Posts Tagged ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’

Daniel Kahneman and Originalism

July 30, 2018

HM does not know if Nobel Winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman had any opinion on the judicial philosophy of originalism, which states that judicial opinions should rely substantially on the text of the statute or constitutional clause under construction as well as the original public meaning of the statue or clause.

What Daniel Kahneman did was to develop his two process theory of cognition. This theory can be found in many places, but perhaps the best source is his best selling book, “Thinking Fast and Slow.” System 1 is fast and allows us to cope with high rates of information in a dynamic environment. Without System 1, we would not have survived as a species. But this fast processing speed has its costs, which sometimes lead to errors. System 2 is slow, and is what can be thought of as thinking. If you know your multiplication tables, if I ask you what is 6 time 7, you’ll respond 42 without really thinking about it. But if I ask you to multiply 67 times 42 you would find it difficult to compute in your head, and would most likely use a calculator or use paper and pencil (which are examples of transactive memory). This multiplication requires System 2 processing without technological aids.

System 1 requires little or no effort. System 2 requires effort. It is not only faster, but also less demanding to rely on System 1 processes. Consider the following question.
A bat and a ball cost $1.10
The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball.
How much does the ball cost?
The number that quickly comes to mind is 10 cents. But if you take the time and exert the mental effort you will note that the cost would be $1.20 (10 cents for the ball and $1.10 for the bat). If you do the math, which takes a little algebra, you will find that the ball costs 5 cents (the bat costing a $1.00 more than the ball would be $1.05 and $1.05 plus $0.05 is $1.10). System 2 must be engaged to get the correct answer. This question has been asked of several thousand college students. More that 50% of the students at Harvard, MIT, and Princeton gave the wrong, System 1, answer. At less selective universities more than 80% of the students gave the wrong answer.

Now consider the judicial philosophy of originalism, which states that judicial opinions should rely substantially on the text of the statute or Constitutional clause under Construction as well as the original public meaning of the statute or clause. What could possibly be wrong here? These are the Founding Fathers who wrote the constitution. These are the conclusions which System 1 processing quickly reach.

Now invoke System 2 processing and consider the following.

The fundamental premise of the Constitution is that all men are created equal. Note that the mention of women was omitted and women needed a special constitutional amendment to be granted the right to vote. So it appears that the Founding Fathers were misogynistic.

According to the Constitution blacks were regarded as three-fifths of a human being, and the vast majority of blacks were slaves. So it appears that the Founding Fathers were blatant racists.

Fortunately, the Constitution was eventually amended to correct for these errors. One can infer that these changes were the result of System 2 processing and not strict adherence to originalism.

Knowledge grows and the world changes radically. Today a high school science student knows more about science that Benjamin Franklin ever did.

It is clear that the legal system needs to evolve to accommodate the rapidly changing world, and to remove injustices from older thinking.

Originalism is invoked by people who do not want change; fortunately, or unfortunately, change is needed.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photos, Experiencing Selves, Remembering Selves

November 15, 2014

I might be the only serviceman who returned from the Far East without a 33mm camera. I’ve never wanted to bother with a camera. When I’m a tourist, I want to experience the trip, and not be troubled with a camera. I prefer to buy postcards to remember the trip. I think today there is money to be made by those who will photoshop your personal pictures into photos of exotic places. This could save a fortune for those who would have their personal pictures in these photos. They would be able both to impress and to bore their friends with their phoney vacation photos while saving a fortune. Fortunately, my wife is very good with cameras, so I never bother with them. Nevertheless I rarely look at the photos she takes of our vacations. I enjoy remembering the vacations, but I find it depressing when I look at the pictures years later. We just look older. The satisfaction of the vacations lies in my memories.

Daniel Kahneman makes a distinction between our experiencing selves and our remembering selves in his book Thinking Fast and Slow. He has done some interesting research pointing to differences in what we experience and what we remember. People who take many photos during their vacations my be sacrificing the quality of both their experiencing and their remembering selves.s

There was an interesting research report, “A Not-So-Photographic Memory in the June/July 2014 AARP The Magazine. This report was of a study done by cognitive psychologist Linda Henkel at Connecticut’s Fairfield University. The students toured a museum and told to look at 30 objects and to take photos of half of them. The next day students could remember nearly 90 percent of the items they observed, but only 78 percent of the items they photographed. So when on vacation you could pass on taking photographs or follow the advice offered by Henkel, “…think about what you are photographing, and talk about them. The act of reminiscing helped the memory not just taking a photo.” In other words, don’t sacrifice your experiencing self when you are taking photos. Your remembering self will benefit from your experiencing self.

What is Kahnemanite Advertising?

December 10, 2013

According to an article1 in The Economist “Kahnemanite advertising prizes emotion over information and pays more attention to a brand’s “purpose” than to its products.” Daniel Kahneman is the Nobel winning psychologist who is the author of the best selling Thinking Fast and Slow (enter Kahneman into the healthymemory blog search box to find many posts on Kahneman). System one is thinking very fast, most of which occurs below consciousness. System two takes the output of system one and processes, or in conventional parlance, thinks about it. If we didn’t have system one, we would have long ago become extinct. However, the efficiency of System one comes at some cost. It can produce erroneous or incorrect responses, and it is the role of System two to catch and correct these errors. Unfortunately, this frequently fails to happen. Emotional responding is part of System one.

Of course, it is not exactly news that advertisers like to exploit our emotional responses, but conventional advertising also likes to engage System 2. Kahnemanite advertising refers to the emphasis placed on System 1 and the cost of ignoring System 2. I found it interesting that marketers actually speak in terms of System 1 and System 2 processing.

Different methods are used to test whether System 1 is being effectively engaged. Brainjuicer asks subjects to rate an advert by saying which of eight faces, each expressing a different emotion, best reflects the feeling and intensity of the emotion. Another firm, Decode, uses implicit association in which subjects associate images (for example, a chocolate bar) with a concept (for example comfort) and times the reactions. Neuro-Insight monitors electrical activity in the brain when subjects view an advert.

The Economist article finds irony in this. It writes that “Most readers of Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow will end up of mistrusting system one for its propensity to misleading.” But if readers of Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow have correctly understood Kahneman, they will understand that most of the time System one is correct. It is only occasionally that System one will mislead.

Please understand that Kahneman, himself, is not directly involved in any of these activities. You should also be aware that Kahneman, together with his colleague Amos Tversky, are regarded by many as the fathers of behavioral economics. Behavioral economics exposes the fallacy of the rational human being, which is the foundation of conventional economics and which forms the basis of most contemporary policy. This needs to change. To read more about this enter “behavioral economics”, then “gross national happiness” into the healthymemory blog search block.

1Nothing more than feelings, The Economist, December 7th 2013, p.70.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Stupidity

June 9, 2013

This blog post was inspired by an article by Sally Adee, “Stupid Is as Stupid Does” published in the New Scientist, 30 March 2013, 30-33. It begins with this quote from the 19th century French writer Gustav Flaubert, “Earth has its boundaries, but human stupidity is limitless.” Flaubert devoted his final years collecting thousands of examples for a kind of encyclopedia of stupidity. He died at age 58 before this magnum opus was completed.

Were Flaubert alive today, I would wager that he would still be astounded by the vast amounts of stupidity. In spite of advances in both the physical and social sciences, stupidity prevails with people disowning these advances. That is, they disown selected findings, not the products and services that have emerged from these advances. The survival of civilization is put at risk by Costa’s five supermememes (enter “supermemes” into this blog’s search box). And people play lotteries and flock to casinos where the odds are stacked against them.

Adee does address the work of Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues (enter “Thinking Fast and Slow” into the healthymemory blog search box). Their research has documented two systems for human information processing. System 1 is virtually automatic and very fast. System 2 is slow and deliberate. System 1 is fast due to heuristics and practice. It enables us to interact quickly with our environment. Without System 1 we never would have survived. Unfortunately, this speed is purchased at a cost. Occasionally it leads to the wrong decision. System 2 is supposed to monitor System 1 and correct it. But again, System 2 is slow, so it is prone to miss many errors. Many of these errors lead to erroneous decisions regarding risk. The cognitive scientist Keith Stanovich is working on developing a rationality quotient (RQ) to assess our ability to transcend cognitive bias. This RQ would also measure rational intelligence, which defines our ability to calibrate the likelihood of certain probabilities. It is hoped that feedback on our rational intelligence will help us sharpen our meta-cognition, our knowledge regarding the strengths and weaknesses of our own cognitive processes. Although this RQ is much needed, it is still being developed. Nevertheless, we do need to focus on our own meta-cognitive processes.

Our working memory is severely constrained to the number of items (1 to 7 depending on the nature of the items) it can consider. We have limited attentional resources that are needed both to store information into memory and to retrieve information from memory. Moreover, these acts of storing and retrieving information alter the information in memory. And, as we all know, information can be difficult to retrieve.

Philip E. Tetlock is a psychologist who has done an important study of Expert Political Judgment.1 This study was done with the cooperation of Political Experts over a period of twenty years in which he recorded their predictions of political events. Their predictions were poor, virtually worthless. Their expertise enabled them to give impressive reasoned arguments regarding their predictions, but the predictions were frequently wrong or off the mark. This leads one to conclude that perhaps some areas of study are too complex to predict. Nate Silver has written a very good book, “The Signal and the Noise,” on what types of data are amenable to modeling along with suggestions as to how to deal with these difficult types of data. Time will tell whether different areas of expertise can achieve reasonably accurate predictions, or whether there are fundamental biological and cognitive limitations.

In math and science we often make simplifying assumptions or conjectures to proceed with our work. When this is done, there is always the possibility that these assumptions or conjectures are wrong, and we are unaware to what extent the results and conclusions are altered by mistaken assumptions or conjectures. Many phenomena are too complex to be understood or captured in mathematical equations. In these cases, simulations are done so that these complexities are found and understood. Yet all of this is dependent on the accuracy of the simulation.

Adee does not get into the issue of fundamental constraints to our intelligence resulting from biological and cognitive limitations, but there might be a bottom line to stupidity.

Nevertheless, we must do the best we can with the capabilities we have. Hubris is inappropriate either as a species or as individuals. We must take the effort to think and exercise System 2. We should be wary of relying too much on System 1 processes. We need to be wary of ideologies that promise easy answers and circumvent the mental effort needed to understand our world. The knowledge in science is constantly changing and we need to make an effort to keep up with it.

1Tetlock, P.E. (2006) Expert Political Judgment: How Good is It? How Can we Know?

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

January 29, 2012

Thinking, Fast, and Slow is the title of the current best selling book by Daniel Kahneman. Kahneman has won the Nobel Prize, not in psychology as there is no Nobel Prize in psychology, but for his work with Amos Tversky in Economics. This work ushered in the era of behavioral economics and further debunked the myth of the rational human being. Kahneman has been misinterpreted for arguing that humans are irrational or seriously flawed. What he has been arguing is that our information processing capabilities are limited, and that we use clever heuristics to deal with this limitations. These limitations lead us astray.

The title refers to two systems we use for processing information. System 1 is fast and allows us to cope with high rates of information in a dynamic environment. Without System 1, we would not have survived as a species. But this fast processing speed has its costs, which sometimes lead to errors. System 2 is slow, and is what can be thought of as thinking. If you know your multiplication tables, if I ask you what is 6 time 7, you’ll respond 42 without really thinking about it. But if I ask you to multiply 67 times 42 you would find it difficult to compute in your head, and would most likely use a calculator or use paper and pencil (which are examples of transactive memory). This multiplication requires System 2 processing without or most likely with technological aids.

System 1 requires little or no effort. System 2 requires effort. It is not only faster, but also less demanding to rely on System 1 processes. Consider the following question.

A bat and a ball cost $1.10

The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball.

How much does the ball cost?

The number that quickly comes to mind is 10 cents. But if you take the time and exert the mental effort you will note that the cost would be $1.20 (10 cents for the ball and $1.10 for the bat). If you do the math, which takes a little algebra, you will find that the ball costs 5 cents (the bat costing a $1.00 more than the ball would be $1.05 and $1.05 and $0.05 is $1.10). System 2 must be engaged to get the correct answer. This question has been asked of several thousand college students. More that 50% of the students at Harvard, MIT, and Princeton gave the wrong, System 1, answer. At less selective universities more than 80% of the students gave the wrong answer. Good students tend to be suspicious of a question that is too easy!

If this example does not strike you as relevant, Kahneman provides many examples with clear relevance throughout the book. We shall be hitting some of these examples in future Healthymemory Blog posts. Kahneman’s Two System Theory is not new to the Healthymemory Blog (enter “Two System View” in the search block). Kahneman has already had a clear influence on economics. Additional behavioral and brain imaging research has further enhanced his view. Unfortunately it is still not the dominant view in economics, which still embraces the model of the rational man. An argument can be made that our current economic problems are due to an outdated paradigm in economics, and the wholesale adoption of behavioral problems could help us avoid these reoccurring disasters. I also think that the two system view is relevant to Political Science. I think a compelling reason why people do not vote in their own best interests can be found in the two system view. System 1 is automatic, whereas System 2 requires effort.

The Dumbledore Hypothesis regarding the effects of aging on the brain fits well within the two system view. According to the Dumbledore Hypothesis, we have learned so much as a result of our aging, that we rely on our old habits and do not make as many demands on our attentional resources. In other words, too heavy a reliance on System 1 at the cost of not engaging System 2 causes cognitive decline because we are not exercising System 2. It’s a matter of use it or lose it.

Thinking, Fast, and Slow is a must read for anyone interested in human cognition. Actually everyone should be interested because it provides examples and insights regarding the errors we make everyday. Although Thinking, Fast, and Slow is certainly not a cure all, it provides us with awareness and does offer some means of coping with our information processing shortcomings.

Note that the book is a best seller, so it is an easy read and not an imponderable academic tome. Kahneman also includes personal stories, especially of his relationship with Amos Tversky, that are interesting and entertaining.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.