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Elliot comments on The Affect Heuristic - Less Wrong

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

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Comment author: Elliot 27 November 2007 10:08:01PM 0 points [-]

The issue is not multiplication.

Suppose we "put things in perspective" by comparing the figures 1286 and 10000 to quantities people understand better. In my case, we might note my hometown had a bit over 10k people, and the high school had a bit under 1286. That could give me a less abstract understanding of what that kind of casualty rate means. With that understanding, I might be able to make a better judgment about the situation, especially if, like many people, I dislike math and numbers. (Which is perfectly reasonable given how they were subjected to unpleasant math classes for years.)

What about that 24% figure? Well, it contains within itself less hints of what to apply it to in order to understand it. We aren't handed numbers we already know how to relate to our experience. It may be harder to get started.

In other words, thinking of a new perspective provides *new knowledge* about the situation, that was not contained in the information communicated to the study participants. It was implied, by so were infinitely many other things. There is much skill in knowing what implications find and follow. So, this contextualizing knowledge must be created, and many people don't know to do so, or do so poorly. The study questions which are more helpful to people in creating this kind of knowledge may *understandably and reasonably* result in people making better judgments, because they present more useful information.