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Notes Towards Day 11: On Becoming Students of Error

Anne Dalke's picture

Notes Towards Day 11: On Becoming Students of Error

I. coursekeeping

relevant events
Anyone notice (Maiya's posting re:) the NYTimes article this weekend about "food and trust"?
Woman's Shattered Life Shows Ground Beef Inspection Flaws

(nudge to you all to do the same...)

Note also bulletin from our Sustainability Coordinator answering our recycling questions?

Feel warmly invited, also, to the new "open and open-ended conversation" about
matter, form, meaning, aesthetics, emergent, evolving processes....

More locally:
tomorrow night--7 p.m. Wed, Oct. 7:
to choice, evaluating data, and maybe a nudge!
"Sex, Politics, and Cancer: The Future of the HPV Vaccine" (Dalton 119)
2009-2010 Hepburn Fellow Carol Rogers will participate in a moderated panel discussion about Gardasil, Merck's vaccine for human papillomaviruses, organized by the campus Women's Health Group. Topics addressed will include
         * Who should be vaccinated against HPV?
         * Why does a vaccine for a sexually transmitted infection generate
           so much controversy?
         * Should the HPV vaccine be mandatory for school attendance?
         *Why is it so expensive?
*What can we do to make the vaccine more affordable in poor countries?

clarifying conference schedule (w/ break)

reading for Thursday's class, excerpts from yet another book on decision-making:
Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. Introduction. "Biases and Blunders," "Privitizing Marriage," and "Objections." Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness: pp. 1-39, 215-226, 236-251.

Also begin working on your next paper, crafting
1) the 5 questions you will use in your survey
2) a description of your subject group
spend some time thinking about how to ask your questions
so you can put a value on the answers (for ex: use a scale, 1-5)

those of you who will be gathering mostly "qualitative" data,
(i.e. interviewing counselors, coaches, deans...) can still
think about how to ask questions so you can graph the trends

IOW: as you design your survey, think about
how you will present the data

if you want to conduct your survey on-line, try using

brainstorming how to go about this?

--By class time on Thursday, post your questions in the forum.

--Your results don't have to go up til 5 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 19  (yes, you get an extension...
there were lots of requests for these last week....think we're all getting tired/falling behind....?)

will put up those instructions on the next forum:

1. create a graph in excel
2. save as picture (control click on the chart to get this option)
3. log on to serendip; go to next week's forum, post a comment
4. click on "upload image" and browse for the one you've created
5. submit the image
6. insert the image--> BEING SURE TO SELECT "400 pixels width of page,"
so we can actually READ it!

The first day we meet after break, you'll present this material  in class...

--Instead of sending me a paper on Friday,
please e-mail me a mid-term course evaluation:

Do you think this course is meeting its stated goals?
Learning Objectives for the BMC Emily Balch Seminars
@ the bottom of the syllabus @ /exchange/courses/bsem/f09 )
What have Peter and I been doing to facilitate those goals?
What have you been doing?
(Or: what's working and what needs working on?)

II. reading another writing sample from last week....
what would Lehrer say?

III. today's reading, excerpts from (a new addition to the course:)
Jonah Lehrer's
How We Decide

A. what would he and Barry Schwartz (Paradox of Choice)
have to say to one another?
how does their work compliment or contradict each other?

what about Pollan? what would he say back to Lehrer?
(for ex, to his claim that we will "make better consumer decisions
by knowing less about products we are buying"?)

B. what did you learn from Lehrer's book?
what claims did you question or not accept?

C. let's test some of them out
Change Blindness and Inattentional Blindness Demos
from the Visual Cognition Lab @ University of Illinois
(cf. these to the ambiguous figures, in which the brain
creates stories by adding information, our inability
to notice everything....?)

reading notes:
xii: I tried to think, but there wasn't time.
xiii: the virtue of a flight stimulator: you can investigate your own decisions.
xv: ancient assumptions that humans are rational, deliberate, logical ARE WRONG
emotional impulses secretly influence judgment
xvi: false, destructive dichotomies:
Apollonian logic vs. Dionysian feeling, id vs. ego, reptilian brain vs. frontal lobes

enthusiastically pluralist brain: your feelings can help you think
xvii: human mind as pair of scissors: one blade is the brain, the other its environment
9: Plato on the mind as chariot pulled by two horses:
rational brain as charioteer; obstinate horse as negative, destructive emotions
enduring theme of soul conflicted between reason, emotion:
Descartes, Bacon, Comte, Jefferson, French Revolution,
Freud on fortifying ego to control the id
12: cf. modern metaphor of mind as computer, w/out feelings
13: privileging reason over emotion founded on crucial mistake:
reason wouldn't exist w/out emotions
134: rationality can lead us astray
135: performers incapacitated by own thoughts, mind sabotaging itself
136: specific mental mistake: thinking too much/
scrutinizing actions best performed on autopilot

deliberation lethal for a performer
139: deliberate thought processes interfere w/ trained movement of muscles:
their own bodies betray them
effects of performance anxiety on standardized-test scores
achievement gap/stereotype threat --> carefulness, second-guessing;
get away from intuitions, quick processing
140: dangerous to rely exclusively on deliberations of prefrontal cortex
142: thinking too much: focusing on variables that don't matter,
instead of listening to instinctive preferences/positive feelings
143: too much analysis: cut yourself off from wisdom of emotions,
which are much better @ assessing actual preferences
144: self-analysis resulted in less self-awareness
"weighting mistake" in real estate (jam, art...)
145: easier to consider quantifiable facts than future emotions
146: placebo effect--expecting to experience less pain becomes self-fulfilling prophecy;
can also mislead us re: expectations re: more expensive products (wine)
149: make better consumer decisions by knowing less about products we are buying
best critics insist on blind comparisons, to avoid deceptive, nonsensical expectations, false assumptions
emotional brain generates its verdict automatically
"irrational" approach to shopping can save a lot of money
150: biological reality of brain: severely bounded
conscious brain can only handle seven pieces of data @ any one moment
rational neural circuits, intimidated by too much data, make bad decisions
151: challenging memory task drew cognitive resources away from ability to control emotional urges
152: drop in blood-sugar levels can inhibit self-control; bad mood a run-down prefrontal cortex
153: how much we eat dependent on serving size: mental accounting distorts decisions
154: woefully inconsistent behavior: lose tickets--> tightwads; lose cash--> spendthrifts
cf. classical economics, which assumes dollar=dollar
155: brain relies on mental accounting, because of limited processing abilities
busy people with limited CPU (central processing unit)
to make complexity of life more manageable,
we "chunk" stuff together, rely on misleading shortcuts

prefrontal cortex easy to hoodwink:
157: anchoring effect: random # can have strong impact on subsequent decisions
inability to dismiss irrelevant information; rational brain no good @ disregarding useless facts
158: fragility of prefrontal cortex-> be extremely vigilant re: not paying attention to unnecessary information
cortical flaw exacerbated by modernity:
hidden costs of abundance; human brain not designed to deal w/ surfeit of data
159: wealth of information creates a poverty of attention
extra information -> illusory correlations
160: counterintuitive: knowledge has diminishing returns
(ex: MRI sees too much -> back pain overtreated)
164: too much information interferes w/ understanding
correlation confused w/ causation; coincidences made into theories
more information constricts thinking, leads to less understanding
243: reason, feeling each best @ specific tasks
(those w/ no more than 4? 9? variables)
--but not always obvious which decisions are simple!
let emotions chose in decisions that matter!
emotions can't save you if problem is unprecedented
good moods free up problem-solving brain areas
entertain competing hypotheses
remind yourself of what you don't know
emotions  have a logic: windows into unconscious,
visceral representations of info we process but don't perceive
emotional brain esp. useful @ helping us make hard decisions
massive computational power; captures wisdom of experience
(but can be too sensitive to patterns)
become students of error, learn from what went wrong