Psychology of Political Thought
TS2S 405 Fort Lewis College
Conspiracy: 1 a : to join in a secret agreement to do an unlawful or wrongful act or an act which becomes unlawful as a result of the secret agreement b : SCHEME A conspiracy theory is a description of how one or more groups of people manipulate different aspects of the world. 2 a theory that group(s) of people manipulate the social/physical world outside of the awareness of the general population. Theory: A proposed explanation of how the world works.
A Brief Typology of Conspiracy Theories
Anti Government: JFK, Moon landing, CIA and Drugs, Bushes and S&L, Clinton, Waco, fluoridation, microchips Anti Corporate/capitalism: oil companies, alternative fuels, money in politics, war, Christian conspiracies, OKC, voting machines International: New world order, UN, Bilderberg group Anti-Religious: Anti-Mormons, Catholics, Jews, Masons, Moonies, etc. Satanic and secular humanism conspiracies: eye on dollar, etc. Anti communist: civil rights movement, John Birch Society, McCarthyism Racial: genocide, white policy on drugs, Klan, Church’s fried chicken, Snapple, Al Sharpton’s office bombing, OJ, Tuskeegee Media conspiracies: suppression of information by right or left Events: 9-11, TWA 800, Korean Air 007, Ron Brown’s commerce plane crash, JFK Aliens and UFOs, ghosts/paranormal, Satan, Bermuda triangle Individuals: The Bushes, Ken Lay, Bill Gates, the Rosenbergs
Good Paper Topic Characteristics
Is related to political thought You can find resources both pro and con on the theory You can find at least 7 sources per side
How do we come to know what we think we know?
Epistemology: The study of what we think we know and how we come to know it.
It’s study implies finding truth is tricky business.
Neither do the ignorant love wisdom or desire to become wise; for this is the grievous thing about ignorance, that those who are neither good nor beautiful nor sensible think they are good enough, and do not desire that which they do not think they are lacking.
Plato, Symposium 203E-204A
Methods of ―Knowing‖
1. Authority. We listen to the experts, family, friends, Internet, media, etc.. But how do they know?
Problems: people may not be true experts, authorities often disagree, etc. This is knowledge based on FAITH
2. Tradition. That’s the way it’s always worked/been, so it must be true.
Authority of the past. May be prejudiced or simply reiterated falsehoods
Methods of ―Knowing‖
3. Conventional Wisdom (media). ―All I know is what I read in the papers‖ Will Rogers. – and what other people are saying.
But, advertising campaigns try to sway this. Debeers example. The media is not an unbiased presenter of info. It primarily entertains, focuses on negative, scandal, etc. Camera doesn’t lie, but it doesn’t tell the whole truth either. Crude logic But common sense can often be wrong. Gambler’s fallacy
4. Common Sense – it seems plausible or just makes sense.
Methods of ―Knowing‖
5. Formal Logic. Knowledge from rational argument. But while adhering to logical rules is desirable,
Logic only proceeds from uncertain assumptions. There is no single affirmative answer to most logical problems But can you really trust your perceptions? Overgeneralization Selective observation Premature closure (selective exposure) Optical illusions
6. Personal Experience. If I see it I believe it.
Methods of ―Knowing‖
7. Science. The dominant methodology today. A process for finding ―truth,‖ a system of explicit rules and procedures to guide the accumulation and summary of observations among a community of learners.
Science also requires faith in the method and the scientists themselves. Since religion doesn't use this methodology, it's by definition not scientific; rather religion turns to other authorities
Investment. People believe in the things in which they’ve invested resources. They invest a lot of time, money, other resources in groups, causes, etc. They resist change in the face of conflicting information.
Science as a way of knowing
Science: Greek for "to know" Science is a set of procedures based on logical rules to arrive at the ―best‖ (most probable) understanding of things we observe. It helps us examine explanations (theories) through systematic comparison of logical predictions (hypotheses) against observable evidence. Assumptions: Conclusions must obey rules of formal logic. Object of study must be empirical, observable. Conclusions based on probabilistic reasoning. What is the probability that an answer is correct? Science is MUCH more rigorous and systematic that casual human thought.
The Scientific Process
Stages of the scientific research process. The Hypothetic-Deductive Method Hypothesis, theory, research design, define observations (measurement), collect, summarize data (analysis), generalize from data
Theories: Proposed explanations of how the world works and how concepts are linked. Purpose is to explain reality Should explain the most with the least (fit + parsimony). A theory is only as good as it is useful in explaining observations
Compare stick figure to real person
Theories are not necessarily ―true‖; they’re simplifications Theories are not necessarily universal; they’re context sensitive Without theory, social science would be a disconnected and meaningless pile of observations, data, and statistics. Theories help us know what to look for, what an observation might mean, and helps us make generalizations about how the world works.
Hypothesis: Specific predictions deduced from a theory. A observable manifestation of a theory. A sentence proposing a relationship between two specific variables.
Ex: Republicans approve more of George Bush’s job. They are statements to be proved or disproved. Null hypothesis: there is no relationship between the variables.
Variables must be clearly defined and observable (measurable)
Measurement: Factors of interest must be defined, observed, and counted: To do that, translate concepts into observable indicators of a concept (variables) Must define the key concepts (abstract categories)
Concept: class of related things
Ex: Animal: can't touch one, only its instances Instances: bears, dogs, cats, whales, horses.
Members of class actually differ in many important ways.
Ex: Food, claws, habits, habitats, vocalization, etc.
Concept is the common characteristic among them We impose the commonality--it exists in our minds as our way of making sense of the world. Concepts are 1) tentative, 2) based on social agreement, 3) useful only if they capture a useful slice of reality Concepts are the building blocks of understanding, language and science
Variables (Indicators)-- Variables are observable manifestations of a concept
Must be observable Must capture the concept (valid) Must produce same results each time (reliable)
A method for systematically gathering observations
Survey of citizens Classical experiment Participant Observation Key: How you gather observations affects the logical conclusions you can make from them.
Ex: random sampling.
Then, go out and gather the data!
Summarize your observations
Can be done descriptively (qualitative) or through statistical data analysis (quantitative)
Hypothesis test: compare your observations to what the hypothesis predicted. Is the hypothesis correct given our observations?
Critique and Replication
Share your results with other scientists, get critiques <=KEY! Replicate study to see if you made a mistake or if theory is context dependent <=KEY! In short, consider why your answer may NOT be correct and have others help expose problems in your logic, observations, measurements, statistics, and conclusions.
The scientific method is like reading from you grandma’s cookbook. First, do step 1, then step 2, etc. Easy right? NO!: ―Science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike – and yet it is the most precious thing we have.‖ (Albert Einstein) It’s precious, but not perfect!
The Pitfalls of Science
Science is very tricky in practice; it’s an art form.
There are many problems and errors that arise in the process.
Ambiguity of language and concepts. Example: Equality (Overhead). Hard to live with Clinton:
No agreement on "is" or "sex" Not sex, just an "inappropriate relationship"
Defining language is imprecise, yet politically powerful
Ambiguity of Language and Concepts Many of the things we care about are abstract concepts: Happiness, freedom, terrorism, justice, equity
(try to define terrorism)
People want to make definitions in self-serving way.
Ex: Bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki were terrorist by almost any current definition, but Americans choose not to think of it that way.
Often people and politicians want to avoid specifics in favor of vague language and abstract symbols.
Data can be full of errors or manipulated. Measurement problems. How do you get accurate figures on poverty (what is it in the first place?), violent crime, economic wellbeing? (GDP?)
Overgeneralization (generalize from too few cases, sampling error) No single best way to conduct scientific research, especially in social sciences.
Inaccurate observations and psychological biases
(We’ll look at lots of these)
Asch Experiments: Finds that people will bow to social pressure to choose an answer they know to be wrong.
Cognitive and psychological ―mistakes:‖ Selective Perception: see what you want to see
We can never divorce ourselves from our own viewpoint. Maybe none can see the world ―objectively‖
Selective Observation: pay attention to cases that fit your explanation, ignore those that don’t
Differential Perception. Different people see different things. (Hey, we’ll focus on these, too)
There are no social laws, only useful generalizations. Recursive behavior. Our studies often change attitudes and behavior. So what are we measuring/observing? Illogical reasoning, bad methodology Doby Gillis (on reserve)
Even Deeper Problems
Inability to prove something true
Falsification (Popper): Cannot prove things are true because there are always other explanations, or anomalies around the corner (David Hume also). We can only show that something is NOT TRUE (but not perfectly).
Can never prove anything--haven't discovered truth as much as rejected obvious falsehoods.
Even Deeper Problems
Confusing Correlation and Causation Correlation = covariation (co-occurrence of change on two variables). This tells us nothing about cause (why the two variables changed) Causation: Change in A => change in B
Or, Change in A <= change in B Or, Change in A change in B Or, Change in A unrelated to change in B Or, Change in A and Change in B both caused by a change in C
Observing a correlation does not tell us anything about causation.
4 requirements to logically infer a causal relationship Covariation--statistical association: if A changes, B must also change. This is necessary, but not sufficient. Not enough alone to show cause. Why? 5 Types of causal relationships w/i a correlation Time order--IV must come before DV big problem in surveys. Abuse must come before violent behavior Nonspurious--no third factor can explain the covariation Ice cream and violent crime Theory--logical explanation of the relationship
Even Deeper Problems
Can Humans really do science objectively? Thomas Kuhn: Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Paradigm--widely accepted explanations, or theories protected by those who benefit from its dominance Normal science--routine verification of a theory Scientists are prisoners of dominant paradigm Anomalies build up--cases that don't fit the theory Revolutionary science--abrupt development of new theory to help explain anomalies, resistance by status quo Implication: Science is as much a social and political process as a rational one. It's a group struggle.
Even Deeper Problems
Philosophical debate: Can we know anything at all if we are not unbiased observers of the world?
Premodernism: life is at it appears – don’t question own point of view. What you see is reality Modernism: Philosophy of the Enlightenment. Truth is knowable through rationality and science, but hard to discover due to human biases. Hence, group learning is key in a scientific community.
Most scientists are here!
Postmodernism: no ―objective‖ truth, only varying ways of viewing the world through different cultural lenses. Modernists wrongly impose their (European) version of truth.
So, what of science?
It’s not perfect, but its favored because at least it’s a process of self-questing and self-doubt. It’s skeptical. It includes mechanisms for self-correction (peer review) Procedures help insure that logic is not abused. Once again, Einstein: ―Science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike – and yet it is the most precious thing we have.‖
What is skepticism? ―One who questions the validity of a particular claim by calling for evidence to prove or disprove it.‖ How does this relate to science? ―Science is inherently skeptical, even of its own findings.‖ The good scientist always says their knowledge is subject to revision pending further evidence. ―I’ve never written anything that was finished.‖ (Hugh Nibley) The flim-flam artist claims they know things for sure and they’ve ―proven it.‖ What is credulity? ―Readiness or willingness to believe especially on slight or uncertain evidence.‖
Science vs. Pseudoscience
What is pseudoscience? (Shermer) Claims that appear scientific and are couched in scientific language, but lack supporting evidence and logical plausibility. How is pseudoscience different from science? Science is a process of continually improving and refining our knowledge of the world, based on new observations and interpretations. Bad explanations can be falsified. Pseudoscientists, however, do not try to correct error or change their point of view, they perpetuate their errors and views.
Thinking Gone Awry
Logical fallacies (Shermer Ch. 3) and PowerPoint Slides. See also:
See the PowerPoint on my web page.
Expected Utility Theories
A Normative (how it should be) theory of decision making.
Von Neumann and Morgenstern (1947)
Expected value = cost/benefit x probability Variations of EUT theories add randomness and subjective probabilities to make them more ―real‖
Some Key Assumption of EUT
Ordering of Alternatives: Decision maker must be able to rank order all alternatives. Cancellation: if two alternatives have the same probability or value, that factor should be ignored in the decision. Transitivity: If you prefer A to B and B to C, you must also logically prefer A to C. Continuity: Should prefer gambles if they have higher expected values than sure bets. Invariance: Decision should not be affected by the way alternatives are presented (framed) Full information and consideration of all alternatives
A Rational Decision
Define the problem Specify all alternatives Get full information Analyze each alternative according to your weighted criteria Choose the option with the greatest expected utility Apply to buying a car
How Rational Are We?
Paradoxes in Rationality
Allais Paradox violates Cancellation: if two outcomes have the same probability or value, that factor should be ignored in the decision.
How did you answer on 28a on the survey? Because the additional feature is worth the same amount in each alternative, it should not lead to different preferences. It should be ignored.
The committee problem (Figure 8.5)
Also known as the Condorcet paradox Order of comparison determines winner. This is why we should NOT hold elections in successive pairwise comparisons. Sometimes, there is not single intransitive preference.
When people are asked to choose between two bets, they prefer the ones with the highest probability of winning, but when they are asked to set a price for how valuable the bets is, they prefer the ones with the highest potential payoffs. Therefore, peoples’ preferences reverse based upon whether they look at the probability of winning or the potential payoff. =>Two preferences for the same options. This shouldn’t happen if principles of rationality are followed!
Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making
Scott Plous examines how people make judgments and decisions in the real world.
Behavioral Decision Theory
BDT is a revision of ―rationality‖ as defined in classical economics Claims to better describe how people reason, think, and decide. Finds people systematically violate all of the assumptions of rationality (and by extension, classical economics) Herbert Simon: People are rational only to the extent that they don’t do things that harm their utility, but other than that, the model fails. But we must also ask ourselves throughout: ―To what degree are these effects ―hothouse flowers?‖
Brain as a ―Belief Engine‖
The Brain is a belief machine, always trying to make sense of the world, to connect the dots
Learning Unit: We are quick to see correlations while forgetting non-correlating pairs Critical Thinking Unit: We can be critical using tools we’ve learned, but only when we don’t like the argument. (Ex: Alcohol studies, Doby Gillis)
We turn this one on and off to suit our needs
Yearning Unit: We seek answers, certainty, want to reduce anxiety
Brain as a ―Belief Engine‖
Input Unit: The brain actively constructs meaning from sensory stimuli using preexisting thought patterns. Emotional Response Unit: Events with strong emotional stimuli are more memorable and believable to us, but could still be false Memory Unit: our memories are constructed and fallible, not just recalled Feedback Unit: the processing of incoming information reinforces or weakens our beliefs (weakens them only rarely due to defense mechanisms)
What we expect to see or see what we want to see what we strongly influences perceptions.
Categorization: We can only assimilate information into preexisting categories. Ex: in, sa
In fact, we can’t NOT use these categories. Ex: Written Language
It is no stretch to say this is one of the most powerful psychological effects. It affects almost all others.
In and Sa
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Are you really reading the words as they are, or seeing what you expect to see?
Reader survey #33: Did you get 11 Fs?
Or did your brain presume it knew what was on the page and ignore some it? Dartmouth v. Princeton – People systematically think the refs are against them and they’re getting all the bad calls Hostile Media Effect: Both Arabs and Israelis perceive media bias against their groups. Same for liberals and conservatives in US.
What examples can you think of in the real world?
Ideology x Walmart Sexual harassment w/ Clinton vs. Thomas 9/11: Blessing from God or act of evil? Katrina: Act of nature or act of God? Patriot Act and/or torture: Necessary evil or government gone too far?
Selective perception is enhanced by selective exposure (attention) to information Most people seek out information that supports their preconceived way of viewing the world.
Why would a conservative want the dissonance of watching Democracy Now? Why would liberals watch Fox News or 700 Club? PS: Watching to mock doesn’t count because you’re not open-mindedly considering the information. Result: the illusion that you are informed and that the evidence fits your point of view.
As reported on the front page of last Thursday's New York Times, the secretary of defense has formed his own "four- to five-man intelligence team" to sift through raw data coming out of Iraq in search of evidence linking Saddam Hussein to alQaida terrorists. Rumsfeld has publicly continued to push this link as a prime—or at least the most easily sellable—rationale for going to war with Iraq, even after the CIA and the Pentagon's own Defense Intelligence Agency have dismissed the connection as tenuous at best. But Rumsfeld contends that the spy bureaucracies may have missed something. As his top team member, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz, put it to the Times, there is "a phenomenon in intelligence work that people who are pursuing a certain hypothesis will see certain facts that others won't, and not see other facts that others will." Since Wolfowitz is one of Washington's most forceful advocates of a second Gulf War, we can safely predict that he will find the facts he needs to make his case. Source: Slate.com 10/29/02
People want to reduce, avoid, or ignore cognitive inconsistencies, so they dismiss information that conflicts with their chosen view in order to preserve it.
Examples: Jewish Tailor, Festinger and Carlsmith (1959)
Application: changes in behavior can lead you to change your attitude and vice versa.
Ex: Can oppose sex outside of marriage, until you do it. Then, you either reject the principle to justify the action or vice versa. Ex: Pre-commitment: get people to give token contributions to political campaigns so they’ll be sure to not change their minds later.
Part of the job of a liberal arts education is to make you more comfortable with dissonance.
We are NOT unbiased video recorders. Most memory degrades and existing memories change or are adapted (sometimes due to cognitive dissonance)
Doonesbury cartoon (overhead) Ex: Eyewitnesses notoriously unreliable.
How did you do on Q 34 of the reader survey? Even how a question is asked about the past changes memory.
Smashed vs. hit. People ―made up‖ seeing broken glass.
People remember a general scenario or picture, not details.
Stop and remember a pleasurable moment or scene in your life. Were you in it? Did you really look at yourself during the event, or are you reconstructing the memory? Inferences fill in missing mental detail. Memory must be forced into preexisting categories. Memory is easily created in children, and even adults (abuse).
Memory is re-constructed rather than merely recalled
What examples can you think of? (or did you forget?)
Hindsight bias: ―I knew it all along‖ We overestimate what we knew in the past because we integrate subsequent information. See Fischhoff and Beyth (1975)
Have you ever watched Jeopardy with someone, and after the answer is given that person says "I knew that one" or "That was an easy one"? This may be why people overestimate whether they voted for winning president or not, or whether their candidate will win Ex: Pre gulf war: people thought it another Vietnam. Afterward, confidently declared they knew it would be an easy win. Ex: Iraq: people thought it a relatively easy win, underestimated the quagmire.
In reality, we probably didn’t know it before hand, and a decision that went bad doesn’t necessarily = a bad decision. It may still have been the best one, just without the benefit of hindsight. Implication: We can be overly critical of people whose decisions went wrong and overly praiseworthy of people who made risky decisions that turned out well. Even explaining this bias to people and telling them not to do it doesn’t eliminate it (Fischhoff 1977). What examples can you think of?
medical context. A Dr.´s second opinion does not differ completely from another Dr.´s opinion if he/she is aware of the first opinion. This seems to be of serious consequence if one considers that a second opinion is only required when serious illnesses have been diagnosed. legal context, hindsight bias was found to occur when a jury makes a final decision in court. In the course of a trial, the judge is empowered to order the jury to ignore certain testimonials, by disallowing them. It is impossible to ignore such information. workplace context. A supervisor may not be able to make an undistorted judgment on his employees´ decision-making if he/she got information about some results of their performance. This is a special problem in the case of poor outcomes because a poor outcome could happen even if they acted correctly on the information they were given at the time. Source: http://mailhost.sfb504.uni-mannheim.de/glossary/hindimp2.htm
Contrast Effects and Optical Illusions
Optical Illusions.ppt Straight lines ―bend,‖ and shapes appear larger or smaller depending on the context in which they occur. Nothing is big, small, hot, cold, smart, dumb, good, bad, etc. without something to compare it to. What is the reference point?
Application: Real estate
What other examples can you think of?
Asch (1946) found that characteristics appearing early in a list disproportionately affected evaluation. Did you rate emotional as ―high‖ on Q. 3? Application: First impressions are key.
Recency Effect: Instances where information that comes last is most influential – when it’s best remembered and rises to the top of the mind.
Primacy effect is stronger when pro and con info is presented at the same time. Recency effect is stronger when pro and con info is separated in time. More recent info dominates.
Halo Effect: Evaluations on multiple unrelated characteristics are highly correlated. Ex: ―Beauty Halo‖ an attractive person is also rated highly in intelligence, personality, friendliness, etc.
Did you fall prey in Q. 4? Other examples: First paper read when I grade, etc.
What other examples can you think of?
Plasticity of Opinions
Public Opinion polling is widely used by politicians, media, researchers. How do we know what the public thinks? How well do we know it?
Do people have stable opinions? Can we trust public expressions of opinion as important in a democracy?
Plasticity of Opinions
A sampling of public opinion polling problems.
Question order effects: presidential approval drops if you put it later in the survey rather than first. Response order effects: Recency effect. Choose last response in a list. Pseudo opinions:
Metallic Metals Act Israel an Arab country Is candidate x a socialist?
―all the other candidates seem quite social as well.‖
Mistakes and misunderstandings
Plasticity of Opinions
Hypothetical attitudes don’t predict specific applications.
People might say they are tolerant, but then launch into a list of
things or groups they would ban from public schools or libraries.
Abstract opinions do not equal behavior
Darley and Batson (1973): Good Samaritan
Slight changes in question wording alter responses.
What’s your favorite example from Plous? Mine: Allow vs. forbid antidemocratic speeches
People use response alternatives as a frame of reference for reasoning about the Q.
Logically equivalent options that are stated differently produce different expressed preferences.
Item 25, 26 on survey Lives saved v. lives lost in Asian Flu Scare
People are risk seeking in the domain of losses People are risk averse in the domain of gains Schelling example: Tax deductions for families with children or tax increases for the childless. The policy is the same, but its description produces very different political considerations. Kahneman and Tversky studies
The effect even exists among trained experts, like doctors, who deal with probability.
A ―relaxed‖ application of framing is when a speaker raises one subset of considerations to attention.
How’s the economy doing at 1% GDP growth?
Worse than historical performance (Clinton frame) Better than world performance (Bush 41 frame)
Tax increases versus reversing tax cuts Application: Expectations management. Bill Clinton as the ―comeback kid.‖ Application: Debates have little effect: people just root for the home team (selective perception)! But post-debate spin can have an influence. Ford Gaffe 1976. Note: Framing effects have been shown to be suppressed by partisan labels and sources that lack credibility.
Words Invoke Frames
Often individual words invoke different frames:
Bureaucrat (neg) vs public servant (pos) Terrorist vs Freedom Fighter, Martyr for the people, or defense force. What examples can you think of? Remember, biasing language was even used as a logical fallacy. Most of politics is an ongoing war of frames. Estate Tax versus Death Tax http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/persuaders/view / http://video.pbs.org:8080/ramgen/wgbh/pages/frontline/2303/real /ch5_hi.rm
Colorado Blue Book What is a budget cut/tax increase? Private/Personal Social Security Accounts Was Iraq a new war started by us, or a conclusion of an old war started in 1991?
TV news is mostly episodic – focus on interesting cases, not general patterns.
News coverage of crime, terrorism, poverty tend to be episodic. lack of focus on historical, economic, social antecedents to problems Tends to focus instead on personal failures. =>conservative policy
Thematic – stories that give in depth interpretive analysis.
Unemployment covered thematically, but most issues are not.
Iyengar –. Affects attributions of political responsibility for events. Tend not to hold politicians accountable if episodic. But Thematic coverage tends to place blame on government or society as a whole.
Source: Shanto Iyengar: Is Anyone Responsible? How Television Frames Political Issues.
While Framing effects are caused by differential content of communication, priming effects are caused by different quantities of information Considerations at the ―top of the head‖ affect recall and information processing. Sand, waves, sea, moon, palm, fish, blue Asking survey questions about personal finances induces pocketbook-voting responses. Application: Agenda setting. Watching news stories about particular issues (terrorism) makes that issue rise in saliency (listed as most important). –Iyengar and Kinder (1986) Political ads try to affect what info you remember and consider in the voting booth.
People reason differently and make different choices (even for equivalent outcomes) based on how they think of the loss or gain.
Ratio Difference Principle: People want to save $5 off a 20 purchase, but don’t worry much about saving $5 if they’re buying a car.
Hence, car/home salespeople can make hundreds or thousands off you because the loss seems small in context. Examples?
Other Descriptive Models of Decision Making
Satisficing Prospect Theory Certainty Effects Pseudocertainty Regret Theory Multiattribute choice Noncompensatory strategies Most Important Dimension
Satisficing (Herbert Simon): People choose the option that satisfies their most important needs, even if it is not ideal. People don’t optimize.
Optimization impossible because info is often missing, not all alternatives are explored, outcomes are uncertain, time and cognitive abilities are limited, etc. Not a full ―model,‖ rather a description of behavior in organizations.
Developed by Kahneman and Tversky
Finds losses are accounted more heavily than gains. Critical in politics because people respond to negative impacts and externalities more than positive ones. Much easier to organize people and money around a political loss than an equivalent gain.
Key Implications People are risk averse in the domain of gains, risk seeking in the domain of losses. The key is the ―reference point,‖ against which the comparison is made Leads to framing effects Leads to an ―endowment effect‖ where people value what they have more than the value they would place on it if they did not own it. The ―garage sale problem.‖ Implication: killing existing programs very difficult. Predicts a ―certainty effect‖: People prefer a reduction in risk near zero to a greater one elsewhere. People would rather eliminate risk than reduce it. People will pay more to remove the only bullet is a gun in a game of Russian Roulette to removing 1 of 4, even though the decreased risk is the same in each case. Application: 3 strikes and you’re out, zero tolerance, etc.
Application: candidates will take political risks, run more negative political ads, risk a backlash if they are about to lose. People will fight more for programs they may lose, than those they would like to implement. Voters throw the incumbents out when things look bad.
You are a campaign consultant. How can you “exploit” some of the logical fallacies or psychological biases discussed so far to further your cause to invade Iran? Your group should define 5 specific fallacies or biases and discuss how your campaign ads, news conferences, debate moments, etc. could try to play to these biases. Choose to represent either pro or anti war positions. Try not to make them absurd…
Choose a speech from a prominent politician, a party platform, and media story, or other communication of interest and critique it for lack of evidence, logical fallacies, or psychological biases.
Heuristics and Biases
Heuristics: decision ―rules of thumb‖ Biases: systematic tendencies toward a particular outcome in people’s thought processes. Pioneered by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in multiple experiments Provides a description of how people make judgments and decisions under uncertainty. Why do we care about probability calculations? Aren’t they just academic?
When do we use probability?
Most political questions involve probability judgments
What are your chances of being a victim of crime? How likely are you to contract an STD? How often does discrimination occur? How likely is x to happen? How risky is smoking? How long before another terrorist attack happens? Are Americans pro-war? What are people on welfare, politicians, bureaucrats like? What are the chances we will invade Iran?
People often judge probabilities ―by the degree to which A is representative of B, that by the degree to which A resembles B.‖ (T&K 1974) Item #1 from reader survey.
Likelihood of Linda being a bank teller and feminist is lower than just being a bank teller.
Shows people commit the ―conjunction fallacy‖ where they judge a subset of outcomes to be greater than than the full set because the subset sounds ―plausible‖ and representative of someone they might meet because it is more detailed and descriptive.
Neglect of Base Rates
A base rate is the relative frequency (probability) of occurrence seen over time. Representativeness heuristics often arises because people ignore this information.
Ex: #2 & #5 from my survey
Misjudging Sample Size
People make all sorts of ―mistakes‖ in calculating probabilities. Misunderstanding inferences we can make from sample size is one of them.
Ex: problem 6 my survey.
Regression to the Mean
Unusually high or low scores tend to be followed by scores closer to the mean.
Sports Illustrated ―Jinx.‖ Athletes perform worse after being highlighted in Sports Illustrated. But their performance was highlighted because it was atypically good (or bad). Over time, their performance will settle back down toward their mean. Postwar slumps in presidential approval ratings.
Mistakes to Avoid
Don’t be misled by detailed scenarios. The more detailed they are, the less likely they are to occur. Pay attention to base rates, particularly when an event is very rare or very common Remember chance is not self-correcting Don’t misinterpret regression to the mean
People ―assess the frequency of a class or probability of an event by the ease with which instances or occurrences can be brought to mind.‖
Some events will be more available for consideration because they are recent, easier to think about, vivid, emotional, plausible Ex: #7, 8 on reader survey, # 1, 3, 4 on mine
Carroll (1978): Found that those who were asked to imagine Jimmy Carter winning were more likely to predict a Carter win, likewise for Ford. So, if an outcome seems plausible and is easily imagined, it seems more probable. ―I heard the military is using a new plane that can go 4x the speed of sound.‖ I have no idea if it’s true, but it sounds plausible, so I’ll believe it. ―The Bush Administration is going to reinstate the Draft.‖ ―Israeli Soldier‖
The more vivid or emotional an event is, the more likely we think it is, because it is more available in memory.
People found an unrepresentative verbal presentation of student evaluations of a course more useful in deciding whether to take a course than statistical information on all students evaluations! Implications: politicians will be driven by vivid, but less probable events than systematic analyses show and can influence jury outcomes and advertising effectiveness.
Welfare queen, lazy or inept bureaucrat, 600 dollar hammer.
Implication: media pictures may are more impactful than talking head discussions by academics. (CNN effect) Implication: Our experiments show (so far) negative ads are more memorable. So do people overestimate the occurrence of negative advertising? (According to our research, yes).
Probability and Risk
People don’t use Bayes’ Theorem to estimate probability. So, there are many statistical mistakes made.
P(B|A) = P(A|B) ´ P(B) / P(A) Do you seriously use this?
Also, positive outcomes are judged more likely than negative ones (overly optimistic)
Rosenhan and Messick (1966): People predicted smiling faces more, in all experimental conditions Most people think they’ll be successful, but not die of cancer or in a car accident. How did you answer Q 5 a-d on the reader survey?
Common Probability Mistakes
People overestimate the probability of conjunctive events (A and B both occur)
Example: Space shuttle O ring failure. 6 O rings w/ 97.7% chance of success each.
.9776=.87 chance of success = 13% chance of failure.
People underestimate the probability of disjunctive events (A or B occurs)
When there are many possible low probabilities events, people overestimate the probability at least one will occur.
Conservatism: People are slow to revise their estimates in response to new info.
People often perceive risks very differently than statisticians.
People fear nuclear power most, statisticians tell us its less risky than riding a bicycle. What is a risk? Skiing? Swimming? Genetically modified foods? Alcohol? Sex? Dread risks: those beyond people’s control that have great consequences, like nuclear power. Voluntary risks: Those people don’t fear (due to underestimation of risk?) or risk knowingly Perceived risks vary by culture.
Risk and Selective Perception
After SAC false Russian Missile Attack and 3 Mile Island, people didn’t change their assessments of risk, or their preferences. They interpreted the info to confirm their prior expectations. London/Madrid bombings?
Anchoring and Adjustment
People are biased by irrelevant information in estimating probabilities and proportions. Random # Actual higher/lower? Exact # Af in UN 64 lower 45 10 higher 25
Random numbers impact our numerical evaluations Application: Salespeople throw out very high numbers and appear willing to negotiate.
Once estimates are anchored, people do not adjust sufficiently Finding are robust and apply in real estate and other areas.
Anchoring and Adjustment
Example: estimate the thickness of a piece of paper folded on itself 100 times.
Most people say no more than a few yards or meters.
Correct answer = 800 trillion times the distance between the earth and the sun. You were swayed by the small thickness of paper.
Estimate the product of 8x7x6x5x4x3x2x1?
Mean Estimate: 2250 (Correct number is 40320)
Mean Estimate = 512
Anchoring and Adjustment
Reader Survey item #13
Only 23 people needed to have a 50% probability of 2 people having the same birthday on some day. But 254 needed to have a 50% probability of the same birthday on a particular day Implication: Unspecified “coincidences” happen a lot by random chance! (Many conspiracy theories rely on unspecified coincidences which the theorist falsely deems unlikely, and therefore in need of an ―alternative‖ explanation.)
Perceptions of Likelihood
What are the chances? Given the preceding chapters, we don’t have a clue. We often assume low probability events cannot occur by chance, so we must have a different, often supernatural or conspiratorial explanation.
Common Political Heuristics
Party Identification Ideology (Metallic Metals Act?) Endorsements Viability/support (polls) Candidate Appearance Name Recognition
(I prefer you try factcheck.org or other good source instead)
Which one is Julius Erving’s Shooting sequence?
Patterns in Randomness
People see patterns in purely random events.
Gilovich et al (1985) demonstrated that streak shooting in basketball was an illusion (the probability of hitting a basket did not increase the probability of hitting the next one. In fact, it decreased!).
See item 38 on survey
The Myth of the Hot Hand
Data in table 2.1 contradict that notion that hitting one shot (x), increases the probability of the hitting the next. This is also true of free throws (eliminating other variables as explanations) Players were unable to predict their shot in advance Gilovich believes people misperceive streaks where there are none because they have a faulty impression of what randomness looks like.
Clustering Illusion: OXXXOXXXOXXOOOXOOXXOO is random, not streak shooting. Buttressed by representativeness heuristic and small sample sizes. Prediction: Those closest to basketball are most likely to make the mistake!
Ex: People even see genetic similarities between parents and adopted children!
Implication: we may think we see patterns in random police stops, hiring and firing, sporting event outcomes, stock trends, music played backwards, etc. People also claim to see things in clouds, stars, tree leaves, paint splotches, etc. Are they really there, or are we constructing them? (selective perception)
Misperception of Random Data
Our “belief engines” predispose us to see order, patterns, and meaning in the world. Randomness, chaos and meaninglessness are unacceptable to most people. But our perceptions are often figments of our imagination
Shermer’s examples: faces and canals on photos of mars, Satanic messages in music, finding religious figures in shadows, on toast, on paint splotches and wood grains, hot streaks in sports and gambling. Finding patterns is no doubt comforting to us.
Finding patterns is also the substance of science. The difference is that science utilizes procedures that minimize the probability of clearly faulty conclusions.
Correlation, Causation, Control
Illusory Correlation: We often perceive correlations where there are none.
See #14 on reader survey. No correlation is present.
Bacon and Eggs?
Jennings et al (1982) We often miss correlations < .70 Ice cream and violent crime example Intercourse example
Correlation does not equal causation!
Causation does not require correlation!
Who should be blamed or praised? Fundamental Attribution Error
People over-attribute others’ behavior to disposition (traits) rather than situational factors. But the error is also self-serving. If I fail, it’s the context; if you fail, it’s because you’re personally lacking If I succeed, it’s due to my characteristics, if you succeed, it’s due to the situation Example: Racial Bias. Group X members fail because they’re lazy or incapable
(rather than they have less opportunities, suffer discrimination, and lack silver spoons in their mouths) Application: Egocentric bias: people claim more responsibility for joint outcomes, probably due to the higher salience and availability of info about their contribution.
Why does the error occur?
People tend to ignore consensus information (base rates), which is less salient to them than more biased story lines. The more salient something is, the more likely it will appear to be causal Taylor and Fiske (1978) found that 3 people listening to a conversation rated the person in their visual field as most influential on the conversation, because attention was focused on them. Tend to attribute less variability to others than to oneself. Implication: If you’re not responsible for your own failures, who is? This leads to blame displacement. The government? Those people?
Fixing Attribution Errors
Pay attention to base rates: If most people behave similarly in a given situation, don’t attribute it to disposition. Ask how you would have behaved in the same situation Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
Of course, judgments and decisions don’t occur in a vacuum. We’re influenced by other social actors, norms, and pressures as well.
We worry about how others will perceive us and react
Research shows that judgments and choices can be affected (negatively and positively) by our expectations of how others will view us.
Assumption: Most people are more comfortable conforming and want to be liked and accepted.
A Few Social Effects
Social facilitation: our performance is enhanced by onlookers for things we’ve mastered; performance declines for unmastered tasks. Social loafing: People don’t work as hard in groups as alone. Diffusion of Responsibility: Less likely to act because we figure it’s some else’s problem.
Kitty Genovese Example
Social Comparison: People compare their opinions and abilities to those like them to check performance and acceptability.
Appear to be more likely to act on behalf of and take advice from someone like them, and even feel less pain from electrical shocks!
A Few Social Effects
Asch experiments on conformity: Many people espouse opinions that are obviously false if the majority of a group or a vocal minority assert an alternative truth.
Readers survey #32 Lone dissenters significantly decrease the effect, but don’t get rid of it entirely Application: mob rule, conventional wisdom on bureaucracy.
A Few Social Effects
Groupthink (Irving Janus 1982): A cohesive and insulated loyal group creates pressures to conform to the perceived dominant opinion => self censorship of alternative opinions. Groupthink leads to self-delusion and overconfidence.
Application: any NSC meeting, group of presidential insiders, CEOs
―Fix‖ it by forcing opposing views in all discussions (playing devil’s advocate), leaders should let others speak before sharing own opinions, create redundant groups, invite outsiders and experts, share thinking with outsiders A group effort at selective perception
Having an illusion of invulnerability Rationalizing poor decisions Believing in the group's morality Sharing stereotypes which guide the decision Exercising direct pressure on others Not expressing your true feelings Maintaining an illusion of unanimity Using mindguards to protect the group from negative information
Examining few alternatives Not being critical of each other's ideas Not examining early alternatives Not seeking expert opinion Being highly selective in gathering information Not having contingency plans
Group Judgments and Decisions
The question: Do Heuristics and Biases occur in groups too, or just individuals? General answer: They generally work in groups too.
In fact, groups often amplify the effects of these biases through a process of group polarization.
Group Attribution Error
People make self-serving attributions for their group and critical ones against other groups.
Dispositional attributions for group success Situational attributions for group failures
Out-group Homogeneity Bias
Groups see members of their own groups as more varied and diverse than members of other groups.
Differences are not merely the result of group familiarity. This helps to perpetuate stereotypes; out-group members are not evaluated as individuals.
Ex: Applies to almost any ethnic or religious group
One study found that the Representativeness Heuristic was even more powerful in groups than in individuals (Filkins 1990). Conjunction Fallacy occurs more in groups Group polarization: the process of a group amplifying individual-level psych. effects. But, the research is relatively limited.
Group polarization: the process of a group amplifying individual-level psychological effects. Choice Shift:
Groups are more willing to take risks than individuals (―risky shift‖) If groups are first predisposed toward caution, they’ll be come even more cautious. Initial leanings are key in juries. Prejudiced individuals’ biases are amplified in like-minded groups (like political parties!)
Positive Group Effects
Groups solve problems better than individuals, particularly when a leader encourages everyone to share their ideas (Maier and Solem, 1952).
Quantitative tasks: groups slightly more accurate than individuals Brain teasers and logic: Ditto General knowledge: Ditto Simple tasks: group size increases probability of having a member skilled in that area. Complex tasks: groups pooled resources and corrected errors. The main exceptions were for the group genius who outperformed the groups as a whole
Why did groups do better on this?
Overconfidence Self-fulfilling Prophecies Behavioral Traps
People much more confident they are right than evidence shows.
Prior to Challenger, NASA estimated the probability of catastrophic failure at 1/100,000 launches (yet O ring failure probability was 13%!) We’re too confident in our memory and ability to calculate probabilities and risks Oskamp (1965) found that as we learn more, we become more confident, but not more correct!
Beware of the one who claims to know too much. Big problem among doctors. Overconfidence is greatest when accuracy is near chance levels (50%) Between 80-100%, people become under confident 10-40% overconfidence is a common occurrence. Can be overcome through constant feedback and self-correction, but not through monetary incentives to perform well. Application: Capital punishment after a conviction ―beyond a reasonable doubt.‖
Fischhoff and Lichtenstein find that:
Activity & Examples
Take the self-test of overconfidence on p. 224 of Plous. Eyewitness testimony: people tend to be confident they chose the right person, but were not very accurate. Medical Judgments: Doctors are just as confident on misdiagnoses as on correct ones. Confidence does not equal correctness. “One should not take high confidence as a guarantee of anything.” (Loftus 1979)
Stop to consider reasons why your judgment might be wrong. Make a list of pros and cons. See Calvin and Hobbs, p. 229!
See item #39 on Reader survey, # 13 on mine.
Confirmation Bias: People want to turn over cards (or see patterns) that will confirm their theory.
(Remember Popper? What would he say?)
People also weigh confirming evidence more heavily than disconfirming evidence. Implication: self-perpetuating beliefs. You can always find some circumstantial evidence in support of what you already believe.
Disconfirming info is framed negatively, harder to understand.
Ex: it rained after we did not wash our car.
People even ask questions in a way to confirm ideas and do not allow for disconfirming evidence to be solicited.
Ex: “What would you do to liven up a party?” Was asked to determine if a person was an extrovert. Indicators of introversion are ignored. Ex: What skills does candidate X bring to the job? Incapability may be ignored or underemphasized.
Hidden or Absent Data
Hidden or missing data often makes it almost impossible to examine relationships objectively. Application: The relationship between the quality of the decisions of college admissions committees cannot be evaluated w/o info about the performance of those NOT admitted. But because they were not selected, that info doesn’t exist. Application: To evaluate the success of the gun control laws, we need to compare the gun-related crime rates of the US with the laws, and the crime rates of the US without the laws. You can’t do both.
Hidden or Absent Data
Application: We see Vietnam as a disaster. But it may have been better than the alternative. But since the alternative didn’t happen, we cannot know. Application: Does the death penalty inhibit murder? We would need to compare murders committed and not committed under the death penalty and those committed and not committed w/o the death penalty. How do you count a crime not committed? Application: How well does the CIA do their job? We have information about threats to US security not thwarted (9/11). But it’s impossible to know all of the things that didn’t happen because of the CIA. So it’s hard to evaluate their accomplishments.
Evaluation of Ambiguous Data
Ease/accuracy tradeoff: people must balance costs of being wrong with the time it would take to get a better decision. What does a smile mean? Is it a sinister plot being conjured, or a genuine gesture of friendship? Seinfeld: Did he say “Jerry’s Here!” or “Jerry’s Here?” What do you make of G. W. Bush’s comment on Saddam that “After all, this is they guy who tried to kill my daddy.” (paraphrased) Was Rodney King resisting or acting defensively? Did the army intentionally kill people in the crash in afghanistan? “I’ll see it when I believe it.” -Thane Pittman
The world gives us random, incomplete, unrepresentative, ambiguous, inconsistent, unpalatable, or secondhand information, which is by nature difficult to process “correctly.” We are bound to make many mistakes.
What are the ambiguities in the infamous “kicking incident”?
Systemic Biases: Our media outlets, parents, friends, etc. give us part of the information only.
Especially problematic given the atomism of the media?
Evaluation of Ambiguous Data
Even unambiguous info is evaluated differently by different people. We put greater scrutiny on reliable info we don’t want to believe, and less scrutiny on unreliable info that we do want to believe.
Remember the Alcohol studies example? Bush v. Kerry supporters on WMD, Al Queda
Implication: exposure to ambiguous information will make both sides more confident of their position!
What examples can you think of?
Does the economy do better with tax cuts? Is the media biased?
Examples of Self-fulfilling Prophecies
Pygmalion Effect: False conceptions that ultimately become true because they cause behavioral change.
Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968) found that kids tagged as gifted or slow rose to the level of their expectations.
Application: teacher expectations of students and student expectations of themselves are critical in education. Application: Racial stereotypes can become self-fulfilling (Word, Zanna and Cooper 1974). Application: If you think the police are out to get you, and you become argumentative with them, they will become more hostile towards you, fulfilling your prophecy that they are harassing you. Ever seen My Fair Lady or Pretty Woman?
―Fixing‖ Self-fulfilling Prophecies
Difficult to eliminate; telling people to disconfirm doesn’t help. So,
Making confirming questions socially unacceptable Frame questions in a way that encourages disconfirming information
Courses of action that are initially desirable, but later become undesirable and difficult to escape from. General Tendency: People tend to escalate support for costly behaviors and only escape after undue delay, maybe even a crisis.
Time Delay Traps Ignorance Traps Investment Traps Deterioration Traps Collective Traps
Time Delay Traps
Momentary gratification clashes with longterm consequences.
Relatively small pleasures (or absence of pain) produces behavior that is devastating and potentially lethal in the long run
Examples: Lack of exercise, eating bad foods, smoking, unprotected sex, buy now pay later, etc.
Behaviors or choices whose consequences are not know before-hand turn bad, but you cannot change course easily.
Examples: pesticides that have increased pests, the unsatisfying job path you’ve taken, war in Vietnam and Iraq?, etc.
Previous investments of time, $, other resources leads us to choices we would not otherwise have made. Sunk cost effect: throwing good money after bad.
Induced by risk seeking behavior in domain of losses Ex: Item #6 on reader survey Application: scrapping defense projects, dams, business investments is very hard to do. Application: my car.
The cost and benefits of a behavior change over time. Ex: Heroin addiction: addicts use it to avoid withdrawal rather than get a high, insecticides.
People do in groups what they would not do individually. Their pursuit of individual self-interest harms the common interest (and thereby the individual!)
Application: Arms races Application: the environment. Everyone has the incentive to ―free ride.‖
Tragedy of the Commons
The mattress on the road problem.
Final Notes on Traps
Traps are not permanent, just hard to remove yourself from A crisis may be needed to change. Not all traps are bad (Alcoholics Anonymous, not buying chips and cookies, scheduling exercise with your friends, etc.
Final Comments on BDT
Psychological processes are not necessarily irrational; maximizing utility is not the only goal
In a world of scarce time and resources, it’s natural for us to use them (for self-preservation?)
But psychological processes inhibit objectivity. We must constantly question to what degree we see the world as it is, or construct it in our minds. Most de-biasing techniques require the explicit consideration of alternative perspectives. Are you doing this? Most people don’t. Psychological biases are ―context dependent,‖ but then again, so is almost everything in the world of humans.
http://www.prisonplanet.com/alex_jones_tells_his_story.ht ml http://www.sacredcow.com/media/links/alex/alex_2003/boh emian_bg.ram http://www.jonronson.com/rulers.html http://www.sacredcow.com/media/source/alex/alex_uktv1_b g.rm http://www.sacredcow.com/media/links/alex/alex_uktv2_bg. ram http://www.sacredcow.com/media/links/alex/alex_phantom1 _bg.ram Crap Happens http://www.ebaumsworld.com/birdball.html
The Problems with Second Hand Information
If our own biases make our observations untrustworthy, 2nd hand information expands the opportunity for error.
Game of telephone. People forget or filter much of the original information Sharpening. The speaker sharpens or enhances what they perceive to be the “gist” of the message Leveling. The speaker throws our less essential information to make the story simpler and to the point. Ex: Quayle’s misstatements are sharpened and ambiguous information leveled. 2nd hand stories generally sharpen personal attributions and downplay situational factors
Personal attributions are easier to make than discussing situational factors.
Second-generation evaluators make more extreme evaluations than the first generation. Polarization grows!
Distortions of Information
We don’t just seek relevant info, we like to be entertained. We can increase entertainment value by
Telling a clear story (sharpened and leveled)
We don’t like to listen to speakers who are “boring” – who are nuanced and
include qualifications, contrary information, etc. (talking heads on PBS!)
Increase the immediacy
Information thought to be close to us or someone we know seems more real.
“I know someone who…” But, be very careful of second hand information!
Exaggeration makes the story more clear and entertaining (even liberals charge Michael Moore with this).
We often take liberties with the truth to make the point clearer, or motivate
people to action
Information Distortions in the Media
Application: News Organizations. Which do they care about most: Informing the public or entertaining them? News organizations have every incentive to level ambiguous info and highlight good human interest and scandal stories. News organizations focus more on individual rather than systemic attributions TV plays up amazing events, but leaves out most context. Even on TV, the camera does not lie, but neither does it tell the whole truth (info outside the small capture of the lens is ignored.) Ex: Daryl Bem was cut from CBS Good Morning because it was not “interesting.” Nobody likes dealing with the ambiguities or minutia of the world. A quick, “certain,” entertaining story is more satisfying.
Other Information Distortions
Plausibility: Some distortions are perpetuated in society because they seem plausible, and therefore, believable
Ex: 600 dollar hammers, $91 screws at DOD Ex: Lazy, corrupt government bureaucrats The major problems in schools Grace Commission Follies