the ever fallible myopic vindictive emotional biased me (and you)

Es­ti­mated reading time is 3 min­utes.

GROWING UP, I had a con­sid­er­able amount of ‘emo­tional’ ob­sta­cles to over­come, many of which were daunting. At least they seemed that way to the teenaged me. To deaden the pain (and the ever-attendant hu­mil­i­a­tion), I adopted a form of pro­tec­tion from life’s daily barbs by holding my emo­tions at bay.

I got so good at this that for a while my nick­name among my friend was “Mr. Spock.” The opening para­graph above is in­tended to per­son­alize (so you don’t think I am just ex­er­cising my copying-and-pasting skills) my lead into the following:

“Con­sider an ex­per­i­ment econ­o­mists call the ul­ti­matum game: the ex­per­i­menter gives one player, the sender, $20 to dis­tribute be­tween him­self and an­other player, the re­ceiver. An egal­i­tarian sender might pro­pose a split of $10 each. A more selfish sender might pro­pose to give the re­ceiver only $1, keeping $19 for him­self. If the re­ceiver ac­cepts the deal, the two players col­lect their shares. If the re­ceiver re­jects the deal, both walk away with nothing.

Were hu­mans per­fectly ra­tional, the re­ceiver would ac­cept what­ever is of­fered: even a dollar is better than nothing, right? In­stead, re­searchers find, re­ceivers will re­ject an overly lop­sided deal, gladly giving up their shares just to punish the stingy senders.

In The Up­side Of Ir­ra­tionality, Dan Ariely gives us a tour of the ir­ra­tional side of human decision-making and the sci­ence of be­hav­ioral eco­nomics. When it comes to our mo­ti­va­tions, he writes, we are less like ‘hyper-rational Mr. Spock’ and more like the ‘fal­lible, my­opic, vin­dic­tive, emo­tional, bi­ased Homer Simpson.’

Given these frail­ties, Ariely wants to help us ‘figure out how we can get the most good and least bad out of our­selves’ when making choices about our money, our re­la­tion­ships and our happiness.”



You had me at Spock and Simpson

The above para­graphs are from a re­view in The New York Times Sunday Book Re­view ti­tled “What We Mis­un­der­stand” by Kyla Dunn (June 4, 2010). Ms Dunn is a sci­ence jour­nalist and ed­itor and is cur­rently training as a ge­netic coun­selor at the Stan­ford School of Medicine.

I had stum­bled over the book re­searching some­thing en­tirely dif­ferent (Grom­mett bless the va­garies of the search en­gines). I Googled the book and came across Ms. Dunn’s re­view, which made the book sound in­triguing. I im­me­di­ately or­dered it from the library.

I dis­cov­ered that Mr. Ariely has a pre­vious book on the same topic, Pre­dictably Ir­ra­tional The Hidden Forces That Shape Our De­ci­sions. This had also been re­viewed by TNYTSBR under the title “Eco­nomics” by David Berreby (March 16, 2008):

“For years, the ide­ology of free mar­kets be­strode the world, bending pol­i­tics as well as eco­nomics to its core as­sump­tion: market forces pro­duce the best so­lu­tion to any problem. But these days, even Bill Gates says capitalism’s work is un­sat­is­fac­tory for one-third of hu­manity, and not even Hillary Clinton sup­ports Bill Clinton’s 1990s trade pacts.

An­other sign that times are changing is Pre­dictably Ir­ra­tional, a book that both ex­em­pli­fies and ex­plains this shift in the cul­tural winds. Here, Dan Ariely tells us that ‘life with fewer market norms and more so­cial norms would be more sat­is­fying, cre­ative, ful­filling and fun.’

By the way, the con­fer­ence where he had this in­sight wasn’t spon­sored by the Fed­eral Re­serve, where he is a re­searcher. It came to him at Burning Man, the an­nual an­ar­chist con­clave where clothes are op­tional and money is banned. Ariely calls it ‘the most ac­cepting, so­cial and caring place I had ever been.’ Ob­vi­ously, this sly and lucid book is not about your grandfather’s dismal science.”



You had me at Burning Man

Need­less to say, I had to go back and order this book from the li­brary! So, hope­fully, a few weeks down the line I will be back with an ad­dendum to this post that con­tains a re­view of one or both of these ti­tles. (And per­haps ex­plains why I ti­tled this “The ever fal­lible my­opic vin­dic­tive emo­tional bi­ased me (and you).”





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