# Eliezer_Yudkowsky comments on Teachable Rationality Skills - Less Wrong

51 27 May 2011 09:57PM

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Comment author: 27 May 2011 11:15:22PM 14 points [-]

Exercise A: For a case where sunk costs exist, imagine that you are a new person who was just now teleported into this person's life. Variant: Imagine you were just teleported into this person's life, and everyone else knows this, and they all expect you to execute sudden changes of course. See what this changes about your thinking, regardless of whether it changes your decision.

Exercise B: For whatever sunk costs you're in the middle of expending, look at the same scenario and rephrase it as a sunk benefit, the purchased option to finish a task more quickly than before. E.g., if you already paid \$100 on a \$150 item, change from "I paid \$100" to "I now have the option of purchasing this item for \$50". Again, the stated objective of the exercise will be, "Notice the difference in your thinking", not, "try to change your decision".

Exercise C: As above, but imagine that you bought the option for a penny on eBay. E.g. if you're one year into a four-year PhD program, imagine that you paid a penny on eBay to purchase an option to get a PhD in three years rather than the usual four years. Would you exercise that option if you paid a penny for it?

Comment author: 27 May 2011 11:24:40PM *  8 points [-]

That last exercise seems to run afoul of some value-related heuristics. Price is so common a proxy for utility that imagining that you paid a penny for the option on eBay might irrationally devalue whatever you're looking at.

Of course, looking at the contrast might still give you some useful insights -- provided you can untangle them.