Quantum Psychology?

February 10, 2010

Let me be frank; I think “The conjunction fallacy and interference effects” (ungated version) is a horrible misuse of math and indicates an embarrassing failure of peer review.

The author, Riccardo Franco, introduces a parameter that does doesn’t have any foundation in the phenomena it is trying to explain, nor is it shown to aid in modeling.

Please tell me I’m missing something.

What?  You’ve never heard of the conjunction fallacy? It is yet another cognitive bias studied by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman.  They gave people the following problem (quoting from Wikipedia):

Linda is 31 years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice, and also participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations.
Which is more probable?

  1. Linda is a bank teller.
  2. Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement.

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January 11, 2010

Yeah so, publishing in Nature is something i’d like to knock off the list at some point (i thought we had it nabbed a while back, but that particular paper now seems stuck in permanent limbo, but i digress); unfortunately it hasn’t happened thus far. If i could accomplish that goal with a piece like this one, i think i would be doubly excited. The title for the letter is “Fetal load and the evolution of lumbar lordosis in bipedal hominins,” which is roughly translated by the Ig Nobel Prize* announcement it won (see here, scroll to Physics Prize) as “analytically determining why pregnant women don’t tip over.”

* described as being “For achievements that first make people LAUGH then make them THINK.”

Mistaking Beauty for Truth

November 13, 2009

Peter Klein agrees with Paul Krugman that economists have mistaken beauty for truth, but disagrees that it has anything to do with the financial crisis so he won’t be signing the Hodgson petition.

Also at the Organizations and Markets blog, Nicolai Foss discusses a special journal issue entitled “Economic Models as Credible Worlds or as Isolating Tools?”

Speaking of models and truth and beauty, I found Murray Gell-Mann’s TED Talk fascinating.  He argues that in physics, a beautiful theory is more likely to be true.  This makes me a little nervous.  I would be especially worried about using this heuristic in the social sciences because the objects we are studying are complex, and have so much meaning to us that our aesthetic sense is more likely to attach to theories for reasons other than truth.  Truth may be beautiful, but so are our cognitive biases and ideologies.