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Comment author: HughRistik 11 May 2011 12:48:05AM 4 points [-]

How do you keep track of PDFs of studies?

Comment author: lunchbox 14 May 2011 04:40:59PM 0 points [-]

CiteULike is quite nice for this.

Connotea is a similar "personal research library" service but it doesn't let you store PDFs, just links to articles.

Is there a name for this bias?

8 lunchbox 08 February 2011 04:52AM

There are certain harmful behaviors people are tricked into engaging in, because whereas the benefits of the behavior are concentrated, the harms are diffuse or insidious. Therefore, when you benefit, P(benefit is due to this behavior) ≈ 1, but when you're harmed, P(harm is due to this behavior) << 1, or in the insidious form, P(you consciously notice the harm) << 1.

An example is when I install handy little add-ons and programs that, in aggregate, cause my computer to slow down significantly. Every time I use one of these programs, I consciously appreciate how useful it is. But when it slows down my computer, I can't easily pinpoint it as the culprit, since there are so many other potential causes. I might not even consciously note the slowdown, since it's so gradual ("frog in hot water" effect).

Another example: if I eat fast food for dinner (because it's convenient & tasty), I might feel more tired the next day. But because there is so much independent fluctuation in my energy levels to begin with, it easy for the effect of my diet to get lost in noise. What I ate last night might only account for 5% of that fluctuation, so if I'm feeling lousy, it's probably not due to my diet. But feeling 5% worse every day is very significant in the long run.
Comment author: SilasBarta 31 January 2011 07:59:30PM 6 points [-]

Because of the huge fraction of mouthbreathers who, without pause, respond to such questions with the brilliant, "I didn't pay any taxes this year. I got some back!"

(That is, they think they had a net gain of money because they over-deducted from their paycheck that year, and the government returned the excess.)

Comment author: lunchbox 01 February 2011 07:08:21PM 4 points [-]

Even considering that, the 3% figure still seems wildly implausible. This would require something like 90% of the population thinking they pay 0% taxes, and the remaining 10% thinking they pay 30% taxes (which is still an underestimate).

The PDF that Louie linked to doesn't explain what the numbers mean. Surely there would be lots of articles about this epidemic of grossly underestimating taxes. Can anyone provide more evidence?

Comment author: lunchbox 19 January 2011 08:44:42PM 7 points [-]

This is a great article, but it only lists studies where SPRs have succeeded. In fairness, it would be good to know if there were any studies that showed SPRs failing (and also consider publication bias, etc.).

Comment author: lunchbox 17 January 2011 04:41:05AM 7 points [-]

Here is a very similar post on Ask Metafilter. (It is actually Ask Metafilter's most favorited post of all time.)

Comment author: lunchbox 16 January 2011 12:48:44AM 0 points [-]

Here's an insightful comment on the article:


This is the same reason that when shopping on Amazon I ignore the reviews from people who rated the product 1 or 5 stars. They often have an ulterior motive of trying to damage/help the image of the product as much as possible.

Comment author: Mass_Driver 05 January 2011 03:05:03AM 9 points [-]

Who are "professional decision analysts?" Where do they come from, and who are their clients/employers? Do they go by any other names? This sounds fascinating.

Comment author: lunchbox 05 January 2011 03:50:50AM *  1 point [-]

Related positions include operations research analysts and quants at finance firms.

Comment author: lunchbox 25 December 2010 04:57:55PM 21 points [-]

It's a useful exercise for aspiring economists and rationalists to dissect charity into separate components of warm fuzzies vs. efficiency. However, maybe it's best for the general population not to be fully conscious that these are separate components, since the spirit of giving is like a frog: you can dissect it, but it dies in the process (adaptation of an E.B. White quote).

Lemma: we want charity to be enjoyable, so that more people are motivated to do it. (Analogy: capitalist countries let rich people keep their riches, to create an incentive for economic growth, even though it might create more utility in the short term to tax rich people very highly.)

Consider this quote from the article:

If he went to the beach because he wanted the sunlight and the fresh air and the warm feeling of personally contributing to something, that's fine. If he actually wanted to help people by beautifying the beach, he's chosen an objectively wrong way to go about it.

Sure, but making the lawyer conscious of this will give him a complete buzzkill. He will realize that he was unconsciously doing the act for selfish (and kind of silly) reasons. Your hope in telling him this is that he will instead opt to use his $1000 salary to hire people, but I question whether he would actually follow through with that kind of giving in the long run, since his unconscious original motive was warm fuzzies, not efficiency. In effect, you may have prevented him from doing anything charitable at all. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

So, this article is great fodder for someone trained in rationalist/economic thought, but keep in mind that this type of thinking makes many people uneasy.

Comment author: lunchbox 05 December 2010 06:43:32PM *  1 point [-]

These people comment only on difficult, controversial issues which are selected as issues where people perform worse than random.

Related, maybe they only comment when they have something original and unorthodox to say (selection bias). It's easy to echo conventional wisdom and be right most of the time; for a smart person it's more exciting to challenge conventional wisdom, even if this gives them a higher risk of being wrong. In other words, maybe they place a lower priority on karma points, and more on building their muscles for original thought.

Example 1: In my youth, I tried to only hold beliefs I could derive myself, rather than accepting what was told to me. As a result, I held many unorthodox beliefs, many of which turned out to be wrong. Statistically, I would have had a better track record if I had just accepted the conventional view.

Example 2: Robin Hanson. I think he is wrong a lot of the time, but he also thinks for himself a lot more than I do, and has advanced human thought way more than I have. He could easily hold more conventional views and increase his accuracy, but I'm sure he finds the risk and challenge appealing.

Comment author: [deleted] 28 November 2010 03:36:51AM *  1 point [-]

results here

values survey Apparently I'm unusual. I care more about achievement than liberals or conservatives, but I care less about everything else!

Comment author: lunchbox 28 November 2010 04:39:36AM 1 point [-]

I had the same issue with the Schwartz test. It seems not to correct for people who rate everything high (or low).

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