We Never Learn

After writing a pretty FAIL entry in the Logging Online category, the blog post for Stabbing Minds & Piercing Souls is going to be filled with grave angst and once or twice a shot of Mabelchism — beautiful beautiful explosions. Preferably exploding heads. Preferably exploding heads belonging to certain people.

Goodness, I feel so wrath-filled I could kill. This is one of those times when I feel I can never be glad again.

But blogging must go on. I am professional like that. Just do not expect anything sweet or friendly for a few months yet. I’m too busy stabbing certain minds and piercing other souls. In the most sadistic way imaginable.

I could go on like this for ages, but it wouldn’t fit the topic for today. Today’s topic is about the fallacies of the mind, notwithstanding the terrible fallacy of my father’s mind. But aside from silly people like my family, even normal intelligent people like you and I would make certain judgment and decision-making mistakes too! Don’t believe me?

1. Availability Heuristic

Do more words start with K or have K as the third letter?

Which is safer, travel by air or by car?

For the first example, there are more words with K as the third letter, and for the second question, travel by air is actually safer than travel by car! Did you guess them correctly? If not, you may have fallen prey to the availability heuristic. A few vivid examples carry more weight than dull statistics based on a large sample. You may have thought of a lot more examples of words starting with K and notable airplane crashes and accidents, thereby making the wrong judgment.

2. Representativeness Heuristic

Which is more likely: heads heads heads tails tails tails or heads tails tails heads tails heads?

Both are actually equally likely, as you may have known. But intuition might have asked you to pick the second option because it is a more typical representative of random coin flips.

3. Anchoring and Adjustment Heuristic

I give you 5 seconds each to estimate the answer to these 2 problems.

1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5 x 6 x 7 x 8 =?

8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 =?

For the first problem, the average estimated answer was 512. For the second problem, the average answer was 2250. The correct answer for both problems, which are the same as 8!, is 40 320.

Why were the 2 estimations so different, though? It is because in the first 5 seconds, people only have time to process the multiplications of perhaps the first 3 digits. This forms their anchor. In the first problem, the anchor is likely to hover around 6. In the second problem, the anchor is near to 336. Having this anchor, they adjust the number upwards to account for the remaining multiplications. 6 and 336 are estimates that are quite far apart, thus resulting in different answers.

4. Framing Effect

Imagine the following 2 scenarios.

Suppose you are going to the theatre where a ticket costs $100.  When you get there, you realise that somewhere along the way, you lost $100 in cash.  You still have enough money to buy a ticket, will you still go and see the show?
Suppose you are going to the theatre where a ticket costs $100.  When you get there, you realise that somewhere along the way, you lost your ticket.  You still have enough money to buy another ticket, will you still go and see the show?

Would your answers be different? Most people would buy another ticket if they lost $100, because they attribute losing cash to bad luck and the mental price of the ticket would still be $100. However, if they had lost the ticket, they would not buy another. They attribute the mental price of the ticket as $200 now, not at all worth it anymore.

What framing effect teaches us is that the presentation of an issue will influence people’s opinion on it. Talking about its positive aspects will reinforce positive standards of evaluation toward it, and vice versa.

Try changing the minds of people around you with this new mind manipulation magic you’ve learnt today! As for me, I shall walk off to finish my unfinished work — venting my vexations with murder.


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