Friday, July 18, 2008

Do not study human cognitive biases, part II

You know that song from Zoolander that goes, "relax, don't do it..."? I think it's the song that Mugate plays when he wants Derek to kill the prime minister of Malaysia.

That's how I feel about people studying human cognitive biases. The next time you feel like clicking here, or especially here, just say to yourself, "no, I will sit on my sofa and sip some green tea instead."

Case in point. One of my old basketball coaches would often tell us after games we won that he knew we were going to win. Even when we were down and things looked bad, he had no doubt. I think his exact words were, "the whole time, I just knew that we would win that game."

A friendly reaction would to roll your eyes and smile. But once you've read about human cognitive biases, an alert goes off, like the buzzer in Ben Bernanke's head when he spots an opportunity to bail out another financial institution. It screams: "HINDSIGHT BIAS!" And it won't go away.

It's the sort of thing that bothers you all night when you're trying to sleep. You want to go to PubMed to print out an article and anonymously slip it into his briefcase. Do you have any idea how dorky that is? Do you want to be that person?

I'll answer for you: no, you don't. This is your second warning. In ten seconds this blog post will self-destruct.