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.

Remembering Representativeness

Probabilistic reasoning is hard; pattern recognition is easy. How do make your judgments? Let’s check in with Tom, Dick, and Harry... er, Jack, who taught us some lessons about what to do and what not.

My Moment of Self-enhancement

Most people want to do well in work and love, and while we can all improve in an absolute sense—if positive psychology has merit—we cannot beat the logic of ranks. Only half can be better than average (i.e., the median). Statistical regression pulls us toward that average, but, as I will show, there is hope in the strategic manipulation of perspective.

A Conspiracy of One

Monotheistic belief serves as an archetypal mindset from which others are derived and with which they are compared. Conspiracy theories are a case in point. If we turn this around, will we get an echo of Eco?

Meanings of Error

How much can we learn from a single observation or experience? What is the difference between not finding life beyond Earth, finding life on Mars, and finding life and Mars and on Alpha Centauri?

Just Desert

Setting aside for a minute your revulsion at military desertion, try to think about it rationally.

Freud Gaming Jung

Psychoanalysis is a dangerous method, particularly for its practitioners. Jung broke with Freud when the elder refused to submit a dream for analysis. What went wrong? Luckily, there is another game in town: Game theory. Let’s play.

An Intervention Illusion

When you study for a test and succeed to improve your score, this does not necessarily mean that you will also do better at the things the test predicts. This will happen only if studying for the test requires the acquisition of the skills needed to succeed outside of the testing room.