Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The selfish opinion

John Bargh [1] is now pushing the idea of "The Selfish goal" where our mind is composed of various half-independent goals each of whihc is actually caring on its own, and that our actions and behavior is the composite of all this.

It made me thinking about "selfish opinions" implying that we have multiple competing opinions perceptions etc. which create the final opinion by aggregation. Just like Bargh's goals theory.

That way overstated "irrational" intuitions may combine to an optimal aggregated opinion.
Compatible with what we know that people are quite overreacting with specific questions (like stereotypes or heuristics generally). But these opinions are usually reality compatible (most stereotypes are true says literature).

When one makes a decision his mind sum up a bunch of overstated discrete-like opinions, and the decision is their (kind of) sum. An extreme statement when mixed with twenty other opinions may turn out quite representing reality. (The overstated opinion is actually diluted to 5% and in this amount it corresponds to the real values).

Generally this is compatible with the idea of ecological rationality of Greg Gigerenzer and dan Goldstein. In this view, heuristics that may not be "correct" in laboratory settings (like in Kahneman & Tversky's experiments) may still be very efficient for real life situations, because in the complexity of life there are various parameters etc. that make our seemingly incorrect intuitions reasonably efficient.

[1] (father of the research showing the enormous power of the unconsciousness in making us do things taht look exactly the same as if we did them consciousely + showing how easy it is to make people do things by unconscious means like showing flags (Hassin) putting a suitcase mnear the door or giving them to play with words)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The illusion of suboptimality and irrationality

Many times we feel that the world is highly irational and suboptimal (i.e. things can be done is a much better way). This is sometimes the case, but maybe less than as it seems. Our eyes are very misleading about it.

The reason is because the hypothetical reality (that is before any decision has been made) contains a hugte space of possibilities. The decision and actions people take are usually relatively good among the overal space of possibilities.

But the decisions people take may not be the absolute optimum. That is they are not the very best set of decisions. But they are still very good.

After the fact thinking will start off with what decisions already made, and try to look for alternatives based on this optimized decision. Insofar that the decision was not the absolute optimal it will look like there are better decisions and the decision maker was a fool.

Suppose there are a billion possible compositions one can lead to by various combinations of decisions. Suppose further that we sort them throught a single measure. If the actual decision ranked 100th, it should be a great decision, but starting from there one will see that it is the worst out of hundred possibilities.

This mistake has various kinds.:
Ignoring the fact that there were a lot of worse decisions.
Perceiving the "better" decisions as many and forgetting that among the original set of possibilities these super optimal decisions were a tiny unseen minority.
Forgetting possible drawbacks of the super-optimal decisions that just seem irelevant from a current point of view.

Intuitively it feels that there is a deeper side to it. Focusing on theis ex-post space seriousely distorts the whole situation.