Another one on rationality... "When proper temperament joins with proper intellectual framework, then you get rational behavior." - Warren Buffett
It's like the way someone said that good thinking is to hold two diametrically opposite thoughts at the same time but still continue with whatever we're doing.
When asked to explain in a few words what he had accomplished, Feynman said, "Buddy, if I could tell you in a minute what I had done, it would not be worth the Nobel Prize." Though not exactly it's kind of contradictory to what he said about explaining Physics to your grandmother. He also says he wasn't able to explain what he did to his father.
Feynman said "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool." In a book 'Some time with Feynman', when he talks about working on problems he says you have to fool yourself. It's in a different sense. He says that when you are attacking a formidable problem you may doubt how you'll be able to solve something where others haven't been able to. But then you fool yourself saying you're kind of special and you'll be able to solve and keep working on it.
Usually, what is said taken out of context or only one side of it is taken, as most people want to take things to be either black or white, when most things are in varying shades of gray.
Actually thinking, like satori, is a wordless act of mind.
Is such an act possible?
Wittgenstein said that 'Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.'. I guess 'thinking' can take the place of 'philosophy' in what he said. If seen this way, the act involves a lot of struggle. Even if we do away with words it seems like something else should take its place against which we would have to battle. Or maybe, I'm thinking a lot inside the box :)
Aren't people consistently underconfident when it comes to their money? Everybody does something, invest in something, but aren't really sure about it even after they've done it. It's in its most extreme when it comes to the stock market.
Another instance is when people approach members of the opposite sex who they think are attractive. They consistently misunderestimate themselves.
Otherwise it depends on what their used to, like people in technology are underconfident when it comes to negotiation and so forth.
I agree with Adirian that not changing our minds is not necessarily a bad thing.
The problem, I guess, like with most things is we can't be sure which way to go. Gut feelings are often quite correct. But how do we know when we are having a bias which is not good for us and when it's a gut feeling? Gut feelings inherently aren't questionable. Biases need to be kept in check.
If we run through the standard biases and logical fallacies like a checklist and what we think doesn't fall in any of them, we can go with our gut instinct. Else, give whatever we have in mind a second thought. What we do may not be foolproof but it at least takes us in a direction which would makes changing our minds, when required, a less painful process.
Eliezer, thanks for the explanation. I'm sorry that you're getting frustrated to explain this again. I agree with you and understand what you're trying to explain. It makes perfect sense. But it's difficult to make the explanation clear and easy for lay people. Also, maybe I didn't make myself clear in the above post.
I was referring only to the particular experiment. I'm not at all denying that the fallacy exists. I meant that the fallacy doesn't exist in the context of that experiment alone. I just felt that there could be a better thought out experiment demonstrate it.
I can compare this with reading a good detective story and a bad one. A good one is where you were shown the evidence and you could've predicted the murderer but didn't. A bad one introduces a character relatively late in the story or make one who wasn't talked about much the murderer. I feel the experiments demonstrating the fallacy to be similar to the latter type of stories, kind of contrived and unnatural.
What's bad about it? It looks like it gets reproducible results.
Thomas, I'm not sure why it's bad. That's the problem. I was unable to put my finger on it. I don't remember what I answered. But even after the explanation was given, I felt that it wasn't quite convincing that this would be a problem. It sure is getting reproducible results. But what may be causing the result may not be the bias.
I think you've answered why it's bad when you said that it's because of our culture, and particularly the way we use the word 'probable' to mean something than what the dictionary says it should. If that's the case, it doesn't throw any light on the conjunction fallacy per se. Even if the problem is framed differently, people should fall for the fallacy. But if you're able to check the section in 'Gut Feelings', you'll see that most people would answer it perfectly well. There would be no fallacy involved.
Thanks, Bob, for the Amazon link.
The experiment was bad and felt that way since I first came across the same. But I didn't have any idea that it's the single most questioned experiment or something like that. Recently, I skimmed a book called 'Gut feelings' by Gerd something (not sure about the second name) at the bookshop. There was a blurb by Steven Pinker saying that the book was good. A chapter had a good description on where this experiment is mistaken and said how reframing it in different words made people give the correct answer. What Kahneman says here is a fallacy which people may be encounter in some circumstances. That point can be taken but we need to imagine a good experiment which reflects the point well.
Eliezer, are you also considering giving free copies of the book to people who frequent this blog? :-)
Ed, the student's response may be due to something he needs to unlearn as discussed in the following earlier post:
If it's not the case, that is, if he doesn't need to unlearn anything he may still be incorrect in his understanding. In that case, this post tells one of the reasons why he may be incorrect and be aware of it.
I think this is worse compared to the behaviour addressed in the earlier post.