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Holograph comments on The Affect Heuristic - Less Wrong

37 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 27 November 2007 07:58AM

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Comment author: Holograph 17 July 2012 05:25:35PM 0 points [-]

I think some of these experiment results are better explained by a bunch of different quirks in human thinking, not Only the affect heuristic. Maybe I'm overconfident in my knowledge here, but still I'm going to go through them in order:

The thing about the clock is obviously the affect heuristic at work and there doesn't seem to be much more to it. The disease example I take issue with however. It seems to me that it's rather about framing than about the affect heuristic. Though peoples emotions about a deadly disease is at play too, the crucial difference is between the way people either get to hear about either a bunch of people dying (relative frequency) or an abstract percentage. They get to imagine the people. Percentages are harder to think about, as it is not what our minds are naturally designed to do and that might be why relative frequency gets through to us better. (people also react more strongly to hear "out of every 1000 people who take this medication 1 gets side effects" (that person could be me!) then to hear "the chance of side-effects from this medication is 0,1%" (that souns like a low percentage...))

The two examples that follow further drives this point. Although theres a positive association with 98% as being close to the upper bound, the other example about the marbles is just an example of how we're bad at learning to intuitively and automatically apply our knowledge of statistics. 7 marbles might feel like more because we somehow imagine "7 red, the rest white" (vs "1 red, the rest white") but there's no need to involve our emotions about these marbles to explain it.

The Finucane experiment is what I most associate directly with the affect heuristic. The subjects were using their feelings towards one aspect as a heuristic for judgeing the other aspects. (a bit like the halo effect really)

The last experiment I don't feel I understand well enough to speak about.

(sorry if my english is bad, it's not my first language. Also, this is my first comment here, I recently discovered this site. Hi! :D )