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Zubon comments on The Affect Heuristic - Less Wrong

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

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Comment author: Zubon 27 November 2007 09:42:41PM 4 points [-]

Elliot, I suspect something is missing from your comments. The technocratic knowledge you are describing is multiplication. It sounds like you are calling for greater education in basic arithmetic, or perhaps telling people "and use it." Knowing that 20% of 5,000 is 1,000 is not the mark of an exceptionally wise person; it is the mark of a competent elementary school student. There is perhaps a reason why we can support a game show called "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?"

I do not have immediate access to the Yamagishi article. Were people actually presented with 1,286/10,000 versus 24.14%, or just asked about one (and people tended to react more strongly to absolute numbers than percentages)? The former is really bad. I suppose there is a story to be told about thinking that maybe few people get the 24.14% disease, or that the 98% of 150 measure is applied repeatedly while the 150 measure works just once, or you get many draws without replacement from the bean bowls. I don't know that those are plausible stories.

Don't we expect people to react differently to the same numbers in different contexts? Eliezer has alread hit Anchoring and Adjustment. Is it a similar bias, innumeracy, or something else that causes people to react differently to "17,520 times per year" versus "twice an hour"?