human nature

On Bullshit

One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit
– Harry G. Frankfurt

[Update: Sadly, labelling Trump’s lies as bullshit is too kind. Its more insidious. He’s a populist with authoritarian tendencies who lies in an ongoing and cynical fashion. Its more than bullshit, its propaganda.]

Donald Trump has the rational world equal parts baffled and dismayed (dear God I hope he doesn’t win the election). One reason is that he simply talks nonsense. He makes claims that are patently false and then doubles down defending them. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about yet believes it true because he said it. Kindly put, he is full of it. (more…)

Regression to the Mean, or Why Intelligent Women Marry Less Intelligent Men

“Women are made to be loved, not understood.”
Oscar Wilde

Imagine you’re at a party making small talk and some guy suggests its a well-known fact that intelligent women marry less intelligent men (factually this is correct). The genius supports his insight with reasons like, intelligent women have low self-esteem, or intelligent women want to dominate their partner, and so on. But what does account for the fact?

Daniel Kanneman, in Thinking, Fast and Slow, uses this example to illustrate the concepts of regression to the mean, correlation, and why we instinctively look for causal explanations when a simple statistical one will do.

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Liking

I’m sick of just liking people. I wish to God I could meet somebody I could respect – J. D. Salinger

‘Few people would be surprised to learn that, as a rule, we most prefer to say yes to the requests of someone we know and like. What might be startling to note, however, is that this simple rule is used in hundreds of ways by total strangers to get us to comply with their requests’. This is the fourth post in a series on Robert B. Chialdini’s classic work on the study of persuasion, compliance and change, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Revised Edition. (more…)

Social Proof

Where all think alike, no one thinks very much – Walter Lippmann

The principle of social proof says that we look to other people to decide what constitutes correct behavior. ‘We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it’.

This is the fourth post in a series on Robert B. Chialdini’s classic work on the study of persuasion, compliance and change, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Revised Edition.

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Commitment and Consistency

‘It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end’ – Leonardo da Vinci

The rule for commitment and consistency is ‘our nearly obsessive desire to be (and to appear) consistent with what we have already done. Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment.’

This is the third post in a series on Robert B. Chialdini’s classic work on the study of persuasion, compliance and change, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Revised Edition. (more…)

Reciprocation

‘Pay every debt, as if God wrote the bill’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson

‘One of the most potent weapons of influence around us (is) the rule for reciprocation. The rule says that we should try to repay in kind, what another person has provided us.’

This is the second post in a series on Robert B. Chialdini’s classic work on the study of persuasion, compliance and change, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Revised Edition.

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