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Monthly Archives: August 2015

how psychology has progressed

Several decades ago, an eminent psychologist defined the field of psychology as ‘a bunch of men standing on piles of their own crap, waving their hands and yelling “Look at me, look at me!” ’ Fortunately, things have changed quite a bit over the years, and the field is no longer composed entirely of men.

Daniel Gilbert, referencing George Miller, in Gilbert, D. (2002). Are psychology’s tribes ready to form a nation?. Trends in cognitive sciences, 6(1), 3.

Max Bazerman’s question: If you had to make this decision again in a year…

If you had to make this decision again in a year, what information would you want, and can you get more of it now?

One challenge executives face when reviewing a recommendation is the WYSIATI assumption: What you see is all there is. Because our intuitive mind constructs a coherent narrative based on the evidence we have, making up for holes in it, we tend to overlook what is missing. Devesh, for instance, found the acquisition proposal compelling until he realized he had not seen a legal due diligence on the target company’s patent portfolio—perhaps not a major issue if the acquisition were being made primarily to gain new customers but a critical question when the goal was to extend the product line.

To force yourself to examine the adequacy of the data, Harvard Business School professor Max Bazerman suggests asking the question above. In many cases, data are unavailable. But in some cases, useful information will be uncovered.

From Before You Make That Big Decision… by Daniel Kahneman, Dan Lovallo & Olivier Sibony in Harvard Buisness Review. The idea is similar to Gary Klein’s idea of the pre-mortem. Both, in the style of ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ type questions, ask you to take a perspective which is less involved in the decision immediately in front of you, to facilitate exploration the counter-factual space around the way things are (or are as you imagine them), and to return with questions you didn’t think to ask previously.

we know that we are not only these things

At the opening of his 1986 work The Blind Watchmaker Richard Dawkins wrote: “This book is written in the conviction that our own existence once presented the greatest of all mysteries, but that it is a mystery no longer because it is solved. Darwin and Wallace solved it.” This passage highlights the gulf that now exists between the accepted secular-atheist worldview of our culture and the reality of how people live and experience their lives. Because although Dawkins may feel that he has solved our mystery — and although science has indeed solved part of it — the fact is that we do not feel solved. We do not live our lives and experience our lives as solved beings. In the same way, no intelligent person could reject what we know to be our kinship with the animal kingdom. Yet few people would rejoice in being referred to as a mere animal. Being described as “mammalian” may shock and even stimulate for a bit, but to live as though we were animals would be — we know — to degrade ourselves. Whether we are right or wrong in this, we do feel that we are more than this. In the same way, we know we are more than mere consumers. We rebel when we are talked of as mere cogs in some economic wheel, and some people will even vote Green as a result. We rebel not because we are not these things, but because we know that we are not only these things. We know we are something else, even if we do not know what that else is.

Douglas Murray, 2015, in Standpoint magazine: ‘Is The West’s Loss Of Faith Terminal?