Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Quick Note on the Non-Snowmageddon in Boston and the General Uselessness of Behavioral Psychology in Actually Making Decisions

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

So, framed by knowledge of the forty inches or so of snow that fell on Washington, D.C., and fortified by optimism bias on the accuracy of weather models, everybody in Boston, including my school, shut down yesterday (most having made the decision on Tuesday night) in anticipation of the one or two inches of snow that actually fell (this might knock out Atlanta but here you aren't even required to shovel that much).  Nevertheless, what may well have been a good decision ex ante, immediately turned ex post, by means of hindsight bias, at least in the eyes of my Starbucks barista, who this morning said "somebody ought to be fined for all the wasted money!"

Now here's the thing.  Knowing (and indeed accepting) that all of those behavioral psychology effects are observable objective reality, will understanding them help make a better decision this coming Tuesday when we are supposed to be getting another storm?  Or will it simply contribute to another frame, in which nobody wants to make the same mistake they did last time?  In short, to quibble with somebody who I won't name but is a masterful cognitive scientist, this is why the only antinomy/dichotomy I cannot give up is the one between the subjective and the objective.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2010/02/a-quick-note-on-the-nonsnowmageddon-in-boston-and-the-general-uselessness-of-behavioral-psychology-i.html

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