Deceived by our perception

November 14, 2009

In its “The Black Swan” Taleb speaks about two kind of reasonings: inside the box and outside the box. Usually thinking inside the box means a skilled ability to incorporate a set of hypothesis and inferring a prediction. These are academics. Thinking outside the box means a skilled ability to question a set of ¬†hypothesis and explaining why they are wrong. This is business.

The debate on who is right seems quite harsh, but I think that the Journal of Judgement and Decision Making can be a nail that connect the two ways of thinking. This journal is about bias, rationality, psychology, and perception that affects our decisions. ¬†For example in The Retrospective Gambler’s Fallacy authors shows that we are likely to explain low probability events with an high number of unseen/unknown previous samples. A nice example is that of the lottery: if our neighbour wins the lottery than we think “for sure he is a usual player”, otherwise if he loses we think “well, buying a ticket won’t make you win a lottery”. Of course both reasoning are faulty, we do not know how many tickets our neighbor bought! In general they are very interesting papers, scientifically supported and clearly written.

There a lot of this perception effects and I was quite surprised that I am biased exactly the way they say, this is really reproducible science. They are somewhat simple to state and to understand but incredibly tricky and sneaky to be spotted in our own way of being.

There is also the opposite effects: psychological effects that we believe to exist but are simply myhts without scientifical evidence, in the book 50 great myths of popular psychology they explain that it is a myth that positive attitude stave off cancer or that subliminal advertising works.

So… don’t trust yourselves!