Tag: rationality

  • Against Behavioural Economics and Irrationality

    Praising¬†Maurice Allais as the father of behavioural economics rather than Kahneman and¬†Tversky, ¬†John Kay introduces us to some of Allais’ ideas while simultaneously providing one of the finest arguments against the simplistic view of behavioural economics as the study of irrationality: The skill of piecing together sense from fragmented and inaccurate information is a central…

  • The Virtues of Rationality

    The name Eliezer Yudkowsky immediately conjours in my mind the word rationality (thanks to his addictive piece of fan fiction,¬†Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality). On a recent visit to his site, this connection has now be strengthened after I saw his excellent essay on¬†the twelve virtues of rationality: Curiosity: A burning itch to…

  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

    The¬†First Law of Fanfiction states that¬†every change which strengthens the protagonists requires a corresponding worsening of their challenges. [‚Ķ]¬†stories are about conflict; a hero too strong for their conflict is no longer in tense, heart-pounding difficulty. [‚Ķ] The¬†Rationalist Fanfiction Principle states that¬†rationality is not magic; being rational does not require magical potential or royal bloodlines…

  • Anchoring Our Beliefs

    The psychological principle of anchoring is most commonly discussed in terms of our irrational decision making when purchasing items. However, Jonah Lehrer stresses that anchoring is more wide-ranging than this and is in fact “a fundamental flaw of human decision making”. As such, Lehrer believes that anchoring also effects our beliefs, such that our first…

  • Optimism as Incentive

    Much has been written on the (ir)rationality of purchasing lottery tickets (Eliezer Yudkowsky’s viewpoint is particularly fine), but little has been said on applications of these biases that could improve the finances of all of those who buy a ticket. Now behavioural economists are attempting to boost the historically poor household savings rate by¬†using our…

  • (Preventing) Manipulation Through Irrationality

    Through the theories discussed in Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational (and largely based on the excerpts in Chris Yeh’s outline of the book), two articles have emerged on different sides of one topic: our irrational decision-making in terms of products and purchases. One on how to take advantage of our irrationality when marketing products, and another…

  • The Realistic Threat of Terrorism

    To think rationally about risk is to think probabilistically / statistically about the dangers we face. Noting that “the most dangerous person you’re ever likely to encounter ‚Äď by several orders of magnitude ‚Äď is the one you see in the mirror every morning”, John Goekler offers some perspective on what risks we really should…

  • Being Rational About Risk

    Leonard Mlodinow‚ÄĒphysicist at Caltech¬†and author of The Drunkard’s Walk, a highly-praised book looking at randomness and our inability to take it into account‚ÄĒhas an interview in The New York Times about understanding risk. Some choice quotes: I find that predicting the course of our lives is like predicting the weather. You might be able to…

  • Superstition and Irrationality

    I’d like to class myself as a fairly rational being, but we all have our transgressions,¬†right? So¬†are we all maybe a bit superstitious? To answer this, Richard Wiseman¬†offers this common thought¬†experiment from¬†Bruce Hood‚Äôs new book,¬†Supersense: Imagine that you only have two objects in your house: 1) A ¬£10 watch that was given to you by…

  • Testing Rationality and Bias

    How can we test our rationality and various biases? Shouldn’t you get more rationality credit if you spend more time studying common biases, statistical techniques, and the like?¬† Well this would be good evidence of your rationality¬†if¬†you were in fact pretty¬†rational about your rationality, i.e., if you knew that when you read or discussed such…