Daniel Kahneman

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Assorted links

1) Has a Nudge blog reader ever used gmail’s “undo send” option? It’s a five second cooling off period after sending an email. Better act fast. (Hat tip: Adam Singer)

2) A former judge wants to see more ignition-interlock devices. (Hat tip: Devorah Segal)

3) What does the status quo bias have to do with Keeping Up with the Joneses? Hint: One man continued to get up and go to work after he got laid off. (Hat tip: Free Exchange)

4) The IMF profiles Daniel Kahneman, who recounts this fascinating story: (Hat tip: Amol Agrawal)

An early event in Nazi-occupied Paris that he remembers vividly left a lasting impression because of varied shades of meaning and implications about human nature. “It must have been late 1941 or early 1942. Jews were required to wear the Star of David and to obey a 6 p.m. curfew. I had gone to play with a Christian friend and had stayed too late. I turned my brown sweater inside out to walk the few blocks home. As I was walking down an empty street, I saw a German soldier approaching. He was wearing the black uniform that I had been told to fear more than others—the one worn by specially recruited SS soldiers. As I came closer to him, trying to walk fast, I noticed that he was looking at me intently. Then he beckoned me over, picked me up, and hugged me. I was terrified that he would notice the star inside my sweater. He was speaking to me with great emotion, in German. When he put me down, he opened his wallet, showed me a picture of a boy, and gave me some money. I went home more certain than ever that my mother was right: people were endlessly complicated and interesting.”

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Richard Thaler and Daniel Kahneman are interviewed for an NPR story about lessons from behavioral economics. Long before he was a psychologist at Princeton, Kahneman was a psychologist in the Israeli army where one of his major tasks was evaluating soldiers and deciding which ones were likely to make good officers. To separate the good from the bad, Kahneman had groups of 8 soldiers figure out how to lift a giant telephone pole over a wall. The idea was that leaders, followers, and quitters would emerge. The telephone poll test turned out to be useless, however. There was no relationship between Kahneman’s evaluations and the evaluations at officer school based on six months of performance. Even after learning about the non-relationship, Kahneman initially didn’t believe it.

“The next day after getting those statistics, we put them there in front of the wall, gave them a telephone pole, and we were just as convinced as ever that we knew what kind of officer they were going to be.”

Listen to the story here.

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DANIEL KAHNEMAN:You call and ask people ahead of time, “Will you vote?”. That’s all. “Do you intend to vote?”. That increases voting participation substantially, and you can measure it. It’s a completely trivial manipulation, but saying ‘Yes’ to a stranger, “I will vote” …

NATHAN MYHRVOLD: But to Elon’s point, suppose you had the choice of calling up and saying, “Are you going to vote?”, so you prime them to vote, versus exhorting them to vote.

KAHNEMAN: The prime could very well work better than the exhortation because exhortation is going to induce resistance, whereas the prime‚ the mild embarrassment causes you to make what feels like a commitment, and the commitment, if it’s sufficiently precise, is going to have an effect on behavior.

RICHARD THALER: If you ask them when they’re going to vote, and how they’re going to get there, that increases voting.

KAHNEMAN: And where.

From the transcript of a conversation featuring Daniel Kahneman on “Two Big Things Happening in Psychology Today.”

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