Vainolo's Blog

Archive for the ‘behavior’ tag

Book Review – Predictably Irrational

leave a comment

If you ask most people around you if they are rational beings, I’m fairly sure most will answer that yes, they are rational. But if you look at the way some people behave (for example, waiting in lines for days to get the latest gadget), it’s clear that rationality has left the building.

And this irrational behavior is what Dan Ariely describes in his excellent book, Predictably Irrational. A well-written and eye-opening book, that is a must-read for… well anyone :-).

It begins with the problem, that “humans rarely choose things in absolute terms… we focus on the relative value of one thing over another, and estimate value accordingly”. This happens to us almost every day. But sadly, “Thinking is difficult, and sometimes unpleasant”. I couldn’t have said this better. For example, when buying a generic product in the supermarket (where the brand does not make a major difference), I compare the price of of the items and take the cheapest one. But companies know this and trick me, bu changing the size of the packages to contain a bit less that the competitor. So I now have to check price, size, expiration date, and who knows what other variable… So I just take the first one and leave it at that.

The book then describes with enough (but not too much) detail a series of experiments, surveys, and observations that show how irrational we tend to be, and how this can is be used to manipulate our decisions.

And ends with a lesson: “we are pawns in a game whose forces we largely fail to comprehend. We usually think of ourselves as sitting in the driver’s seat… but, alas, this perception has more to do with our desires than with reality”. “Our visual and decision environments are filtered to us courtesy of our eyes, our ears, our senses of smell and touch, and the master of it all, our brain. By the time we comprehend and digest information, it is not necessarily a true reflection of reality. Instead, it is our representation of reality, and this is the input we base our decisions on”.

Really cool stuff.

Written by vainolo

January 17th, 2016 at 8:54 pm

How Technology is Making Me Lazy

leave a comment

A couple of months they installed new electronically activated faucets at work

Electronically activated faucet

Are electronic faucets considered a perk?

Nothing special happened at once… but after a couple of weeks I started noticing something very interesting. Whenever I went to public bathrooms, I would find myself standing in front of the faucet and waiting for it to turn itself on, regardless of the type of faucet that was in front of me. This obviously happened for just a couple of milliseconds, but it was enough to become noticeable.

WOW! How little it takes for us to become lazy! And the same can be said for many other technologies: I haven’t memorized a phone number in a lot of time, using my phone as my portable memory. Navigating from one place to another is done using Waze, and “In Waze we Trust”. Everything that I must do is on my calendar, otherwise I forget.

So technology is making me lazy. But is it making me dumber? I don’t think so. Sometimes I do think that it is reducing my ability to remember things (memory can be improved with training). But on the other hands, it leaves more brain cells free to do more complex and interesting things. So as all things in life, it is something that we must balance.

Written by vainolo

October 3rd, 2013 at 12:57 pm

The More You Do The More You Can Do

leave a comment

My mom says that the more things you do the more things you are able to do. She always tells when she comes to see me, because I was working, studying a Master’s degree, raising 3 small children and learning to knit (a hobby I have since left because it made my shoulders ache… probably because my technique was not good). Now I have 4 kids and left work to do a full-time PhD. Supposedly life would be easier, but lately I have been very busy because I am also teaching an undergraduate course on information system analysis and design, and preparing for this course has been harder than expected. But life is good.

Anyway, to the point. Last week I managed to finish many things that were on my mind for some time: a poster for a mini-conference we had last week, another of the course’s presentations, read most of my mails and filled out some bureaucratic stuff I had to do for my scholarship. I felt great, and was more productive than usual, and started to think why this had happened. After a while I remembered some studies that I had read in a behavioral investing book (I can’t remember which), which showed that as you take more decisions your brain starts to “tire” and the decisions become “worse”. There was also an experiment where people who had to do some thinking while there was a strong odor of baked cookies and they were hungry. In short, there are many studies that show that the brain works as a muscle, and that it can get tired. I thought of this as interesting but never made a full connections to my everyday life. Suddenly my brain clicked, and I understood why after doing things I get them off my brain, which means that it has something less to do… Causing it to work better :-)

My conclusion? Don’t leave things for tomorrow. If you have small things in your to-do list and you can do them today, it will help you get the other things in your to-do list done. Maybe not today but tomorrow. And the less things you have in your to-do list, the more things you will be able to handle every day.

[28/11/2011] An afterthought – not only do things, also FINISH what you started. Because if you start many things all of the time the brain keeps them until you finish them…

BTW, I found an article on the subject in Scientific America. Interesting.

Written by vainolo

November 16th, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Posted in Thoughts

Tagged with , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: