Sunday, February 26, 2017

Thought for a Sunday morning

It is God’s elusiveness, His freedom, and gracious character, which make prayer meaningful.—Standing in the Breach, page 91

Friday, February 24, 2017

Perceptions and the reality

• Strokes cause almost twice as many deaths as all accidents combined, but 80% of respondents judged accidental death to be more likely. • Tornadoes were seen as more frequent killers than asthma, although the latter cause 20 times more deaths. • Death by lightning was judged less likely than death from botulism even though it is 52 times more frequent. • Death by disease is 18 times as likely as accidental death, but the two were judged about equally likely. • Death by accidents was judged to be more than 300 times more likely than death by diabetes, but the true ratio is 1:4 The lesson is clear: estimates of causes of death are warped by media coverage. The coverage is itself biased toward novelty and poignancy. The media do not just shape what the public is interested in, but also are shaped by it. Editors cannot ignore the public’s demands that certain topics and viewpoints receive extensive coverage. Unusual events (such as botulism) attract disproportionate attention and are consequently perceived as less unusual than they really are. The world in our heads is not a precise replica of reality; our expectation about the frequency of events are distorted by the prevalence and emotional intensity of the messages to which we are exposed.— Thinking, Fast and Slow, page 138

<idle musing>
Especially in today's political climate it is important to be aware of these facts. Both sides are guilty of emphasizing things, making them appear bigger than they are. The difficulty is checking the facts to see which ones are being goosed and which ones are real.&thinsp. .

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to do that aside from researching the statements. : (
</idle musing>

Thursday, February 23, 2017

From the playbook

A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth. Authoritarian institutions and marketers have always known this fact. But it was psychologists who discovered that you do not have to repeat the entire statement of a fact or idea to make it appear true. People who were repeatedly exposed to the phrase “the body temperature of a chicken” were more likely to accept as true the statement that “the body temperature of a chicken is 144º” (or any other arbitrary number). The familiarity of one phrase in the statement sufficed to make the whole statement feel familiar, and therefore true. If you cannot remember the source of a statement, and have no way to relate it to other things you know, you have no option but to go with the sense of cognitive ease.— Thinking, Fast and Slow, page 62

<idle musing>
An important thing to remember in these days of "alternative facts"! By the way, the body temperature of an adult chicken is 105–107ºF according to the University of Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture. . .
</idle musing>

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

It requires effort

The nervous system consumes more glucose than most other parts of the body, and effortful mental activity appears to be especially expensive in the currency of glucose. When you are actively involved in difficult cognitive reasoning or engaged in a task that requires self-control, your blood glucose level drops. The effect is analogous to a runner who draws down glucose stored in her muscles during a sprint.— Thinking, Fast and Slow, page 43

<idle musing>
Maybe that's why some people avoid thinking as much as they avoid physical exercise?!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Don't overreach!

The often-used phrase “pay attention” is apt: you dispose of a limited budget of attention that you can allocate to activities, and if you try to go beyond that budget, you will fail. It is the mark of effortful activities that they interfere with each other, which is why it is difficult or impossible to conduct several at once. You could not compute the product of 17 x 24 while making a left turn into dense traffic, and you certainly should not try. You can do several things at once, but only if they are easy and undemanding. You are probably safe carrying on a conversation with a passenger while driving on an empty highway, and many parents have discovered, perhaps with some guilt, that they can read a story to a child while thinking of something else.— Thinking, Fast and Slow, page 23

Monday, February 20, 2017

Are you sure of that?

We are prone to overestimate how much we understand about the world and to underestimate the role of chance in events. Overconfidence is fed by the illusory certainty of hindsight.— Thinking, Fast and Slow, page 14

Friday, February 17, 2017

What about intuition?

Valid intuitions develop when experts have learned to recognize familiar elements in a new situation and to act in a manner that is appropriate to it. Good intuitive judgments come to mind with the same immediacy as “doggie!”— Thinking, Fast and Slow, page 12

&t;idle musing>
Indeed! Intuition is that subconscious flash of memory because you've prepared yourself by study and practice. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut—no matter what the person marketing the latest gimmick might tell you!
</idle musing>