Do Others Know You Better Than You Know Yourself?

It is unsettling to think that others might know us better than we know ourselves. Turns out these worries are overstated.

A Simple Proof that Consciousness Is Necessary

The experience of consciousness is powerful and obligatory (when you wake up in the morning). Yet, it is difficult to prove that consciousness even exists. I think there is a way, though, and it is surprisingly simple.

Abducted Inferences

The advent of neuromarketing raises specters of high-tech mind-reading and the manipulation of consumer behavior. After reading a recent review, I expect that some of our preferences will remain private, at least for now.

Voodoo Causation

Brain scientists look for material causes of mind. The idea that once you see the brain at work you’ve hit epistemological paydirt is seductive—but not quite right.

Numb and Number

When you have to give up logic to score points for free will, you should know that you are in trouble. Celebrity scholars Pinker and Kaku have no such compunction. Watch them on youtube and read my two cents.

No Guide For the Perplexed

This is a requiem to the vanishing American pedestrian. His demise is accompanied by strange atavistic occurrences. Are these the signs of the Apocalypse?

Cold Comfort In Compatibilism

Let’s declare the libertarian (incompatibilist) argument for free will dead. That leaves the watered-down, muddled, stir-fried, compatibilist argument. This too leaves me dyspeptic. Though logically superior to the libertarian argument, the compatibilist argument invites abuse by moralists.

Taking Your Punishment Is Not Enough

The degree of excitement over the re-discovery of free will in modern psychology is proportionate to the depth of amnesia regarding medieval scholarship. It’s all been said.

Moralistic Psychology

Psychologists are getting impatient with the metaphysical definition of free will (me too). How much can be gained from a more modest, compatibilist, definition? Not much, I’m afraid.

Nietzsche Before Breakfast

Reading Nietzsche and considering the relevance of his thoughts for contemporary psychology is not a project for the weekend. For me, it’s been taking years. Here, I offer a selection of quotes from "Daybreak."

Fleck Is Back

This influential sociologist of science was actually a medical doctor, studying syphilis of all things. He was a methodological collectivist, a paradigm that I abhor. Yet I am strangely drawn to him.

Nietzsche on Self-Control

I stumbled on Nietzsche again when reading “Daybreak” late at night. I found that the old fox had a good rebuttal to the “self-control implies free will” hypothesis.

Jumping the line

Tired of waiting in line? Life just got more confusing. I took notes at an amusement park and the grocery store.

Auction Game

The decision to bid in an auction and to select the size of one’s bid is frustratingly difficult. The problem is that the other decision-makers are facing exactly the same situation. Game theory can help conceptualize what’s going on, but its recommendation for what to do, though mathematically tractable, remains opaque to the potential user.

That Damned Winner's Curse

Beware what you wish for. If you get it after outbidding competitors, you probably paid too much. Perhaps it is better to sell in auctions than to buy.

Errors of cooperation

Cooperation in non-cooperative games remains the bugaboo of game theory. Ken Binmore’s (2007) otherwise great book trembles between suggesting that cooperation does not exist, that it does exist but is random, and that the games are not non-cooperative after all. Game theory – shame theory.

Testing, Testing!

In testing, one should have a clear objective: to test individual differences or absolute performance. To mix these objectives is stupid and unfair.

Veto Games

The power to say no is – unfortunately – often stronger than the power to say yes. Whereas the latter can only propose, the former can nullify. Playing with game theory, though, I find reasons for hope. The veto, it seems, is weaker than advertised.

Power Games

Interpersonal power may seem a sinister topic, but it can be modeled as a game. Even if your hand is bad, you can capture some power if you play well.

The Curse of Free Will

The arrogation of free will is (wo)man’s attempt to go beyond nature. It is futile if nature is all there is. Otherwise it’s divine and potentially blasphemous.

Beyond Guilt and Envy

Many value social cooperation, yet feel the temptations of selfishness and fear the selfishness of others. Some behavioral economists suggest that compassion can tip the scales in favor of cooperation, but I fear that it is not enough. Self-based social projection must be part of the mix.

Your Chaotic Mind

Would you want to share free will with fruit flies? If so, there may be hope for you. If not, you need to accept that neither you nor fly boy have free will. You can still enjoy life, though.

Attention: Debt!

Research shows that assets loom larger when net worth is negative, whereas debts loom larger when net worth is positive. I review the findings and show how a simple and unbiased heuristic can account for them.

Money and Trust

Studying psychology in business and economics, my Italian students and I discovered some linkages between the psychology of money and the psychology of trust.

Fuori Servizio

Rick Steves travels a lot in Europe and is followed around by a camera crew. I travel alone with a Nikon in my bag. Visiting Italy for a teaching gig raises a stream of psychological issues—most of them pleasant.

Barrett's Banalogies

God cleverly continues to refuse being cast as a testable hypothesis. When scientists try to use their craft to prop of belief, the results are amusing.

Disorderly Discourse

In earlier posts, I idiotically relied on rational arguments to dispute a line of reasoning that sought to prop up Christian theism with psychological science. No more. Here, I retreat to analogies.

Anchoring Base Rates

To conclude the trilogy of posts on the representativeness heuristic, I here propose that base rate neglect can be reduced if base rates are first presented as judgmental anchors.

Undeep Thoughts and Paralipomena

That these fragments are not peer-reviewed does not mean that they are wrong.

Recipe for Representativeness

If judgmental heuristics such as representativeness yield acceptable results most of the time, perhaps we should not fight so hard to keep them at bay. In this essay, I provide some background for a story on debiasing, which is yet to come.