Wednesday, June 17, 2009


The need for control can inspire great achievements, such as dams that prevent flooding, medicines to ease our lives, and perfectly confected chocolate souffl├ęs. But it can also lead to sub-optimal behavior...Studies show that people feel more confident they’ll win at dice if they toss the dice themselves than if others toss them, and that they are likely to bet more money if they make their wager before the dice are tossed than afterward (where the outcome has been concealed)... In each of these situations, the subjects knew that the enterprises in which they were engaged were unpredictable and beyond their control. When questioned, for example, none of the lottery players said they believed that being allowed to choose their card influenced their probability of winning. Yet on a deep, subconscious level they must have felt it did, because they behaved as if it did.
-- from Leonard Mlodinow on the limits of control

RB notes Joshua Greene's observation on why we care most about what is closest to hand.

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