duminică, 17 februarie 2013

The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making

When I received the book (that came among a collection of great books) I thought it will help me get a few research ideas stick and take me to another level. It has helped me in that sense. :)

Scott Plous’s account of some of the most intriguing and striking cognitive biases and implications of decision heuristics on everyday life has helped me rethink all the classes on Social Psychology.  From a hindsight bias “it was clear” that all the information is context dependent, that I have an attribution error, that memories are reconstructed and above all that I make prediction based on facts scrambled together by my mind in search of meaning, not taking into account some actuarial evidence, therefore setting and actuarial prediction regarding future events.

It was an informative book, and although it was written in 1993 it felt very up to date. This feeling might be due to the fact that I feel that I need to read more about decision making process and partly because I strive to make the basic ideas of research more clear and relevant to research laboratories. The fact that each chapter finishes with a set of conclusion that offer some guidance in how to avoid the negative outcome of some biases is of great help. For instance, concerning representativeness heuristic, I have to take into account the tips offered (Plous, 1993, pag. 119):

  •  don’t be misled by highly detailed scenarios;
  •  whenever possible pay attention to base rates;
  • remember that chance is not self-correcting; and
  • Don’t misinterpret regression toward the mean (especially useful when considering that we all would like to have an exceptional performance all the time).

Another set of useful suggestion is that offered in relation to probability and risk. I must remember to: - always think back at the actual probability that something I envision in my future is only a desirable event and it is no more probable than un undesirable but unforeseen event; and most importantly perhaps to break compound events into small events in order to see that is something has a small rate of probability or risk than an accumulation of small events with their respective small risks might lead to catastrophes (pag. 143-144).

The most relevant information to remember is that concerning correlation, causation and control, and to remember to take into account the illusory correlations and the invisible ones, after all, Holmes was very keen on addressing things which ought to happen and failed to be seen, not just sticking to the obvious events that might validate hypotheses.

There are many biases which seem to help or hinder us when trying to go through this motion we call life. We may be entrapped in different situations and fail to see the reward of exiting the situation just because we have invested so much that we feel as we stand to lose too much. Many times the decisions we take are not the most accurate by mathematical standards or prove to be economical correct, yet they help us in everyday tasks and therefore prove to be useful. After all, we have limited resources, cognitive and otherwise, to make the best decisions we can make.