppo di lavoro in cui tutti si imbeccano a vicenda, un complesso jazz dove ogni musicista suona la cosa giusta, apparentemente senza bisogno di accordi preliminari, un panel congressuale che produce un gran numero di idee. Ogni volta che si mette al lavoro l'intelligenza collettiva, si hanno risultati sorprendenti. Sia i partecipanti che gli osservatori esterni sentono che l'insieme è maggiore della somma delle parti. Quando opera la "saggezza dei molti", il gruppo sembra diventare un organismo autonomo, che sviluppa processi di pensiero tutti suoi. Ma per ottenere questo tipo d'intelli¬genza collettiva non sempre sono indispensabili i grandi numeri: per far scattare la scintilla basta a volte far lavorare insieme alla soluzione d'un problema due persone che non si conoscono. Dan Schwartz, professore di Pedagogia alla Stanford University, ha sottoposto i suoi studenti a difficili problemi dì intelligenza spaziale, come indovinare il senso di rotazione degli ingranaggi in un meccanismo complesso. Da soli, i soggetti raramente riuscivano a trovare la soluzione giusta. Lavorandoci insieme, in due o più, non solo davano la risposta esatta, ma arrivavano a capire meglio il principio di funzionamen¬to del meccanismo in questione. Quando un problema complesso viene considerato da più lati, grazie alla collaborazione di vari cervelli, è più facile scoprire le regole su cui si fonda.
Skepticism about the epistemic value of intuition in theoretical and philosophical inquiry fueled by the empirical discovery of irrational bias (e.g., the order effect) in people’s judgments has recently been challenged by research suggesting that people can introspectively track intuitional instability. The two studies reported here build upon this, the first by demonstrating that people are able to introspectively track instability that was experimentally induced by introducing conflicting expert opinion about certain cases, and the second by demonstrating that it was the presence of instability—not merely the presence of conflicting information—that resulted in changes in the relevant attitudinal states (i.e., confidence and belief strength). The paper closes with the suggestion that perhaps the best explanation for these (and other) findings may be that intuitional instability is not actually ‘‘intuitional.’’
With respect to questions of fact, people use heuristics – mental short-cuts, or rules of thumb, that generally work well, but that also lead to systematic errors. People use moral heuristics too – moral short-cuts, or rules of thumb, that lead to mistaken and even absurd moral judgments. These judgments are highly relevant not only to morality, but to law and politics as well. Examples are given from a number of domains, including risk regulation, punishment, reproduction and sexuality, and the act/omission distinction. In all of these contexts, rapid, intuitive judgments make a great deal of sense, but sometimes produce moral mistakes that are replicated in law and policy. One implication is that moral assessments ought not to be made by appealing to intuitions about exotic cases and problems; those intuitions are particularly unlikely to be reliable. Another implication is that some deeply held moral judgments are unsound if they are products of moral heuristics. The idea of error-prone heuristics is especially controversial in the moral domain, where agreement on the correct answer may be hard to elicit; but in many contexts, heuristics are at work and they do real damage. Moral framing effects, including those in the context of obligations to future generations, are also discussed.
The document is an exploration of the critical issues arising from the emerging Internet economy, in order to inform Dutch policy makers and to help prepare for the Dutch position in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) conference on the Internet at Seoul in 2008. It is based on a horizon scan of literature and subsequent discussions in four thematic seminars on 17 and 18 October 2007. The document identifies underlying issues and dilemmas that policy makers will face as the Internet economy develops and analyses these in relation to the changing policy context in which the Ministry of Economic Affairs operates. As well as the impact on the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the study looks at the impact of the Internet economy on the government and the public at large, and makes suggestions as to how the Ministry may address them. The paper informs the reader of key issues and makes statements for discussion. As this field is still very much in early development, the paper aims to foster an ongoing inclusive debate on the subject. This 'discussion paper' format aims to make the underlying issues more explicit and to trigger a broader debate on the effects of the emerging Internet economy. Besides being a discussion paper, the document also serves as a briefing paper for the Dutch delegation to the 2008 OECD Ministerial Conference. As a result, the document includes in places a deeper exploration of the themes of the Conference.
Banks and their leadership have a long way to go to get out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves in the minds of most people. While disasters provide a great opportunity to show caring, I don’t think that banks need to wait for another hurricane to do something –there are many ways to show care and commitment to the community, and it’s in everyone’s interest that they start soon.
The superior capability of experts to rapidly solve problems depends largely on their intuition, and it has long been known that this is related to experience and training. Although many psychological models relating to the development of intuition have been proposed to explain this phenomenon, none have been validated, and the underlying neural mechanisms remain a mystery.
Recent work has demonstrated that Web search volume can “predict the present,” meaning that it can be used to accurately track outcomes such as unemployment levels, auto and home sales, and disease prevalence in near real time. Here we show that what consumers are searching for online can also predict their collective future behavior days or even weeks in advance. Specifically we use search query volume to forecast the opening weekend box-office revenue for feature films, first-month sales of video games, and the rank of songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, finding in all cases that search counts are highly predictive of future outcomes. We also find that search counts generally boost the performance of baseline models fit on other publicly available data, where the boost varies from modest to dramatic, depending on the application in question. Finally, we reexamine previous work on tracking flu trends and show that, perhaps surprisingly, the utility of search data relative to a simple autoregressive model is modest. We conclude that in the absence of other data sources, or where small improvements in predictive performance are material, search queries provide a useful guide to the near future.
Digital data stem from our own personal and social cognitive processes and thus express them in one way or another. But we still don’t have any scientific tools to make sense of the data flows produced by online creative conversations at the scale of the digital medium as a whole.
Studies suggest that fiscal multipliers are currently high in many advanced economies. One important implication is that fiscal tightening could raise the debt ratio in the short term, as fiscal gains are partly wiped out by the decline in output. Although this effect is not longlasting and debt eventually declines, it could be an issue if financial markets focus on the short-term behavior of the debt ratio, or if country authorities engage in repeated rounds of tightening in an effort to get the debt ratio to converge to the official target. We discuss whether these problems could be addressed by setting and monitoring debt targets in cyclically-adjusted terms.
A region of the brain known to play a key role in visual and spatial processing has a parallel function: sorting visual information into categories, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Chicago. ....
"There has long been a tendency to look at the many distinct anatomical areas of the cerebral cortex of the brain and to assume that each area is like a specialized module that plays a very specific function." Freedman said. "Our results support the growing sense that most, if not all, of these brain areas have multiple overlapping roles."
A brain that includes such overlapping functional centers may be more efficient, Freedman suggests. "It makes mapping these regions more complicated for scientists like us, but it may boost the brain's capacity. If each area can do a number of different things, you can squeeze a lot more function into the same space."
THE WISDOM OF CROWDS by James SurowieckiIn this endlessly fascinating book, New Yorker columnist James Surowiecki explores a deceptively simple idea that has profound implications: large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant—better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, even predicting the future.
This seemingly counterintuitive notion has endless and major ramifications for how businesses operate, how knowledge is advanced, how economies are (or should be) organized and how we live our daily lives. With seemingly boundless erudition and in delightfully clear prose, Surowiecki ranges across fields as diverse as popular culture, psychology, ant biology, economic behaviorism, artificial intelligence, military history and political theory to show just how this principle operates in the real world.
Despite the sophistication of his arguments, Surowiecki presents them in a wonderfully entertaining manner. The examples he uses are all down-to-earth, surprising, and fun to ponder. Why is the line in which you're standing always the longest? Why is it that you can buy a screw anywhere in the world and it will fit a bolt bought ten-thousand miles away? Why is network television so awful? If you had to meet someone in Paris on a specific day but had no way of contacting them, when and where would you meet? Why are there traffic jams? What's the best way to win money on a game show? Why, when you walk into a convenience store at 2:00 A.M. to buy a quart of orange juice, is it there waiting for you? What do Hollywood mafia movies have to teach us about why corporations exist?
Recent research provides evidence that one important difference between liberals and conservatives is their basic moral intuitions. These studies suggest that while liberals and conservatives respond similarly to considerations of harm/care and fairness (what Graham and Haidt call the “individualizing” foundations), conservatives also respond strongly to considerations of in-group, authority, and purity (the “binding” foundations) while liberals do not. Our study examined two alternative hypotheses for this difference—theﬁrst being that liberals cognitively override, and the alternative being that conservatives cognitively enhance, their binding foundation intuitions. Using self-regulation depletion and cognitive load tasks to compromise people's ability to monitor and regulate their automatic moral responses, we found support for the latter hypothesis—when cognitive resources were depleted/distracted, conservatives became more like liberals (de-prioritizing the binding foundations), rather than the other way around. This provides support for the view that conservatism is a form of motivated social cognition.
Magnetic stimulation is a standard tool in brain research and has found important clinical applications in neurology, psychiatry, and rehabilitation. Whereas coil designs and the spatial field properties have been intensively studied in the literature, the temporal dynamics of the field has received less attention. Typically, the magnetic field waveform is determined by available device circuit topologies rather than by consideration of what is optimal for neural stimulation. This paper analyzes and optimizes the waveform dynamics using a nonlinear model of a mammalian axon. The optimization objective was to minimize the pulse energy loss. The energy loss drives power consumption and heating, which are the dominating limitations of magnetic stimulation. The optimization approach is based on a hybrid global-local method. Different coordinate systems for describing the continuous waveforms in a limited parameter space are defined for numerical stability. The optimization results suggest that there are waveforms with substantially higher efficiency than that of traditional pulse shapes. One class of optimal pulses is analyzed further. Although the coil voltage profile of these waveforms is almost rectangular, the corresponding current shape presents distinctive characteristics, such as a slow low-amplitude first phase which precedes the main pulse and reduces the losses. Representatives of this class of waveforms corresponding to different maximum voltages are linked by a nonlinear transformation. The main phase, however, scales with time only. As with conventional magnetic stimulation pulses, briefer pulses result in lower energy loss but require higher coil voltage than longer pulses.
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