Sunday, December 25, 2016
_Breaking the Barrier: The Rise of Solidarity in Poland_ by Lawrence Goodwyn
Breaking the Barrier: The Rise of Solidarity in Poland by Lawrence Goodwyn
NY: Oxford University Press, 1991
(xvii) But protest moves from idea to action when it becomes social - that is, when it is organized so that people are acting rather than writing or talking about acting.
(xix) The study of Solidarnosc that follows proceeds from an understanding that I believe is essential in providing the necessary connecting link between idea and action in history - quite simply, that social knowledge is experiential….
But while the inevitable disputations that ensue are frequently conducted in a vocabulary of high principle and in terminology arranged to project logical power, the beliefs and customs being projected are passionately held precisely because they have been experientially confirmed in daily life. For better or for worse, social knowledge is experiential, and the beliefs so shaped are taken to be “normal.”
..In considering that vast and varied area of human activity that can loosely be described as “the politics of protest,” the first thing that must be acknowledged is that the social activity suggested by the phrase is emphatically not perceived as ”normal.” The phrase itself refers in some general way to a dim arena of human activity, emotion, perception, and belief that is connected to unusual acts of unsanctioned assertion by previously little-known persons.
(xx) In essence, most “ideas” do not move to “action” because people are afraid to act on their ideas. Quite simply, they do not know what to do that is safe to do. The problem is one of power and the social fear that power can stimulate. Power generates in people experiences that teach the merits of caution.
NB: People also do not know what is effective, where the levers they can actually move are
(xxix) To summarize, at the heart of Solidarnosc was highly relevant social experience, not literary craftsmanship or erudite political analysis.
(10) Lech Walesa welcoming the government team on behalf of 370 enterprises: “The fact that we represent hundreds of thousands of people makes us feel sure that the cause we are fighting for is just. Coming here may bring home to you what a shipyard is like when the workers are governing themselves. You can see for yourself how orderly it is.” Walesa then provided the government team with its first indication that the strike committee did not intend to be stampeded: “The serious matters we must settle require us to act prudently and without haste. We have been waiting patiently for nine days, and we have plenty of patience left.”
(13) The twenty-one Gdansk demands were so sweeping in this intent that most Polish intellectuals, including the most respected and militant of the leaders of the democratic opposition, concluded they went much too far. The first demand, particularly, was seen as excessive and unrealistic, an example of militancy carried to the point of “impossibilism.” The workers were unmoved by this advice. Unbelievably, they acted as if there were issues even more vital than the twenty-one demands. The duality is starkly visible here: the status of the workers’ “helpers” - and all the contentions about police repression than even the far-ranging first demand which called for free trade unions independent of the party.
NB: Situationism: be realistic, demand the impossible
(18) There is a necessary human rhythm here - the pent-up needs of voiceless people when they are at last able to speak and a Chief Censor who is forced to listen. It is a fine moment in history, one that does not happen enough in any society or in any unbalanced human relationship. A bit of excess seems always to be visible the first time; its presence verifies the humiliation and tragedy of the past and signals that some basic realignment is in the offing, or is possible, or is at least passionately longed for.
(19) All governments lie when it is considered necessary, of course, but the form and extent of deceit often illuminate the kind of functioning social compact that actually connects the rulers and the ruled.
NB: IF Stone
(29) Only veteran organizers knew that “patience” was a quality that could also be described by two other words - “sustained militancy.”
(33) It is not simply “fear” or “apathy” that immobilizes people; it is knowledge they have been taught about how power works in their lives, in their jobs, in their neighborhoods, and, indeed, in most of their social relations. They desire change and yet do not believe they can get much of it.
Aspiration conjoined with anxiety - it is the essential political tension of modern society, as unwanted coupling deeply rooted in subjective experience and one that surfaces in many guises every day in every human being and in every public political action. A relatively simple condition to describe, it is also a pervasive condition, and its endurance through the generations mocks the pretension of much that passes as high political theory in the late twentieth century. But to understand this equivocal tension and to respond to it is the starting place for democratic politics - a juncture that marks the point at which democratic organization must begin.
(41) Solidarnosc Strike Bulletin no. 10 carried a deeply felt and highly ironic reflection of the corrupted socialist aspiration: “Workers of the World… my sincere apologies. [Signed] Karl Marx.”
(56) The slowdown meant that factories producing parts for production lines in other factories set in motion a chain reaction of routine shortages that pervaded the entire system. The phenomenon ensured that full-scale production rarely began before the fifteenth and sometimes even the twentieth of each month, insuring yet another round of end-of-the-month frenzy. The custom acquired a name - “storming.” It was a folkway of the entire Eastern bloc, nowhere more intractable as a system than in the Soviet Union itself. In Poland, production averages were ludicrous; first ten days, 7 percent of monthly output; second ten days, 22 percent; final ten days, 71 percent. The practice was wasteful of human and material resources and yielded additional waste in the form of shoddy products that quickly wore out. Since waste was literally structured into labor itself, the incoherence of storming seemed to undermine prospects for a better future.
(60) Grievances do not translate into movements; they merely make them possible. Movements happen when they are organized. They happen in no other way.
(109) We may characterize this moment of time [after the collapse of the “Spirit of October” in 1956] as one of “private insurgency.” It is a pivotal juncture, but in the literature of political theory, it has no name. As a component of social relations, it is one of the most uninvestigated areas of political science, a palpable lacuna rife with theoretical and practical import. The “moment” of private insurgency generates no historical records: it is, in a sense, invisible; it may therefore be understood to be pre-political. Nothing that might be characterized as a movement has yet emerged. It is, in fact, the last moment before movements become historical. It is that juncture when future activists are talking to each other and have not quite begun to ponder how to reach out and connect either with the larger society or with social groups other than their own.
(111) People had serious complaints, but seemingly nothing much could be done. So “politics" became the art of complaining to one’s acquaintances.
(113) Lawrence Weschler: “It occurred to me that our Western newscasts always offer us bite-size morsels, little digestible snippets that disguise the true horror of conflict - that is, that it just seems to go on and on and you have no idea when it’s going to stop.
(115) The occupation strike has a storied reputation in the American working class, among whose organizers it has long been known as the “Polish strike” and more widely as the sit-down strike. Its American popularizer was a militant trade unionist name Wyndham Mortimer, who in 1934-1935 successfully organized the work force at Cleveland’s White Truck Company, which contained a substantial number of Polish-Americans. In 1936, Mortimer was the organizing strategist behind the “great sit-down” at the Fisher Body plant in Flint, Michigan, that finally brought General Motors to the bargaining table and launched the United Automobile Workers of America. In turn, the Flint sit-down promptly became the organizing model for the CIO in other mass-production industries in America; it was the tool successfully employed to combat police and company thugs in the tense and often bloody recognition strikes int he steel, electrical, and rubber industries in the late 1930s. The CIO’s debt to the sit-down strategy was sizable indeed - and it was a debt to the Polish working class. The occupation strike had gained great fame int he early 1930s in Poland where socialist and communist trade unions battled the nation’s right-wing prewar government. By 1936, it had become a finely ones and widely used instrument of working-class assertion, a tactic so tested and so heralded that it made the long ethnic journey across “Polonia” to the CIO in America.
NB: Occupy, also Goodwyn’s idea that the lack of the sit-down strike doomed the farmer/worker alliance attempts of the Populists
(116) At party headquarters, a junior official tried to bring calm by suggesting the workers name deluges to come inside and negotiate. The workers turned this down out of fear, born of past experience, that anyone named would be arrested when the confrontation was over.
(139) Lech Walesa, for one, also found a way to put his highly prized electrical and mechanical skills to work in the cause. By some miracle of labor, ingenuity, and scavenging of parts, he was able to resuscitate an ancient Warszawa automobile, obtain a driver’s license, and plaster copies of the democratic constitution of 1791 over its windows. He thus created a kind of mobile democratic exhibit that signaled the presence of self-activity down every street he drove. Public display of the constitution was not, per se, illegal; it was, after all, a historical document. But in the social climate the party’s police strove to maintain, its public flaunting violated proper deferential form preferred by the authorities in People’s Poland. Walesa’s relic of a motorcar thus became a mobile symbol of opposition in Gdansk. It also represented one more small but tangible step toward taking back some of the public space that had long been enclosed within the party’s monopoly of civic expression.
NB: speaking loud at the bus stops
(142) The evolving status of dissent in Eastern Europe over the long years since the end of World War II was once explained to a British trade unionist by his Czechoslovakian counterpart: “Listen, my friend, twenty-five years ago, these people could have been tried and shot. Fifteen years ago they would have been put in prison. Now they simply lose their jobs. That’s progress under Socialism.” In Poland in the late 1970s, the organizing challenge was to avoid even the last-named sanction.
(150) In 1978, the police decision to take away Walesa’s driver’s license was merely part of a long-running psychological campaign aimed at destroying the jaunty confidence that was such a telling aspect of his recruiting ability. His response was to turn his new immobility into a recruiting tool. When he emerged from a forty-eight-hour detention, he would get on a bus without money and borrow zlotys from total strangers while telling all on board the details of his false arrest and his activities in the free union movement.
(156) The process by which Baltic workers constructed the building blocks of the house they called Solidarnosc was not mechanistic. Although in retrospect it is relatively simple to array the organizing pieces aside one another in sequential order so that (1) an occupation strike may be seen as the necessary step toward (2) an inter factory strike committee dedicated to (3) the achievement of a self-governing trade union independent of the party-state, the decisive prehistory of the Polish August was not set in place in such an orderly manner. Each component was a product of knowledge acquired through collective assertion over thirty-five years in an ever-changing social setting that continued to generate distressingly persistent social and economic problems.
(157) For all those who are skeptical of the presumed universal benefits of science, history has a wonderfully disorderly quality about it - inevitably so, given the unscientific character of humanity’s social relations. Everything that the Baltic working class had taught itself was in place on the coast on July 1, 1980.
(160) But beyond this essential starting point, he [Walesa] had learned over the years - in the shipyard in 1970-71 and again in 1976, at ZREMB in 1978, at Elektromontaz in 1979-80, and in the free unions - that the key to solidarity was communications. Uncertainty and the weakening resolve appeared when rumors appeared, and rumors came when people did not know what was happening. Walesa addressed this problem on the first morning.
… Director Gniech and the strike committee moved toward their first negotiating session, whereupon Walesa made his move: “It must be done so everyone can hear - over the loudspeaker.” Gniech was taken aback. A negotiation conducted over loudspeakers? It could not be done, he said….
Thus in one negotiating sally, and with technological finality, Walesa solved the entire problem of internal communications in the shipyard for the duration of the strike. The most anxiety-ridden worker in the last rank of the shipyard would be as informed as the most active militant. In one stroke, the rumor factor had been reduced to an absolute minimum. If the worker leadership could now keep both its poise and its programmatic militancy, the entire work force would support them. They would be politicized by events. They always were - when they could get information one events. To anyone who understood the worker milieu on the coast, the incorporation of the loudspeaker into the movement was an important step toward binding the community.
(162) Together with another worker, [Stanislaw] Bury secured all the acetylene, gas, and electrical equipment so that no party hooligan could come in and set off an “accidental” explosion as a pretext for bringing militia into the shipyard. The same thought occurred to other coastal workers with long memories. A worker militia was formed, given distinctive arm bands, and put in charge of security throughout the shipyard. The strike committee also banned all alcohol from the shipyard. Experience - the occupation strikes of the 1970s - informed action.
(164) He [Gniech] had tried to explain that the area outside Gate No. 2 where the workers had fallen in 1970 had been set aside for a new supermarket. Strike committee members were unmoved by this piece of intelligence, and one of them walked up to the microphone and addressed the massed thousands listening in the shipyard: “Do you want a monument?” The thunderous answer not only reduced Gniech’s maneuvering room, it impressed on him the extent to which the public nature of the negotiations robbed authorities of the strategic advantages normally adhering to power itself.
(165) It was, of course, a thoroughly undemocratic way out, though he found a way to exonerate himself as a person if not as a worker representative. Speaking in a loud voice he [Walesa] said:
“We must respect democracy and therefore accept the compromise, even if it is not brilliant; but we do not have the right to abandon others. We must continue the strike out of solidarity until everyone has won. I said I would be the last person to leave the shipyard. And I meant it. If the workers who are gathered here want to continue the strike then it will be continued. Now, who wants to strike?”
… Walesa’s inquiry “who wants to strike?” could have only one honorable answer, for it was the ultimate loaded question.
(169) For intellectuals - novelists, economists, poets, journalists and scholars, people whose life gained meaning by the expression of their understandings of life - the crippling moment came with the censor’s blue pencil. Things ended not at the typewriter but at what the typewriter produced; creativity stopped dead at the party’s censorship office. But for workers, censorship came at the very point of production itself - on the shop floors where incoherent production relations made for waste and inefficiency, where party disdain made for dangerous safety conditions, where worker creativity about organizing production ran afoul of “the plan” or the prerogatives of those in charge of the plan. There was no “bottom drawer” where workers could hide their creative thoughts from the party. Their very creativity itself was consumed by the blanketing control that the party’s trade union ruthlessly imposed on the shop floors of Poland. it was for precisely this reason - verified by the experiences of daily life - that workers understood the censorship in structural terms that went beyond the understanding of the intelligentsia. This was the reason workers understood the centrality of the first Gdansk demand in ways intellectual could not. It represented the very essence of their struggle for free expression.
(171) But as Walesa’s own organizing career had vividly demonstrated, such was not the self-conception working-class militants had of their movement. They saw the Interfactory Strike Committee as the entering wedge into Leninist Poland for the benefit of the whole population. The objective was to pressure the party to come to democratic terms with society and thus transform the style of governance in the country.
Men and women who had spent their working lives under the shop-floor tyranny of the official trade unions and who had been harassed and even deprived of their jobs because they dared to breach the censorship by specifying the duplicity of the party’s unions knew in their bones that the forthcoming struggle with the state turned on finding ways for the MKS to fashion as much institutionalized protection for itself as was strategically possible. Internally, the independent union movement needed to solidify its fragile mass base in the Lenin Shipyard when the working day began on Monday; in the meantime, it needed to augment as rapidly as possible the number of enterprises on the Baltic coast that could generate shop-floor meetings and elect delegates to serve on the Interfactory Strike Committee. In ideological terms, it needed to be understood that anything that worked at cross purposes to these internal prerequisites - whether free elections or free expression at police stations - was conceptually counterproductive. Even the most self-important spokesman for an opposition grouplet had to be conscious of the strategic orientation imparted by the simple location of the meeting room - in an industrial enterprise protected from a police raid by organized workers conducting an occupation strike just outside the meeting room.
(177) As has often been said, history is not “what happened,” it is what people persuade themselves happened.
(185) To read, observe, and learn without becoming contaminated - that was the challenge of every minute of every day in Polish life.
(193) The great challenge, one that many besides Lenin failed to meet, was to remain democratic while at the same time remaining insurgent.
(211-212) A central reality concerning the cultural components of democratic politics, as distinct from the familiar fabric of elite politics, here comes into full view. For ordinary people remote from power to be encouraged to collective action, clarity of purpose is needed. For widespread resignation, carefully instilled by centralized power, to be transcended, a clear and patently worthwhile objective is needed. For nagging and immobilizing fear, carefully cultivated by ruling authorities, to be overcome evidence that the goal is worth the risk is needed. “Free unions independent of the party!” In Poland, the opening word of the first Gdansk demand passed this test in a way unrivaled by any public document since the end of World War II.
(213) That Monday afternoon broadcast of Radio Free Europe, with its strange, Kuron-contrived emphasis on every part of the twenty-one demands except the most important demand, was heard by those Poles in the Gdansk area who were listening. But the information provided was silent on the mechanics of movement building. To those distant from the coast who did not know what an MKS was or how to join it, Radio Free Europe could provide no information and neither could Jacek Kuron. It was not merely that they were structurally uninformed; the key recruiting tool - the union free of the party - was missing from the message. The most relevant subsidiary informational tool - what to do to prepare a factory for affiliation with the MKS - was also missing.
(216) A way did indeed exist to form public committees and make public demands in People’s Poland without subjecting the organizers to instant police repression. Surround the organizers with an occupation strike of thousands of workers and augment the strike committee with the solidarity strikes by hundreds of other enterprises. It was not Kuron’s idea nor Walesa’s nor Boruswicz’s nor Wyszowshik’s. Rather, quietly it had simply grown out of the accumulated experience of the coastal working class itself, a kind of collective imagination which, step by step, seemed almost as if it were orchestrated by collective wisdom. But it was not orchestrated. It simply grew, logically, out of the coastal workers’ own experience, as they improvised to meet the successive challenges to their organizing effort. It could be understood, after the fact, that the Polish August had a certain democratic ring to it.
(220) Instead of withdrawing in disagreement upon hearing Walesa’s views, Mazowiecki and Geremek performed two strategically vital acts of coalition building. They listened to the reasoning of the workers’ spokesman and they stayed in the shipyard to help. That is, they put aside their doubts and took their places as cooperating members of the democratic movement.
(225) If the independent union could be won, many Walesas and Geremeks across Poland would have to try to learn how to talk to one another. It was the ultimate democratic test that history puts to social movements.
(226-227) In most societies, anything that might be called “national unity” has on occasion existed as an idea and also as a kind of yearning, but its actual historical appearance has most often been only a momentary happening confined to the outbreak and cessation of national wars.
The distinguishing political feature of the Polish August was not some multiple convergence but rather something much simpler and yet far more profound: the mobilization and consolidation of the working class. As a result of their condition in Polish society, the men and women who represented the change in Poland essentially as something that would come from below and as a function of their own efforts.
(229) As Walesa put it when closely questioned by the foreign press: “I don’t know these people. Our main problem is free trade unions; and it is not important for us who will meet with us.”
(232) Presidium members made clear they did not want a union that played the role of a political party, did not question the leading role of the party, did not care which party functionaries ran the country as long as they were in some way accountable to social control, and did not wish to tamper with the social ownership of the means of production. What they had to have, however, was a self-governing union.
(238) Mazowiecki’s proposal for secrecy was precisely the kind of political move toward self-promotion that is a settled part of political habit the world over. Anything that diminishes the size of a decision-making constituency enhances the authority and self-importance of the people remaining within the constituency. The drive to control others by maximizing the information one has and minimizing the information others have is a feature common to hierarchical modes of governance in all the world’s cultures.
(246) In fundamental ways, the history of Solidarnosc contradicts the assumptions undergirding mainstream capitalist and Marxist analyses as to how social movements develop in industrial societies. A basic understanding of what constitutes popular politics is at issue here. The word “politics” itself is poised for redefinition.
(247) Visible here is an absolutely critical distinction between democratic movements (full of diverse people) and that descriptive monolith, a “mass movement” (comprised of a single entity called “the masses”). It is the latter that is commonly thought of when people brood about or encounter popular politics. Mass movements have “leaders” who are taken to be the necessary objects of careful study, so their modes of manipulating “the masses” can be traced. Leaders are presumed to have goals that are divergent from “the masses,” a circumstance that makes manipulation operable and hierarchy inherent. Mass movements are created by “other people”; that is, people not of “the masses,” people outside the social formation that comprises the movement. An essential corollary is that movements that appear relatively leaderless at the moment of formation are, perforce, “spontaneous” movements.
(257) It is critically important to note that only since the appearance of the broad political tradition initiated by Hegel and Marx has the term “civil society” possessed such a narrow descriptive range. For example, the ancient Greek polis was not only a functioning civil society; its participants were intimately involved in politics. Civil society existed “inside” the Greek state as a functioning political force. As revived in the Italian Renaissance, the idea of civil society was enriched in its social and political dimensions by additional concepts of “civic virtue” before being further elaborated in the commonwealth tradition of seventeenth-century England, a strain of political thought that extended to far-ranging democratic conceptions that materialized within the English Revolution. The idea of a politically active civil society was an animating component of eighteenth-century republican political forms, pioneered in England and expanded upon during the American Revolution. This republican tradition yielded derived organizational forms as a feature of nineteenth-century workingmen’s associations, reflecting artisans egalitarianism, and self-organized rural cooperatives that formed the structural base of agrarian populism. Both of the later developments, as elaborated in America, were anchored in Jeffersonian conceptions of a properly functioning civil society erected upon, in Jefferson’s phrase, “elementary republics."
(258) The capitalist response, then, to industrialization produced technologically advanced societies that facilitated social loneliness, reinforced by political resignation. The explanatory rationale for this state of affairs was embodied in an emotionally powerful word of consolation: “progress.”
(259) The Polish movement was not, as some have tried to argue, a “self-limiting” exercise in “anti-politics”; nor was it in its early phases, as others have judged, “nonpolitical.” Rather, over a fifteen-month period of intense effort and internal debate, various sectors of the Polish populace successively became earnest participants in an Athenian polis, virtuous Renaissance citizens, good commonwealth advocates, zealous republican innovators, aspiring artisans egalitarians, and, in the end, pioneers bent on scouting out the beckoning frontiers of a self-managing republic. To observers whose eyes are accustomed to hierarchy, such Poles necessarily became, particularly in this last stage, “romantic” and “utopian.”
(263) Solidarnosc was unprecedented in history - the world’s first majoritarian insurgent democratic movement. All previous democratic revolutions, including the many that failed, have been conducted by minorities, sometimes highly politicized, but minorities nevertheless. Other revolutions, including those that attracted millions of adherents, defined themselves as movements of national, ethnic, class, or religious liberation. As it washed against the Leninist state, Solidarnosc drew from all of those tributaries in the interest of its larger purpose of democratizing Polish social relations. All of which is to say, Solidarnosc channeled contending currents. Indeed, the movement contained elements of discord that embodied contradictions rather than simple contentions. A great deal of the pioneering of new democratic forms initiated within Solidarnosc, both in practical terms and in projects that never were able to move beyond advanced stages of planning, were fashioned in an effort to cope with the internal tensions that grew out of the movement’s sheer size and broad democratic objectives.
(263-264) Revolutionary leaders as diverse as Thomas Jefferson and Mao Tse-tung have written about a certain human capability they regard as essential to social change. It may be quietly described as the ability to act publicly against sanctioned authority. Once acquired, this capability produces a highly visible result, but its activating ingredient is invisible. The elusive component is something people acquire _before_ they gain the capacity to act. It is something that has often been understood vaguely as an “insurgent attitude.” It has also been seen as a function of pure “will,” as in the injunction, “people must act as if they were free to act.” This “something” can also be described as a political stance, as suggested by words like “militant” or “radical."
(268) In this fashion, a deeply ironic truth slowly materialized in working-class Poland in the autumn of 1980. The MKS had been wrong to seek and the government had been wrong to attempt to deny nationwide recognition of the new independent union. For workers throughout Poland to acquire the sense of self necessary to permit them to behave subsequently in autonomous ways, they needed to earn their own union; to overcome their ingrained fear of the party, they had to struggle with the party. The reverse was also true. For provincial party functionaries across the nation to amend their ways and to begin softening their programmatic arrogance and their administrative condescension toward workers, they had to be forced to confront the organized power of their own provincial working classes. This dynamic worked itself out in every corner of Poland in the first ninety days or so following the historic settlement in Gdansk. The process constituted the heart of the democratizing experience that Solidarnosc brought to Poland. More than any other memory, it represented the essence of the democratic legacy that remained within the Polish population after martial law descended.
(270) “People,” said [Ralph] Bunche, “are ready for freedom when they are ready to take it.” It might be added that, historically, people may well be “ready” long before they have the opportunity to acquire freedom, but they are surely ready by the time they have won it. It is, after all, a quality that can only be learned through experience. Democracy begins with the attempt to have it.
NB: Democracy is a performative act.
(272) There was the case of the two intellectuals who, when asked to sign a protest, replied in contradictory ways. The first said, “I can’t. I have a son,” and the second said, “I have to sign, because I have a son.” Kazimierz Brandys, who took station on both sides of this dilemma, commented quietly: “The two answers express old alternatives, two threads woven throughout the histories of many cultures. The idea of survival, the injunction of revolt. The preservation of one’s existence, the legacy of honor… In the end, however, everyone must decide for himself what he fears more - life or himself.” It was the pride and agony of Polish history that so many chose to live what they thought.
Here was the particular social poison of the authoritarian state; it forced everyone to pay an intolerable price for the simple preservation of self-respect.
(280) Democratic patience is an essential requirement of democratic politics. Despite all homilies mobilized in support of this truth, this contingent understanding of democratic forms is by no means routinely reflected in the dominant political customs that have materialized historically. Rationalizations (such as “efficiency”) are constantly being invoked to justify hierarchy. There is no immediate structural panacea that can obliterate this cultural barrier to the appearance and growth of democratic forms in stratified modern societies. The most that can reasonably be expected (it is a serious step in the right direction) is the creation of structures of open discussion that people can then test and experience and from which they can learn concrete things both about the forms themselves and about their own individual and collective conduct within them.
One of the chief obstacles to democracy is not merely embedded in the problems of internal structure (critically relevant as those problems are) but also literally in the heads of people, in the received culture of anticipation they bring to collective activity. Specifying these hazards constitutes a simple recognition of the underlying reasons why no culture that can seriously be described as democratic has ever been achieved anywhere or at any time in history…
It is not too much to say that the period of Solidarnosc was one of the historic high points of mankind’s history of democratic quest.
(289) In terms of human experience, the singular political achievement of Solidarnosc was that theories and practices of self-management were not being explored in some tiny kitchen conversation among isolated visionaries hopelessly remote from political power, but rather were taking place at the center of a huge popular movement. In the relationship of political theory to self-activity by living people, this achievement was almost unprecedented. Beyond this, it was an equally important fact that the exploration was not confined to the Network’s leading circles or to the KKP itself; the basic subject matter of economics self-government had become an engaged topic in workplaces across all of Poland. Never in history had such far-ranging democratic premises been sanctioned for serious explorations within such a massive polity as Solidarnosc had constructed in Poland.
… Henry Norr, one of the few scholars in the world who has researched and written about [employee self-management]
(291) By the end of July 1981, the Polish movement had used up much of the familiar democratic inheritance available as a historical legacy of the American, French, Russian, and Chinese revolution and was trying to move beyond them into new social space of its own creation. To an extent never before attained in any country, large numbers of Poles, connected in a voluntary community of their own construction, were thinking and planning seriously about ways to erect that ultimate in democratic forms - a self-managing economy in a self-managing state. There had seemed to be visible energy for this task, but as July turned into August, there appeared a much more desperate energy in working-class Poland. Led by women textile workers, a spectacular three-day hunger march held the city of Lodz in thrall, even as transport workers achieved a massive tie-up on Warsaw on August 1 that effectively shut down the center of the nation’s capital for fifty hours. The issue in both cases was food.
(300-301) As a direct function of their prior voicelessness, unempowered people bring to social movements deep personal longings coupled with uncertainty about the public conduct necessary to express those longings. This circumstance scarcely constitutes a historical secret - inasmuch as it is an organic feature of all modern societies. From the perspective of high culture, the general assumption is that politically inert people - the historic word is “rabble” - are inherently anarchic and fully capable of moving in some unpredictable, spasmodic swoop from total passivity to violent kinds of action. Indeed, much of the public rationalization of hierarchy rests upon the presumed need to guard social order against precisely this sort of unthinking “movement.” The fear, however, is inexact and misplaced. The only historical confirmation to this class-based assumption is found in what can be called “shadow movements” - social formations that contain little or no internal dialogue. Such entities are so constructed that self-appointed spokesmen do most or all of the talking. Random social collections of this kind can appear in any society fairly quickly, often on the spur of the moment, as it were. In their most extreme and irrational forms, such collectivities (they are not, as shall become evident, “social movements”) have two pronounced tendencies: they can kill (in America, the historically relevant word is “lynch”) and they generally exist in public only briefly before they dissolve.
The political distinction between “spontaneous” conduct and democratic conduct is most vividly evident in this context. Nothing enduringly democratic is ever spontaneous. Democracy is a dialogue, and to involve numbers of people, democratic forms must be fashioned that facilitate and protect such conversation. This is why those movements of democratic aspiration that have appeared throughout history have been - without exception - built by conscious action; they are never “spontaneous.” That word has acquired wide application because it offers an explanation of historical causation that otherwise appears (because it was not inquired into) inexplicable.
(302) Under Solidarnosc’s bylaws, dues money was not only collected locally but funds also remained under local control so that the servants of Solidarnosc were structurally encouraged toward loyalty to the movement’s grass roots. As a capstone of this self-organized institutional panoply, the movement launched a veritable fleet of local and regional newspapers, journals, and newsletters.
(336) Psychologically, if not in all other ways, Solidarnosc defeated the Polish party in the martial-law years.
(337) Less discernible than the movement’s persistence or Walesa’s continuing political relevance was the status of Solidarnosc’s underlying capacity for democratic cohesion. The long years of economic privation and political humiliation were a terrible strain on popular morale. The fact was totally understandable. Indeed, the wonder was that Poles stood up as well as they did. Nevertheless, successful popular democratic politics necessarily requires - to remain democratic - enduring popular patience. It also requires generosity toward others - of the kind skilled industrial workers had demonstrated in 1980-81 in forgoing pay rises for themselves to ensure increases for less-skilled workers living on the edge of survival. The long agony of martial law put almost unbearable pressure upon this social ethos - upon the very idea of egalitarian generosity.
NB: credit sharing of Populists.
(338) The appearance in 1989 of widespread democratic institutional forms in the Soviet sphere emerged out of a central precondition: the structural breakdown of the Leninist system of production. That these institutional forms first appeared where they did - in a shipyard on the Baltic coast of Poland in 1980 - was the the product of thirty-five years of effort that collectively produced for workers the specific instruments of social self-organizaton: the occupation strike capped by an interfactory strike committee possessing the strategic goal of achieving protected public space independent of the ruling party.
(346) It is quite possible that Walesa, remembering the strident voices on the national commission calling for “confrontation” with the party in November-December 1981, had simply lost confidence in that body. If so, that is something democrats can never do - and remain democratic. One lives within the polity, or one does not live democratically at all. It is a political principle that dates at least from Socrates.
(356) But the sustained study of social movement does uncover one recurring rhythm. The necessary predicate exists in the relationship of established systems of governance to the earlier revolutions that first brought them to power: the structural components of all existing regimes have their origins in the internal social relations and theories of politics at work in the insurgent movement that originally installed that system of governance. This relationship holds true whether “the revolution” happened last year or last century. This dynamic produces the following projection: it is unreasonable to expect any regime in power to behave in ways that are more democratic than were visible in the internal social relations within the movement that brought that regime to power. In twenty-five years of study of social movements, I have encountered no historical exceptions to this causal relationship. Rather, the historical evidence is compelling that revolutionary movements, once in power (whether for ten years or for two hundred), fashion modes of governance that over time become more hierarchical and less internally democratic. Only the appearance of another insurgent movement seems to offer the prospect of altering this pervasive historical tendency.
……The centralization of decision making in ever fewer hands - the evolution of elite forms - is described in terms of efficiency, not in terms of heightened centralization. However characterized, the evolution toward hierarchy has been a constant of modern life ever since industrialization began to alter mankind’s social relations in transcendent ways some eight generations ago.
(358) What the experience of Solidarnosc offers the world is compelling evidence that human capabilities in the sphere of democratic imagination and democratic performance can, on occasion, outpace sanctioned standards of “reasonable” expectation. Solidarnosc provides historically compelling evidence that people can perform more democratically than they have been told to expect they can - and more, accordingly, than they themselves believed they could. And they have done so over interestingly extended periods of time.
(363) There must be a means for the movement’s most experienced activists to convey their experiential knowledge to its least experienced rank-and-file member...
Finally, beyond reasons of defensive and offensive strategy, internal communications are necessary as a structural verification that the movement is what it says it is - a collective assertion for greater democracy in which the lines of conversation run both ways, not only downward from leaders to rank and file but also upward as a means of holding leaders accountable.
(376) Though the occupation strike was the most potentially powerful and certainly the most dramatic weapon available to a highly organized local union and, thus, constituted the ultimate assertion of a plant-sized worker council, it was a prewar weapon that had applicability only under capitalism. Such a strike in one plant potentially could bring one boss to the bargaining table. But how to strike against the state?
(380-381) Unfortunately, the thought that KOR or anyone else can in such a manner “prepare the consciousness of the workers for the strikes” is grounded in the intellectual illusion that insurgency fails to occur in society because people do not understand that they are oppressed and therefore require some authority to instruct them in this regard. The problem for opposition organizers does not turn on this circumstance at all. Aggrieved people know they have grievances; their problem is that they do not have a clear idea of what to do about their condition or are reluctant to try possible remedies for fear of a retaliation from authority that will leave them in an even poorer condition. While the failure of aggrieved people to protest can be judged (when viewed from afar) as a sign of “apathy,” in reality it is simply a fairly coherent belief as to the predictable outcome embedded in real power imbalances. In essence, their caution is reasonable.
(384) Thomas Jefferson had once said, “A great deal of knowledge about the revolution is not on paper, but only within ourselves.” Jefferson said this more than a quarter of a century after the American Revolution. In specific historical detail, this particular kind of experiential knowledge about the American Revolution is still “not on paper.”
(385) In ways that are, to say the least, not broadly understood as part of the received tradition of “the politics of protest,” the focus of the militants tends to center upon the logic of spoken and written exhortation. Since industrialization began to engulf the world some eight generations ago, an enormous amount of desperate energy has been channeled into this programmatic cul-de-sac...
Their seminal error lies in the exhortatory premise - that social knowledge is essentially purely intellectual and thus can be conveyed in the form of argumentatively creative advisories to the population. Unfortunately, social knowledge cannot be conveyed through mere reflection; what people, all people, necessarily require is an opportunity to participate in experience. Democratic conduct, like hierarchical conduct, is experientially learned and tested.
(388) The idea of a self-managing economy in a self-managing republic, explored briefly but with intensity during the summer of 1981, will not go away - not in the spacious time frame to which historians are habituated. For this reason, the ultimate geopolitical consequences of the Polish achievement, for the West as well as for the East, are not yet evident.
(447) Roman Laba, _The Roots of Solidarity_
(452) The larger point is that the social rhythms of August on the coast subsequently coursed through all of Poland, ultimately engendering such a sense of self among the citizenry that movement activists were pressed into “fire fighting.”
NB: “sense of self” as citizens and workers absent in US
Monday, December 12, 2016
Into That Darkness: From Mercy Killing to Mass Murder by Gitta Sereny
NY: McGraw-Hill, 1974
(61) In the August 17, 1933, letter, Father [Robert] Leiber said that he was "particularly anxious over the ideological confusion that had been brought into the minds of German Catholics. The National Socialists", he said, "are doing everything they can to convince the Catholic population that an ideological agreement has [also] been reached between the Nazis and the Church. Already for six months now. Catholic authorities no longer dare (nor are given the opportunity) to expose and emphasize the ideological differences between the Party and the Church. Indeed," he continued, "a number of professors at Catholic theological faculties have already come around to that point of view and are teaching that it is not the function of the State to serve the people, but the people to serve the State."
(98) What was different, and of unprecedented horror, in the Nazi genocide of the Jews as it now developed, was the concept and organization of the "extermination camps". Even today there is still misunderstanding about the nature of these very special installations of which there were only four*, all of them on occupied Polish territory and all of them existing for only a short time.
Ever since the end of World War II these extermination camps have been confused in people's minds with "concentration camps", of which there were literally dozens, spread all over Greater Germany and occupied Europe, and which have been the primary subject of descriptions in fiction and films.
* Five if we include Birkenau, the extermination section of Auschwitz - which, however, also functioned partly as a labour camp.
(99-100) The "extermination" camps offered no such chance. They were created for the sole purpose of exterminating primarily the Jews of Europe, and also the Gypsies. There were four of these installations, planned _exclusively_ for extermination ; first, and as a testing ground, Chelmno (Kuhmhof), set up in December 1941. Then, following the Wannsee Conference of January 1942 which, chaired by Reinhardt Heydrich, put the official seal of approval on the extermination programme, Belsec (March 1942), Sobibor (May 1942), and the largest of them, Treblinka (June 1942). All were within a two-hundred-mile radius of Warsaw.
(100) The concentration camps too had gas-vans, gas chambers, crematoriums and mass graves. In them too people were shot, given lethal injections, gassed, and apart from being murdered, hundreds of thousands died of exhaustion, starvation and disease. But - even in Birkenau, the extermination section of Auschwitz (where 860,000 Jews are believed to have been killed) - there was in all of them a chance of life.
(101) "Why," I asked Stangl, "if they were going to kill them anyway, what was the point of all the humiliation, why the cruelty?"
"To condition those who actually had to carry out the policies," he said. "To make it possible for them to do what they did." And this, I believe, was true.
(119) It [Sobibor] was the second uprising in a death-camp, just as extraordinary as the first one, in August in Treblinka. Four hundred to five hundred people managed to get out but only thirty-two survived.
NB: Sobibor was in October 1943
(146) "No one at all could have got out of Treblinka," Richard [Glazar, one who escaped] said to me, "if it hadn't been for the real heroes: those who, having lost their wives and children there, elected to fight it out so as to give the others a chance. Galewski - the 'camp elder'; Kapo Kurland who had worked in one of the most tragic places in this tragic place - the Lazarett - an extraordinary committee, to whom we prisoners swore an oath on the eve of the uprising...
(149) Francizek and Wanda Zabecki, he was traffic superintendant of Treblinka Station and a spy for the Home Army, visit Treblinka camp: "Standing there, it was unbearable to remember, yet both Wanda and I felt that this deliberate effort to visualize the reality of a hell none of us can really share was what we had to do - it was the least we had to do."
(180) Richard Glazar: "I remember, that evening in the barrack, the others watching us new ones. 'How are you going to behave?' they wondered. "Are you going to scream, shout, sob? Are you going to go mad, hysterical, melancholy?' All of these things happened; and from the next night on, when I myself was one of the 'old' ones, I watched the 'new' ones in exactly the same way. It was not curiosity - nor was it compassion. Already we were beyond such simple feelings; we did it in response to a need within ourselves; we needed to prove to ourselves, over and over, that everyone was the same as oneself, with the same fears, the same aggressions - perhaps not quite the same capacities. There was a kind of reassurance in both these things, and watching the new arrivals became a kind of rhythm, every night…"
(183) Richard Glazar: "There were, of course, many who did succumb: I have read more or less everything that has been written about this subject. But somehow no one appears to have understood: it wasn't _ruthlessness_ that enabled an individual to survive - it was an intangible quality, not peculiar to educated or sophisticated individuals. Anyone might have it. It is perhaps best described as an overriding thirst - perhaps, too, a _talent_ for life, and a faith in life…"
I understood what Richard had meant when I met Berek Rojzman who came to Treblinka with me when I visited the camp.
(186) "If I speak of a thirst, a talent for life as the qualities most needed for survival," said Richard Glazar, "I don't mean to say that these were deliberate acts, or even feelings. They were, in fact, largely unconscious qualities. Another talent one needed was a gift for relationships. Of course, there _were_ people who survived who were loners. They will tell you now they survived _because_ they relied on no one but themselves. But the truth is probably - and they may either not know it, or not be willing to admit it to themselves or others - that they survived because they were carried by _someone_, someone who cared for them as much, or almost as much as for themselves. They are now the ones who feel the guiltiest. Not for anything they did - but for what they didn't do - for what… and this cannot be any reflection on them… for what simply wasn't in them to be."
(213) Richard Glazar: "It was just about when we had reached the lowest ebb in our morale that, one day towards the end of March, Kurt Franz [SS] walked into our barracks, a wide grin on his face, 'As of tomorrow,' he said, 'transports will be rolling in again.' And do you know what we did? We shouted, 'Hurrah, hurrah.' It seems impossible now. Every time I think of it I die a small death; but it's the truth. That is what we did; this is where we had got to. And sure enough, the next morning they arrived. We had spent all of the preceding evening in an excited, expectant mood; it meant life - you see, don't you? - safety and life. The fact that it was their death, whoever they were, which meant our life, was no longer relevant; we had been through this over and over and over. The main question in our minds was, where were they from? Would they be rich or poor? Would there be food or not?"
(214) Glazar: "This is something, you know, the world has never understood; how perfect the machine was. It was only lack of transport because of the Germans' war requirements that prevented them from dealing with far vaster numbers than they did; Treblinka alone could have dealt with the 6,000,000 Jews and more besides. Given adequate rail transport, the German extermination camps in Poland could have killed all the Poles, Russians and other East Europeans the Nazis planned eventually to kill."
(215) Early in 1943, when the Germans had ordered that the 25,000 Jews of Sofia be deported to Poland, one man - Monsignor Angelo Roncalli, Apostolic Delegate to Turkey, later Pope John XXIII - acted without thought of political expediency or of what the Nazis might do. "When Monsignor Roncalli found out about this," said Luigi Brescani, a confidential servant of Roncalli's, "he wrote immediately a personal letter to King Boris. I had never before seen Monsignor Roncalli so disturbed. Before I carried this missive to a certain person able to put it personally into the hands of King Boris, Monsignor Roncalli read it to me. Even though calm and gentle as St Francis de Sales come to life, he did not spare himself from saying that King Boris should on account agree to that dishonorable action… threatening him among other things with the punishment of God."
(217) One of the blackest memories for many of the people in Britain who were struggling to help the Jews was the government's refusal in January 1942 to admit to Palestine 769 refugees without British passports who had come from Rumania on the freighter _Struma_. This vessel, which was not seaworthy, was towed out to sea by the Turks on February 24, and sank with the loss of all on board: 70 children, 269 women and 428 men.
(232-233) What is the difference to you between hate, and a contempt which results in considering people as 'cargo'?
"It has nothing to do with hate. They were so weak; they allowed everything to happen - to be done to them. They were people with whom there was no common ground, no possibility of communication - that is how contempt is born. I could never understand how they could just give in as they did. Quite recently I read a book about lemmings, who every five or six years just wander into the sea and die; that made me think of Treblinka."
(250) "I know," Franciszek Zabecki said to me, "the others guess. There _were_ no German papers on which to base these estimates except those I rescued and hid - and they are inconclusive. But I stood there in that station day after day and counted the figures chalked on each carriage. I have added them up over and over and over. The number of people killed in Treblinka was 1,200,000, and there is no doubt about it whatever."
(353) There does indeed seem to have been no reason for "all that drama" considering that the Stangls really cannot be described as having "disappeared". What is astonishing is not that Stangl was finally "found", but that he was ever supposed to have been "lost".
The American CIC appears to have known about his position in Sobibor and Treblinka in 1945, yet they handed him over to the Austrians in 1947 and the Austrians put him in an open prison from which - of course - he walked out. When he went to Damascus after being helped in Rome, he immediately informed his wife of his address, keeping up a regular correspondence with her, and when his family joined him there a year later, Frau Stangl gave not only their relatives, but also the Austrian police precise information about their movements, including Franz Stangl's address. When they travelled via Italy to Brazil in 1951, they lived and worked under their own name. In 1954 they registered under their own name at the Austrian consulate in Sao Paulo.
The Austrian consul there was Herr Otto Heller, who was still holding the same post when I was there in 1971. It is true that he denied having registered Paul F. Stangl, or having subsequently altered that registration to Franz P. Stangl, or that Stangl had ever, to his knowledge, been inside the consulate. But he agreed that Frau Stangl registered, and that she entered on the form the names of her children, and stated that she was residing with her husband, Franz P. Stangl. He produced two files, one for "Theresa Eidenbõck Stangl", the other for "Renate Havel Stangl", and repeated that these were the only Stangls in his records.
(364-365) After more than a minute he [Stangl] started again, a half-hearted attempt, in a dull voice. "My guilt," he said, "is that I am still here. That is my guilt."
"I should have died. That was my guilt."
"Do you mean you should have died, or you should have had the courage to die?"
"You can put it like that," he said, vaguely, sounding tired now.
"Well, you say that now. But then?"
"That _is_ true," he said slowly, perhaps deliberately misinterpreting my question. "I did have another twenty years - twenty good years. But believe me, now I would have preferred to die rather than this…" He looked around the little prison room. "I have no more hope," he said then, in a factual tone of voice; and continued, just as quietly: "And anyway - it is enough now. I want to carry through these talks we are having and then - let it be finished. Let there be an end."
…Stangl died nineteen hours later, just after noon the next day, Monday, of heart failure.
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
_Thinking, Fast and Slow_ by Daniel Kahneman
NY: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2011
(6) The pleasure we [Kahneman and Amos Tversky] found in working together made us exceptionally patient; it is much easier to strive for perfection when you are never bored.
(9) A recurrent theme of this book is that luck plays a large role in every story of success; it is almost always easy to identify a small change in the story that would have turned a remarkable achievement into a mediocre outcome.
(10) Five years after the _Science_ article, we published " Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision Under Risk," a theory of choice that is by some counts more influential than our work on judgment, and is one of the foundations of behavioral economics.
(24) [Invisible gorilla] It is the counting task - and especially the instruction to ignore one of the teams - that causes the blindness…. The gorilla study illustrates two important facts about our minds: we can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness.
NB: asking to ignore something means we continue to ignore other things too
(28) Many years later I learned that the teacher had warned us against psychopathic charm, and the leading authority in the study of psychopathy confirmed that the teacher's advice was sound…. We were told that a strong attraction to a patient with a repeated history of failed treatment is a danger sign…
(35) In the economy of action, effort is a cost, and the acquisition of skill is driven by the balance of benefits and costs. Laziness is built deep into our nature.
(36) System 2 is the only one that can follow rules, compare objects on several attributes, and make deliberate choices between options. The automatic System 1 does not have these capabilities. System 1 detects simple relation ("they are all alike," "the son is much taller than the father") and excels at integrating information about one thing, but it does not deal with multiple distinct topics at once, nor is it adept at using purely statistical information.
(37) One of the significant discoveries of cognitive psychologists in recent decades is that switching from one task to another is effortful, especially under time pressure…
Time pressure is another driver of effort.
(41) A series of surprising experiments by the psychologist Roy Baumeister and his colleagues has shown conclusively that all variants of voluntary effort - cognitive, emotional, or physical - draw at least partly on a shared pool of mental energy. Their experiments involve successive rather than simultaneous tasks.
Baumeister's group has repeatedly found that an effort of will or self-control is tiring; if you have had to force yourself to do something, you are less willing or less able to exert self-control when the next challenge comes around. The phenomenon has been named _ego depletion_.
(43) The most surprising discovery made by Baumeister's group shows, as he puts it, that the idea of mental energy is more than a mere metaphor. The nervous system consumes more glucose than most other parts of the body, and effortful mental activity appears to be especially expensive in the currency of glucose. When you are actively involved in difficult cognitive reasoning or engaged in a task that requires self-control, your blood glucose level drops. The effect is analogous to a runner who draws down glucose stored in her muscles during a sprint. The bold implication of this idea is that the effects of ego depletion could be undone by ingesting glucose, and Baumeister and his colleagues have confirmed this hypothesis in several experiments.
(45) The bat-and-ball problem is our first encounter with an observation that will be a recurrent theme of this book: many people are overconfident, prone to place too much faith in their intuitions. They apparently find cognitive effort at least mildly unpleasant and avoid it as much as possible….
It suggests that when people believe a conclusion is true, they are also very likely to believe arguments that appear to support it, even when these arguments are unsound. If System 1 is involved, the conclusion comes first and the arguments follow.
(51) The events that took place as a result of your seeing the words ["bananas", "vomit"] happened by a process called associative activation: ideas that have been evoked trigger many other ideas, in a spreading cascade of activity in your brain. The essential feature of this complex set of mental events is its coherence. Each element is connected, and each supports and strengthens the others…
As cognitive scientists have emphasized in recent years, cognition is embodied; you think with your body, not only with your brain.
(53) This remarkable priming phenomenon - the influencing of an action by the idea - is known as the ideomotor effect. Although you surely were not aware of it, reading this paragraph primed you as well.
(55) Reminders of money produce some troubling effects. Participants in one experiment were shown a list of five words from which they were required to construct a four-word phrase that had a money theme ("high a salary desk paying" became "a high-paying salary"). Other primes were much more subtle, including the presence of an irrelevant money-related object int he background, such as a stack of Monopoly money on a table, or a computer with a screen saver of dollar bills floating in water.
Money-primed people become more independent than they would be without the associative trigger. They persevered almost twice as long in trying to solve a very difficult problem before they asked the experimenter for help, a crisp demonstration of increased self-reliance. Money-primed people are also more selfish: they were much less willing to spend time helping another student who pretended to be confused about an experimental task. When an experimenter clumsily dropped a bunch of pencils on the floor, the participants with money (unconsciously) on their mind picked up fewer pencils. In another experiment in the series, participants were told that they would shortly have a get-acquainted conversation with another person and were asked to set up two chairs while the experimenter left to retrieve that person. Participants primed by money chose to stay much farther apart than their nonprime peers (118 vs. 80 centimeters). Money-primed undergraduates also showed a greater preference for being alone.
The general theme of these findings is that the idea of money primes individualism: a reluctance to be involved with others, to depend on others, or to accept demands from others. The psychologist who has done this remarkable research, Kathleen Vohs, has been laudably retrained in discussing the implications of her findings, leaving the task to her readers.
(56) The evidence of priming studies suggest that reminding people of their mortality increases the appeal of authoritarian ideas, which may become reassuring in the context of the terror of death.
(62) Anything that makes it easier for the associative machine to run smoothly will also bias beliefs. A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth. Authoritarian institutions and marketers have always known this fact. But it was psychologists who discovered that you do not have to repeat the entire statement of a fact or idea to make it appear true.
NB: "familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth" "you do not have to repeat the entire statement of a fact or idea to make it appear true"
(63) More advice: if your message is to be printed, use high-quality paper to maximize the contrast between characters and their background. If you use color, you are more likely to be believed if your text is printed in bright blue or red than in middling shades of green, yellow, or pale blue.
(67) Around 1960, a young psychologist named Sarnoff Mednick thought he had identified the essence of creativity. His idea was as simple as it was powerful: creativity is associative memory that works exceptionally well.
(76) We are evidently ready from birth to have _impressions_ of causality, which do not depend on reasoning about patterns of causation. They are products of System 1….
Your mind is ready and even eager to identify agents, assign them personality traits and specific intentions, and view their actions as expressing individual propensities.
(77) The psychologist Paul Bloom, writing in _the Atlantic_ in 2005, presented the provocative claim that our inborn readiness to separate physical and intentional causality explains the near universality of religious beliefs. He observes that "we perceive the world of objects as essentially separate from the world of minds, making it possible for us to envision soulless bodies and bodiless souls." The two modes of causation that we are set to perceive make it natural for us to accept the two central beliefs of many religions: an immaterial divinity is the ultimate cause of the physical world, and immortal souls temporarily control our bodies while we live and leave them behind as we die. In Bloom's view, the two concepts of causality were shaped separately by evolutionary forces, building the origins of religion into the structure of System 1.
(80) System 1 does not keep track of alternatives that it rejects, or even of the fact that there were alternatives. Conscious doubt is not in the repertoire of System 1; it requires maintaining incompatible interpretations in mind at the same time, which demands mental effort. Uncertainty and doubt are the domain of System 2.
(82) If you like the president's politics, you probably like his voice and his appearance as well. The tendency to like (or dislike) everything about a person - including things you have not observed - is known as the halo effect. The term has been in use in psychology for a century, but it has not come into wide use in everyday language. This is a pity, because the halo effect is a good name for a common bias that plays a large role in shaping our view of people and situations….
The halo effect is also an example of suppressed ambiguity: like the word _bank_, the adjective _stubborn_ is ambiguous and will be interpreted in a way that makes it coherent with the context.
(85) A simple rule [for meetings] can help: before an issue is discussed, all members of the committee should be asked to write a dry brief summary of their position. This procedure makes good use of the value of the diversity of knowledge and opinion in the group. The standard practice of open discussion gives too much weight to the opinions of those who speak early and assertively, causing others to line up behind them.
(87) The participants were fully aware of the setup [given one-sided evidence and knowing it], and those who heard only one side could easily have generated the argument for the other side. Nevertheless, the presentation of one-sided evidence had a very pronounced effect on judgments. Furthermore, participants who saw one-sided evidence were more confident of their judgments than those who saw both sides. This is just what you would expect if the confidence that people experience is determined by the coherence of the story they manage to construct from available information. It is the consistency of the information that matters for a good story, not its completeness. Indeed, you will often find that knowing little makes it easier to fit everything you know into a coherent pattern….
Overconfidence: As the WYSIATI [ What You See IS All There IS] rule implies, neither the quantity nor the quality of the evidence counts for much in subjective confidence. The confidence that individuals have in their beliefs depends mostly on the quality of the story they can tell about what they see, even if they see little.
(88) Framing effects: Different ways of presenting the same information often evoke different emotions….
Base-rate neglect: …The personality description is salient and vivid, and although you surely know that there are more male farmers than male librarians, that statistical fact almost certainly did not come to your mind when you first considered the question.
(91) Surprisingly (at least to me), ratings of competence were far more predictive of voting outcomes in Todorov's study than ratings of likability.
Todorov has found that people judge competence by combining the two dimensions of strength and trustworthiness. The faces that exude competence combine a strong chin with a slight confident-appearing smile. There is no evidence that these facial features actually predict how well politicians will perform in office.
(104) Characteristics of System 1
generates impressions, feelings, and inclinations; when endorsed by System 2 these become beliefs, attitudes, and intentions
operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort, and no sense of voluntary control
can be programmed by System 2 to mobilize attention when a particular pattern is detected (search)
executes skilled responses and generates skilled intuitions, after adequate training
creates a coherent pattern of activated ideas in associative memory
links a sense of cognitive ease to illusions of truth, pleasant feelings, and reduced vigilance
distinguishes the surprising from the normal
infers and invents causes and intentions
neglects ambiguity and suppresses doubt
is biased to believe and confirm
exaggerates emotional consistency (halo effect)
focuses on existing evidence and ignores absent evidence (WYSIATI)
generates a limited set of basic assessments
represents sets by norms and prototypes, does not integrate
matches intensities across scales (e.g. size to loudness)
computes more than intended (mental shotgun)
sometimes substitutes an easier question for a difficult one (heuristics)
is more sensitive to changes than to states (prospect theory)
overweights low probabilities
show diminishing sensitivity to quantity (psychophysics)
responds more strongly to losses than to gains (loss aversion)
frames decision problems narrowly, in isolation from one another
NB: Prospect theory and climate change?
(110) [The Law of Small Numbers] If you summarize the results, you will find that the outcome "2 red, 2 white" occurs (almost exactly) 6 times as often as the outcome "4 red" or "4 white." This relationship is a mathematical fact….
Again, no hammer, no causation, but a mathematical fact: samples of 4 marbles yield extreme results more often than samples of 7 marbles do.
(111) The explanation I offered is statistical: extreme outcomes (both high and low) are more likely to be found in small than in large samples. This explanation is not causal. The small population of a county neither causes nor prevents cancer; it merely allows the incidence of cancer to be much higher (or much lower) than it is in the larger population. The deeper truth is that there is nothing to explain. The incidence of cancer is not truly lower or higher than normal in a county with a small population, it just appears to be so in a particular year because of an accident of sampling. If we repeat the analysis next year, we will observe the same general pattern of extreme results in the small samples, but the counties where cancer was common last year will not necessarily have a high incidence this year. If this is the case, the differences between dense and rural counties do not really count as facts: they are what scientists call artifacts, observations that are produced entirely by some aspect of the method of research - in this case, by differences in sample size.
(114) The strong bias toward believing that small samples closely resemble the population from which they are drawn is also part of a larger story: we are prone to exaggerate the consistency and coherence of what we see. The exaggerated faith of researchers in what can be learned from a few observations is closely related to the halo effect, the sense we often get that we know and understand a person about whom we actually know very little. System 1 tunas ahead of the facts in constructing a rich image on the basis of scraps of evidence.
NB: What's the sample size that makes sense in each situation? What's the proper base rate?
(114-115) The associative machinery seeks causes. The difficulty we have with statistical regularities is that they call for a different approach. Instead of focusing on how the event at hand came to be, the statistical view relates it to what could have happened instead. Nothing in particular caused it to be what it is - chance selected it from among its alternatives.
(118) The exaggerated faith in small samples is only one example of a more general illusion - we pay more attention to the content of messages than to information about their reliability, and as a result end up with a view of the world around us that is simpler and more coherent than the data justify. Jumping to conclusions is a safer sport in the world of our imagination than it is in reality.
Statistics produce many observations that appear to beg for causal explanations but do not lend themselves to such explanations. Many facts of the world are due to chance, including accidents of sampling. Causal explanations of chance events are inevitably wrong.
(119) The phenomenon we were studying is so common and so important in the everyday world that you should know its name: it is an _anchoring effect_. It occurs when people consider a particular value for an unknown quantity before estimating that quantity. What happens is one of the most reliable and robust results of experimental psychology: the estimates stay close to the number that people considered - hence the image of an anchor.
(126) As you may have experienced when negotiating for the first time in a bazaar, the initial anchor has a powerful effect. My advice to students when I taught negotiations was that if you think the other side has made an outrageous proposal, you should not come back with an equally outrageous counteroffer, creating a gap that will be difficult to bridge in further negotiations. Instead you should make a scene, storm out or threaten to do so, and make it clear - to yourself as well as to the other side - that you will not continue the negotiation with that number on the table.
(127) For example, the anchoring effect is reduced or eliminated when the second mover focuses his attention on the minimal offer that the opponent would accept, or on the costs to the opponent of failing to reach an agreement. In general, a strategy of deliberately "thinking the opposite" may be a good defense against anchoring effects, because it negates the biased recruitment of thoughts that produces these effects.
Finally, try your hand at working out the effect of anchoring on a problem of public policy: the size of damages in personal injury cases. These awards are sometimes very large. Businesses that are frequent targets of such lawsuits, such as hospitals and chemicals companies, have lobbied to set a cap on the awards. Before you read this chapter you might have thought that capping awards is certainly good for potential defendants, but now you should not be so sure. Consider the effect of capping awards at $1 million. This rule would eliminate all larger awards, but the anchor would also pull up the size of many awards that would otherwise be much smaller. It would almost certainly benefit serious offenders and large firms much more than small ones.
NB: Repug policies as psychological tricks?
… we saw in the discussion of the law of small numbers that a message, unless it is immediately rejected as a lie, will have the same effect on the associative system regardless of its reliability.
(131) I am generally not optimistic about the potential for personal control of biases, but this is an exception. The opportunity for successful debiasing exists because the circumstances in which issues of credit allocation come up are easy to identify, the more so because tensions often arise when several people at once feel that their efforts are not adequately recognized. The mere observation that there is usually more than 100% credit to go around is sometimes sufficient to defuse the situation. In any event, it is a good thing for every individual to remember. You will occasionally do more than your share, but it is useful to know that you are likely to have that feeling even when each member of the team feels the same way.
(135) The following are some conditions in which people "go with the flow" and are affected more strongly by ease of retrieval than by the content they retrieved:
when they are engaged in another effortful task at the same time
when they are in a good mood because they just thought of a happy episode in their life
if they score low on a depression scale
if they are knowledgeable novices on the topic of the task, in contrast to true experts
when they score high on a scale of faith in intuition
if they are (or are made to feel) powerful
I find the last finding particularly intriguing. The authors introduce their article with a famous quote: "I don't spend a lot of time taking polls around the world to tell me what I think is the right way to act. I've just got to know how I feel" (George W. Bush, November 2002). They go on to show that reliance on intuition is only in part a personality trait. Merely reminding people of a time when they had power increases their apparent trust in their own intuition.
(139) An inability to be guided by a "healthy fear" of bad consequences is a disastrous flaw.
(141) His [Paul Slovic's] point is that the evaluation of the risk depends on the choice of a measure - with the obvious possibility that the choice may have been guided by a preference for one outcome or another. He goes on to conclude that "defining risk is thus an exercise in power."
(142) An availability cascade is a self-sustaining chain of events, which may start from media reports of a relatively minor event and lead up to public panic and large-scale government action. On some occasions, a media story about a risk catches the attention of a segment of the public, which becomes aroused and worried. This emotional reaction becomes a story in itself, prompting additional coverage in the media, which in turn produces greater concern and involvement.
(143) The Alar tale illustrates a basic limitation in the ability of our mind to deal with small risks: we either ignore them altogether or give them far too much weight - nothing in between.
(149-150) The question about probably (likelihood) was difficult, but the question about similarity was easier, and it was answered instead. This is a serious mistake, because judgments of similarity and probability are not constrained by the same logical rules. It is entirely acceptable for judgments of similarity to be unaffected by base rates and also by the possibility that the description was inaccurate, but anyone who ignores base rates and the quality of evidence in probability assessments will certainly make mistakes.
(152) People without training in statistics are quite capable of using base rates in predictions under some conditions. In the first version of the Tom W problem, which provides no details about him, it is obvious to everyone that the probability of Tom W's being in a particular field is simply the base-rate frequency of enrollment in that field. However, concern for base rates evidently disappears as soon as Tom W's personality is described….
Frowning, as we have seen, generally increases the vigilance of System 2 and reduces both overconfidence and the reliance on intuition.
(155) The essential keys to disciplined Bayesian reasoning can be simply summarized:
Anchor your judgment of the probability of an outcome on a plausible base rate
Question the diagnosticity of your evidence
(159) The most coherent stories are not necessarily the most probable, but they are _plausible_, and the notions of coherence, plausibility, and probability are easily confused by the unwary.
(168) The two types of base-rate information are treated differently:
Statistical base rates are generally underweighted, and sometimes neglected altogether, when specific information about the case at hand is available.
Causal base rates are treated as information about the individual case and are easily combined with other case-specific information.
(171) The experiment shows that individuals feel relieved of responsibility when they know that others have heard the same request for help.
Did the results surprise you? Very probably. Most of us think of ourselves as decent people who would rush to help in such a situation, and we expect other decent people to do the same. The point of the experiment, of course, was to show that this expectation is wrong. Even normal, decent people do not rush to help when they expect others to take on the unpleasantness of dealing with a seizure. And that means you, too.
(174) People who are taught surprising statistical facts about human behavior may be impressed to the point of telling their friends about what they have heard, but this does not mean that their understanding of the world has really changed…. On the other hand, surprising individual cases have a powerful impact and are a more effective tool for teaching psychology because the incongruity must be resolved and embedded in a causal story.
(173) …rewards for improved performance work better than punishment of mistakes.
(176) [Regression to the mean] The instructor had attached a causal interpretation to the inevitable fluctuations of a random process…. I pointed out to the instructors that what they saw on the board coincided with what we had heard about the performance of aerobatic maneuvers on successive attempts: poor performance was typically followed by improvement and good performance by deterioration, without any help from either praise or punishment….
Because we tend to be nice to other people when they please us and nasty when they do not we are statistically punished for being nice and rewarded for being nasty.
(182) The observed regression to the mean cannot be more interesting or more explainable than the imperfect correlation….
Indeed, the statistician David Freedman used to say that if the topic of regression comes up in a criminal or civil trial, the side that must explain regression to the jury will lose the case. Why is it so hard? The main reason for the difficulty is the recurrent theme of this book: our mind is strongly biased toward causal explanations and does not deal with with "mere statistics"… Causal explanations will be evoked when regression is detected, but they will be wrong because the truth is that regression to the mean has an explanation but does not have a cause.
(183) The control group is expected to improve by regression alone, and the aim of the experiment is to determine whether the treated patients improve more than regression can explain….
Max Bazerman's _Judgement in Managerial Decision Making_
(188) This is perhaps the best evidence we have for the role of substitution. People are asked for a prediction but they substitute an evaluation of the evidence, without noticing that the question they answer is not the one they were asked. This process is guaranteed to generate predictions that are systematically biased; they completely ignore regression to the mean.
(190) Step 1 gets you the baseline, the GPA you would have predicted if you were told nothing about Julie beyond the fact that she is a graduating senior. In the absence of information, you would have predicted the average. (This is similar to assigning the base-rate probability of business administration graduates when you are told nothing about Tom W.) Step 2 is your intuitive prediction, which matches your evaluation of the evidence. Step 3 moves you from the baseline toward your intuition, but the distance you are allowed to move depends on your estimate of the correlation. You end up at Step 4, with a prediction that is influenced by your intuition but is far more moderate.
This approach to prediction is general. You can apply it whenever you need to predict a quantitative variable, such as GPA, profit from an investment, or the growth of a company. The approach builds on your intuition, but it moderates it, regresses it toward the mean. When you have good reasons to trust the accuracy of your intuitive prediction - a strong correlation between the evidence and the prediction - the adjustment will be small.
NB: 1) estimate average; 2) determine your impression; 3) estimate correlation between average (base rate) and your impression; 4) adjust your impression
(191-192) The biases we find in predictions that are expressed on a scale, such as GPA or the revenue of a firm, are similar to the biases observed in judging the probabilities of outcomes.
The corrective procedures are also similar:
Both contain a baseline prediction, which you would make if you knew nothing about the case at hand. In the categorical case, it was the base rate. In the numerical case, it is the average outcome in the relevant category.
Both contain an intuitive prediction, which expresses the number that comes to your mind, whether it is a probability or a GPA.
In both cases, you aim for a prediction that is intermediate between the baseline and your intuitive response.
In the default case of no useful evidence, you stay with the baseline.
At the other extreme, you also stay with your initial prediction. This will happen, of course, only if you remain completely confident in your initial prediction after a critical review of the evidence that supports it.
In most cases you will find some reason to doubt that the correlation between your intuitive judgment and the truth is perfect, and you will end up somewhere between the two poles.
(201) Our comforting conviction that the world makes sense rests on a secure foundation: our almost unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance.
(203) We are prone to blame decision makers for good decisions that worked out badly and to give them too little credit for successful moves that appear obvious only after the fact. There is a clear _outcome bias_. When the outcomes are bad, the clients often blame their agents for not seeing the handwriting on the wall - forgetting that it was written in invisible ink that became legible only afterward. Actions that seemed prudent in foresight can look irresponsibly negligent in hindsight.
(207) In the presence of randomness, regular patterns can only be mirages.
(216) Our message to the executives [of an investment company] was that, at least when it came to building portfolios, the firm was rewarding luck as if it were skill…
The illusions of skill is not only an individual aberration; it is deeply ingrained in the culture of the [investment] industry. Facts that challenge such basic assumptions - and thereby threaten people's livelihood and self-esteem - are simply not absorbed. The mind does not digest them. This is particularly true of statistical studies of performance, which provide base-rate information that people generally ignore when it clashes with their personal impressions from experience.
(219) The results were devastating. The experts performed worse than they would have if they had simply assigned equal probabilities to each of the three potential outcomes. In other words, people who spend their time, and earn their living, studying a particular topic produce poorer predictions than dart-throwing monkeys who would have distributed their choices evenly over the options. Even in the region they knew best, experts were not significantly better than nonspecialists.
Those who know more forecast very slightly better than those who know less. But those with the most knowledge are often less reliable. The reason is that the person who acquires more knowledge develops an enhanced illusion of her skill and becomes unrealistically overconfident.
(224) Why are experts inferior to algorithms? One reason, which Meehl suspected, is that experts try to be clever, think outside the box, and consider complex combinations of features in making their predictions…
Another reason for the inferiority of expert judgment is that humans are incorrigibly inconsistent in making summary judgments of complex information. When asked to evaluate the same information twice, they frequently give different answers.
(225) The research suggests a surprising conclusion: to maximize predictive accuracy, final decisions should be left to formulas, especially in low-validity environments.
(229) Their rational argument is compelling, but it runs against a stubborn psychological reality: for most people, the cause of a mistake matters.
(240) … the confidence that people have in their intuitions is not a reliable guide to their validity. In other words, do not trust anyone - including yourself - to tell you how much you should trust their judgment….
When do judgments reflect true expertise? When do they display an illusion of validity? The answer comes from the two basic conditions for acquiring a skill:
an environment that is sufficiently regular to be predictable
an opportunity to learn these regularities through prolonged practice
When both these conditions are satisfied, intuitions are likely to be skilled.
(241) Remember this rule: intuition cannot be trusted in the absence of stable regularities in the environment.
(243) As in the judgment of whether a work of art is genuine or a fake, you will usually do better by focusing on its provenance than by looking at the piece itself. If the environment is sufficiently regular and if the judge has had a chance to learn its regularities, the associative machinery will recognize situations and generate quick and accurate predictions and decisions. You can trust someone's intuitions if these conditions are met.
(247) The _inside view_ is the one that all of us, including Seymour [Fox], spontaneously adopted to assess the future of our project. We focused on our specific circumstances and searched for evidence in our own experiences.
(248) The second question I asked Seymour directed his attention away from us and toward a class of similar cases. Seymour estimated the base rate of success in that reference class: 40% failure and seven to ten years for completion….
The spectacular accuracy of the outside-view forecast in our problem was surely a fluke and should not count as evidence for the validity of the _outside view_. The argument for the outside view should be made on general grounds: if the reference class is properly chosen, the outside view will give an indication of where the ballpark is, and it may suggest, as it did in our case, that the inside-view forecasts are not even close to it.
(250) Amos and I coined the term _planning fallacy_ to describe plans and forecasts that
are unrealistically close to best-case scenarios
could be improved by consulting the statistics of similar cases
(251) The treatment for the planning fallacy has now acquired a technical name, _reference class forecasting_, and [Bent] Flyvbjerg has applied it to transportation projects in several countries.
(251-252) The forecasting method that Flyvbjerg applies is similar to the practices recommended for overcoming base-rate neglect:
1. Identify an appropriate reference class (kitchen renovations, large railway projects, etc).
2. Obtain the statistics of the reference class (in terms of cost per mile of railway, or of the percentage by which expenditures exceeded budget). Use the statistics to generate a baseline prediction.
3. Use specific information about the case to adjust the baseline prediction, if there are particular reasons to expect the optimistic bias to be more or less pronounced in this project than in others of the same type.
(255) Most of us view the world as more benign than it really is, our own attributes as more favorable than they truly are, and the goals we adopt as more achievable than they are likely to be. We also tend to exaggerate our ability to forecast the future, which fosters optimistic overconfidence. In terms of its consequences for decisions, the optimistic bias may well be the most significant of the cognitive biases. Because optimistic bias can be both a blessing and a risk, you should be both happy and wary if you are temperamentally optimistic….
An optimistic attitude is largely inherited, and it is part of a general disposition for well-being, which may also include a preference for seeing the bright side of everything.
(256) Their self-confidence [the optimistic ones] is reinforced by the admiration of others. This reasoning leads to a hypothesis: the people who have the greatest influence on the lives of others are likely to be optimistic and overconfident, and to take more risks than they realize.
(257) One of the benefits of an optimistic temperament is that it encourages persistence in the face of obstacles. But persistence can be costly…
More generally, the financial benefits of self-employment are mediocre: given the same qualifications, people achieve higher average returns by selling their skills to employers than by setting out on their own. The evidence suggests that optimism is widespread, stubborn, and costly.
(259) Cognitive biases play an important role, notably the System 1 feature WYSIATI [what you see is all there is].
We focus on our goal, anchor on our plan, and neglect base rates, exposing ourselves to the planning fallacy.
We focus on what we want to do and can do, neglecting the plans and skills of others.
Both in explaining the past and in predicting the future, we focus on the causal role of skill and neglect the role of luck. We are therefore prone to an _illusion of control_.
We focus on what we know and neglect what we do not know, which makes us overly confident in our beliefs.
(260) The upshot is that people tend to be overly optimistic about their relative standing on any activity in which they do moderately well.
(263) Philip Tetlock observed that the most overconfident experts were the most likely to be invited to strut their stuff in news shows….
The main benefit of optimism is resilience in the face of setbacks…
In essence, the optimistic style involves taking credit for successes but little blame for failures. This style can be taught, at least to some extent…
(264) The main obstacle is that subjective confidence is determined by the coherence of the story one has constructed, not by the quality and amount of the information that supports it.
(264-265) The procedure is simple: when the organization has almost come to an important decision but has not formally committed itself, [Gary] Klein proposes gathering for a brief session a group of individuals who are knowledgeable about the decision. The premise of the session is a short speech: "Imagine that we are a year into the future. We implemented the plan as it now exists. The outcome was disaster. Please take 5 to 10 minutes to write a brief history of that disaster."
Gary Klein's idea of the premortem usually evokes immediate enthusiasm. After I described it casually at a session in Davos, someone behind me muttered, "It was worth coming to Davos just for this!" (I later noticed that the speaker was the CEO of a major international corporation.) The premortem has two main advantages: it overcomes the groupthink that affects many teams one a decision appears to have been made, and it unleashes the imagination of knowledgeable individuals in a much-needed direction.
As a team converges on a decision - and especially when the leader tips her hand - public doubts about the wisdom of the planned move are gradually suppressed and eventually come to be treated as evidence of flawed loyalty to the team and its leaders. The suppression of doubt contributes to overconfidence in a group where only supporters of the decision have a voice. The main virtue of the premortem is that it legitimizes doubts. Furthermore, it encourages even supporters of the decision to search for possible threats that they had not considered earlier. The premortem is not a panacea and does not provide complete protection against nasty surprises, but it goes some way toward deducting the damage of plans that are subject to the biases of WYSIATI and uncritical optimism.
(269) Bruno Frey: "The agent of economic theory is rational, selfish, and his tastes do not change."
…To a psychologist, it is self-evident that people are neither fully rational nor completely selfish, and that their tastes are anything but stable. Our two disciplines [economics and psychology] seemed to be studying different species, which the behavioral economist Richard Thaler later dubbed Econs and Humans.
(272) Two years later, we published in _Science_ an account of framing effects: the large changes of preferences that are sometimes caused by inconsequential variations in the wording of a choice problem.
(274) His [Bernoulli's] utility function explained why poor people buy insurance and why richer people sell it to them, as you can see in the table, the loss of 1 million causes a loss of 4 points of utility (from 100 to 96) to someone who has 10 million and a much larger loss of 18 points (from 48 to 30) to someone who starts off with 3 million. The poorer man will happily pay a premium to transfer the risk to the richer one, which is what insurance is about.
(275) The happiness that Jack and Jill experience is determined by the recent _change_ in their wealth, relative to the different states of wealth that define their reference points (1 million for Jack, 9 million for Jill). This reference dependence is ubiquitous in sensation and perception. The same sound will be experienced as very loud or quite faint, depending on whether it was preceded by a whisper or by a roar. To predict the subjective experience of loudness, it is not enough to know its absolute energy; you also need to know the reference sound to which it is automatically compared. Similarly, you need to know about the background before you can predict whether a gray patch on a page will appear dark or light. And you need to know the reference before you can predict the utility of an amount of wealth.
(276) Because Bernoulli's model lacks the idea of a reference point, expected utility theory does not represent the obvious fact that the outcome that is good for Anthony is bad for Betty. His model could explain Anthony's risk aversion, but it cannot explain Betty's risk-seeking preference for the gamble, a behavior that is often observed in entrepreneurs in general when all options are bad.
(277) I call it theory-induced blindness: once you have accepted a theory and used it as a tool in your thinking, it is extraordinarily difficult to notice its flaws.
(279) You know you have made a theoretical advance when you can no longer reconstruct why you failed for so long to see the obvious. Still, it took us years to explore the implications of thinking about outcomes as gains and losses.
(280) We were not the first to notice that people become risk seeking when all their options are bad, but theory-induced blindness had prevailed.
(281) You know something about your preferences that utility theorists do not - that your attitudes to risk would not be different if your net worth were higher or lower by a few thousand dollars (unless you are abjectly poor). And you also know that your attitudes to gains and losses are not derived from your evaluation of your wealth. The reason you like the idea of gaining $100 and dislike the idea of losing $100 is not that these amounts change your wealth. You just like winning and dislike losing - and you almost certainly dislike losing more than you like winning…
The missing variable [in Bernoulli's utility theorem] is the _reference point_, the earlier state relative to which gains and losses are evaluated. In Bernoulli's theory you need to know only the state of wealth to determine its utility, but in prospect theory you also need to know the reference state. Prospect theory is therefore more complex than utility theory.
(282) Evaluation is relative to a neutral reference point, which is sometimes referred to as an "adaptation level"…
A principle of diminishing sensitivity applies to both sensory dimensions and the evaluation of changes of wealth…
The third principle is loss aversion. When directly compared or weighted against each other, losses loom larger than gains.
(284) The "loss aversion ratio" has been estimated in several experiments and is usually in the range of 1.5 to 2.5. This is an average, of course; some people are much more loss averse than others…
All bets are off, of course, if the possible loss is potentially ruinous, or if your lifestyle is threatened. The loss aversion coefficient is very large in such cases and may even be infinite - there are risks that you will not accept, regardless of how many millions you might stand to win if you are lucky.
(285) In mixed gambles, where both a gain and a loss are possible, loss aversion causes extremely risk-averse choices.
In bad choices, where a sure loss is compared to a larger loss that is merely probable, diminishing sensitivity causes risk seeking.
(287) Like a salary increase that has been promised informally, the high probability of winning the large sum sets up a tentative new reference point. Relative to your expectations, winning nothing will be experienced as a large loss. Prospect theory cannot cope with this fact, because it does not allow the value of an outcome (in this case, winning nothing) to change when it is highly unlikely, or when the alternative is very valuable. In simple words, prospect theory cannot deal with disappointment. Disappointment and the anticipation of disappointment are real, however, and the failure to acknowledge them is as obvious a flaw as the counterexamples that I invoked to criticize Bernoulli's theory.
Prospect theory and utility theory also fail to allow for regret. The two theories share the assumption that available options in a choice are evaluated separately and independently, and that the option with the highest value is selected. This assumption is certainly wrong...
NB: Prospect theory and 2008 crash
(292) This example [vacation days versus raise in salary] highlights two aspects of choice that the standard model of indifference curves does not predict. First, tastes are not fixed; they vary with the reference point. Second, the disadvantages of a change loom larger than its advantages, nudging a bias that favors the status quo. Of course, loss aversion does not imply that you never prefer to change your situation; the benefits of an opportunity may exceed even overweighted losses. Loss aversion implies only that choices are strongly biased in favor of the reference situation (and generally biased to favor small rather than large changes)….
Richard Thaler - father of behavioral economics
(293) The just-acceptable selling price and the just-acceptable buying price should have been identical, but in fact the minimum price to sell ($100) was much higher than the maximum buying price of $35. Owning the good appeared to increase its value.
Richard Thaler found many examples of what he called the _endowment effect_, especially for goods that are not regularly traded. You can easily imagine yourself in a similar situation.
(294) [Jack] Knetsch, Thaler, and I set out to design an experiment that would highlight the contrast between goods that are held for use and for exchange.
(295) The results were dramatic: the average selling price was about double the average buying price, and the estimated number of trades was less than half of the number predicted by standard theory. The magic of the market did not work for a good that the owners expected to use.
(296) Evidence from brain imaging confirms the difference. Selling goods that one would normally use activates regions of the brain that are associated with disgust and pain. Buying also activates these areas, but only when the prices are perceived as too high - when you feel that a seller is taking money that exceeds the exchange value. Brain recordings also indicate that buying at especially low prices is a pleasurable event...
As economists would predict, customers tend to increase their purchases of eggs, orange juice, or fish when prices drop and to reduce their purchases when prices rise; however, in contrast to the predictions of economic theory, the effect of price increases (losses relative to the reference price) is about twice as large as the effect of gains.
(297) The fundamental ideas of prospect theory are that reference points exist, and that losses loom larger than corresponding gains. Observations in real markets collected over the years illustrate the power of these prospects….
The experimental economist John List, who has studied trading at baseball card conventions, found that novice traders were reluctant to part with the cards they owned, but that this reluctance eventually disappeared with trading experience. More surprisingly, List found a large effect of trading experience on the endowment effect for new goods.
(298) Veteran traders have apparently learned to ask the correct question which is "how much do I want to _have_ that mug, compared with other things I could have instead?" This is the question that Econs ask, and with that question there is no endowment effect, because the asymmetry between the pleasure of getting and the pain of giving up is irrelevant.
Recent studies of the psychology of "decision making under poverty" suggest that the poor are another group in which we do not expect to find the endowment effect. Being poor, in prospect theory, is living below one's reference point. There are goods that the poor need and cannot afford, so they are always "in the losses." Small amounts of money that they receive are therefore perceived as a reduced loss, not as a gain. The money helps one climb a little toward the reference point, but the poor always remain on the steep limb of the value function.
People who are poor think like traders, but the dynamics are quite different. Unlike traders, the poor are not indifferent to the differences between gaining and giving up. Their problem is that all their choices are between losses. Money that is spent on one good is the loss of another good that could have been purchased instead. For the poor, costs are losses.
(300) In fact, however, we know more than our grandmothers did and can now embed loss aversion in the context of a broader two-systems model of the mind, and specifically a biological and psychological view in which negativity and escape dominate positivity and approach.
(301) The brains of humans and other animals contain a mechanism that is designed to give priority to bad news.
(302) Other scholars, in a paper titled "Bad Is Stronger Than Good," summarized the evidence as follows: "Bad emotions, bad parents, and bad feedback have more impact than good ones, and bad information is processed more thoroughly than good. The self is more motivated to avoid bad self-definitions than to pursue good ones. Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones." They cite John Gottman, the well-known expert in marital relations, who observed that the long-term success of a relationship depends far more on avoiding the negative than on seeking the positive. Gottman estimated that a stable relationship requires that good interactions outnumber bad interactions by at least 5 to 1. Other asymmetries in the social domain are even more striking. We all know that a friendship that may take years to develop can be ruined by a single action….
(302-303) Loss aversion refers to the relative strength of two motives: we are driven more strongly to avoid losses than to achieve gains. A reference point is sometimes the status quo, but it can also be a goal in the future: not achieving a goal is a loss, exceeding the goal is a gain. As we might expect from negativity dominance, the two motives are not equal powerful. The aversion to the failure of not reaching the goal is much stronger than the desire to exceed it.
(304) Loss aversion creates an asymmetry that makes agreements difficult to reach. The concessions you make to me are my gains, but they are your losses; they cause you much more pain than they give me pleasure. Inevitably, you will place a higher value on them than I do.
NB: Unless I also take pleasure in your loss
(305) As initially conceived, plans for reform almost always produce many winners and some losers while achieving an overall improvement. If the affected parties have any political influence, however, potential losers will be more active and determined than potential winners; the outcome will be biased in their favor and inevitably more expensive and less effective than initially planned. Reforms commonly include grandfather clauses that protect current stakeholders - for example, when the existing workforce is reduced by attrition rather than by dismissals, or when cuts in salaries and benefits apply only to future workers. Loss aversion is a powerful conservative force that favors minimal changes from the status quo in the lives of both institutions and individuals. This conservatism helps keep us stable in our neighborhood, our marriage, and our job; it is the gravitational force that holds our life together near the reference point.
(306) A basic rule of fairness, we found, is that the exploitation of market power to impose losses on others is unacceptable.
(307) The important task for students of economic fairness is not to identify ideal behavior but to find the line that separates acceptable conduct from a actions that invite opprobrium and punishment.
(308) Neuroeconomists (scientists who combine economics with brain research) have used MRI machines to examine the brains of people who are engaged in punishing one stranger for behaving unfairly to another stranger. Remarkably, altruistic punishment is accompanied by increased activity in the "pleasure centers" of the brain. It appears that maintaining the social order and the rules of airiness in this fashion is its own reward. Altruistic punishment could well be the glue that holds societies together. However, our brains are not designed to reward generosity as reliably as they punish meanness. Here again, we find a marked asymmetry between losses and gains.
(311) The large impact of 0 -> 5% illustrates the _possibility effect_, which causes highly unlikely outcomes to be weighted disproportionately more than they "deserve."
…The improvement from 95% to 100% is another qualitative change that has a large impact, the _certainty effect_. Outcomes that are almost certain are given less weight than their probability justifies.
(315) Probability (%) to Decision Weight
0 to 0
1 to 5.5
2 to 8.1
5 to 13.2
10 to 18.6
20 to 26.1
50 to 42.1
60 to 60.1
90 to 71.2
95 to 79.3
98 to 87.1
99 to 91.2
100 to 100
(316) When you pay attention to a threat, you worry - and the decision weights reflect how much you worry. Because of the possibility effect, the worry is not proportional to the probability of the threat. reduction or mitigating the risk is not adequate; to eliminate the worry the probably must be brought down to zero.
(317) Fourfold Pattern
HIGH PROBABILITY 95% chance to win $10,000 95% chance to lose $10,000
Certainty Effect Fear of disappointment Hope to avoid loss
RISK AVERSE RISK SEEKING
Accept unfavorable settlement Reject favorable settlement
LOW PROBABILITY 5% chance to win $10,000 5% chance to lose $10,000
Possibility Effect Hope of large gain fear of large loss
RISK SEEKING RISK AVERSE
Reject favorable settlement Accept unfavorable settlement
(318-319) Many unfortunate human situations unfold in the top right cell. This is where people who face very bad options take desperate gambles, accepting a high probability of making things worse in exchange for a small hope of avoiding a large loss. Risk taking of this kind often turns manageable failures into disasters. The thought of accepting the large sure loss is too painful, and the hope of complete relief too enticing, to make the sensible decision that it is time to cut one's losses. This is where businesses that are losing ground to a superior technology waste their remaining assets in futile attempts to catch up. Because defeat is so difficult to accept, the losing side in wars often fight long past the point at which the victory of the other side is certain, and only a matter of time.
(322) [After a bus bombing in Israel] What drove me was the experience of the moment: being next to a bus made me think of bombs, and these thought were unpleasant. I was avoiding buses because I wanted to think of something else.
My experience illustrates how terrorism works and why it is so effective: it induces an availability cascade.
(323) Many stores in New York City sell lottery tickets, and business is good. The psychology of high-prize lotteries is similar to the psychology of terrorism.
(324) People overestimate the probabilities of unlikely events.
People overweight unlikely events in their decisions.
Although overestimation and overweighting are distinct phenomena, the same psychological mechanisms are involved in both: focused attention, confirmation bias, and cognitive ease.
(325) The probability of a rare event is most likely to be overestimated when the alternative is not fully specified. My favorite example comes for a study that the psychologist Craig Fox conducted while he was Amos's student. Fox recruited fans of professional basketball and elicited several judgments and decisions concerning the winner of the NBA playoffs. In particular, he asked them to estimate the probability that each of the participating teams would win the playoff; the victory of each team in turn was the focal event….
The eight best professional basketball teams in the United States are all very good, and it is possible to imagine even a relatively weak team among them emerging as champion. the result: the probably judgments generated successively for the eight teams added up to 240%! This pattern is absurd, of douse, because the sum of the chances of the eight events _must_ add up to 100%. The absurdity disappeared when the same judges were asked whether the winner would be from the Eastern or the Western conference. The focal event and its alternative were equally specific in that question and the judgments of their probabilities added up to 100%.
(328) The idea that fluency, vividness, and the ease of imagining contribute to decision weights gains support from many other observations.
(329) …_denominator neglect_. If your attention is drawn to the winning marbles, you do not assess the number of non winning marbles with the same care.
(331) As expected from prospect theory, choice from description yields a possibility effect - rare outcomes are overweighted relative to their probability. In sharp contrast, overweighting is never observed in choice from experience, and underweighting is common.
(332) …there is general agreement on one major cause of underweighting of rare events, both in experiment and in the real world: many participants never experienced a major earthquake, and in 2007 no banker had personally experienced a devastating financial crisis. Ralph Hertwig and Ido Erev note that "chances of rare events (such as the burst of housing bubbles) receive less impact than they deserve accruing to their objective probabilities." They point to the public's tepid response to long-term environmental threats as an example.
(333) The probability of a rare event will (often, not always) be overestimated, because of the confirmatory bias of memory. Thinking about that event, you try to make it true in your mind. A rare event will be overweighted if it specifically attracts attention. Separate attention is effectively guaranteed when prospects are described explicitly ("99% chance to win $1,000, and 1% chance to win nothing"). Obsessive concerns (the bus in Jerusalem [which blew up]), vivid images (the roses), concrete representations (1 of 1,000), and explicit reminders (as in choice from description) all contribute to overweighting. And when there is no overweighting, there will be neglect. When it comes to rare probabilities, our mind is not designed to get things quite right. For the residents of a planet that may be exposed to events no one has yet experienced, this is not good news….
"It's a familiar disaster cycle. Begun by exaggeration and overweighting, then neglect sets in."
"We shouldn't focus on a single scenario, or we will overestimate its probability. Let's set up specific alternatives and make the probabilities add up to 100%."
NB: No Elijah seat
(336) Broad framing was obviously superior in this case. Indeed, it will be superior (or at least not inferior) in every case in which several decisions are to be contemplated together….
A rational agent will of course engage in broad framing, but Humans are by nature narrow framers.
(340) Decision makers who are prone to narrow framing construct a preference every time they face a risky choice. They would do better by having a risk _policy_ that they routinely apply whenever a relevant problem arises. [take highest deductible, don't buy extended warranties…]… A risk policy is a broad frame… A risk policy that aggregates decisions is analogous to the outside view of planning problems that I discussed earlier. The outside view shifts the focus from the specifics of the current situation to the statistics of outcomes in similar situations…. The outside view and the risk policy are remedies against two distinct biases that affect many decisions: the exaggerated optimism of the planning fallacy and the exaggerated caution induced by loss aversion. The two biases oppose each other… There is no guarantee, of course, that the biases cancel out in every situation.
(342) Except for the very poor, for whom income coincides with survival, the main motivators of money-seeking are not necessarily economic. For the billionaire looking for the extra billion, and indeed for the participant in an experimental economics project looking for the extra dollar, money is a proxy for points on a scale of self-regard and achievement. These rewards and punishments, promises and threats, are all in our heads. We carefully keep score of them…
The ultimate currency that rewards or punishes is often emotional, a form of mental self-dealing that inevitably creates conflicts of interest when the individual acts as an agent on behalf of an organization.
(343) The emotions that people attach to the state of their mental accounts are not acknowledged in standard economic theory.
(344) As might be expected, finance research has documented a massive preference for selling winners rather than losers - a bias that has been given an opaque label: the _disposition effect_.
(345) The decision to invest additional resources in a losing account, when better investments are available, is known as the _sunk-cost fallacy_, a costly mistake that is observed in decisions large and small.
(346) Regret is an emotion, and it is also a punishment that we administer to ourselves. The fear of regret is a factor in many of the decisions that people make ("Don't do this, you will regret it" is a common warning), and the actual experience of regret is familiar.
(347) Regret and blame are both evoked by a comparison to a norm, but the relevant norms are different.
(348) … people expect to have stronger emotional reactions (including regret) to an outcome that is produced by action than to the same outcome when it is produced by inaction. This has been verified in the context of gambling: people expect to be happier if they gamble and win than if they refrain from gambling and get the same amount. The asymmetry is at least as strong for losses, and it applies to blame as well as to regret. The key is not the difference between commission and omission but the distinction between default options and actions that deviate from the default.
(349) The asymmetry in the risk of regret flavors conventional and risk-averse choices… The physician who prescribes the unusual treatment faces a substantial risk of regret, blame, and perhaps litigation. In hindsight, it will be easier to imagine the normal choice; the abnormal choice will be easy to undo. True, a good outcome will contribute to the reputation of the physician who dared, but the potential benefit is smaller than the potential cost because success is generally a more normal outcome than is failure.
(350) The parents were asked for the discount that would induce them to switch to the less expensive (and less safe) product [insecticide]. More than two-thirds of the parents in the survey responded that they would not purchase the new product at any price! They were evidently revolted by the very idea of trading the safety of their child for money. The minority who found a discount they could accept demanded an amount that was significantly higher than the amount they were willing to pay for a far larger improvement in the safety of the planet.
(351) The _taboo tradeoff_ against accepting any increase in risk is not an efficient way to use the safety budget. In fact, the resistance may be motivated by a selfish fear of regret more than by a wish to optimize the child's safety. The what-if? thought….
In the regulatory context, the precautionary principle imposes the entire burden of proving safety on anyone who undertakes actions that might harm people or the environment. Mulitple international bodies have specified that the absence of scientific evidence of potential damage is not sufficient justification for taking risks. As the jurist Cass Sunstein points out, the precautionary principle is costly, and when interpreted strictly it can be paralyzing. He mentions an impressive list of innovations that would not have passed the test, including "airplanes, air conditioning, antibiotics, automobiles, chlorine, the measles vaccine, open-heart surgery, radio, refrigeration, small pox vaccine, and X-rays." The strong version of the precautionary principle is obviously untenable. But _enhanced loss aversion_ is embedded in a strong and widely shared moral intuition; it originates in System 1. The dilemma between intensely loss-averse moral attitude and efficient risk management does not have a simple and compelling solution.
(352) If you can remember when things go badly that you considered the possibility of regret carefully before deciding, you are likely to experience less of it. You should also know that regret and hindsight bias will come together, so anything you can do to preclude hindsight is likely to be helpful. My personal hindsight-avoiding policy is to be either very thorough or completely casual when making a decision with long-term consequences. Hindsight is worse when you think a little, just enough to tell yourself later, "I almost made a better choice."
Daniel Gilbert and his colleagues provocatively claim that people generally anticipate more regret than they will actually experience, because they underestimate the efficacy of the psychological defenses they will deploy - which they label the "psychological immune system." Their recommendation is that you should not put too much weight on regret; even if you have some, it will hurt less than you now think.
(355) Bet A: 11/36 to win $160, 25/36 to lose $15
Bet B: 35/36 to win $40, 1/36 to lose $10
...Remember that you are not negotiating with anyone - your task is to determine the lowest price at which you would truly be willing give up the bet. Try it. You may find that the prize that can be won is salient in this task, and that your evaluation of what the bet is worth is anchored in that value. The results support this conjecture, and the selling price is higher for bet A than for bet B. This is a presence reversal: people choose B over A, but if they imagine owning only one of them, they set a higher value on A than on B. As in the burglary scenarios, the preference reversal occurs because joint evaluation focuses attention on an aspect of the situation - the fact that bet A is much less safe than bet B - which was less salient in single evaluation. The features that caused the difference between the judgments of the options in single evaluation - the poignancy of the victim being in the wrong grocery store and the anchoring on the prize - are suppressed or irrelevant when the options are evaluated jointly. The emotional reactions of System 1 are much more likely to determine single evaluation; the comparison that occurs in joint evaluation always involves a more careful and effortful assessment, which calls for System 2.
(356) …"it allows individual choice to depend on the context in which the choices are made" a clear violation of coherence doctrine.
(357) Judgments and preferences are coherent within categories but potentially incoherent when the objects that are evaluated belong to different categories.
(360) .._evaluability hypothesis: The numbers of entries is given no weight in single evaluation, because the numbers are not "evaluable" on their own.
(361) The legal system, contrary to psychological common sense, favors single evaluation.
(363) "Italy won." "France lost." Do these statements have the same meaning? The answer depends entirely on what you mean by _meaning_.
….As philosophers say, their truth conditions are identical: if one of these sentences is true, then the other is true as well. This is how Econs understand things. Their beliefs and preferences are reality-bound. In particular, the objects of their choices are states of the world, which are not affected by the words chosen to describe them.
There is another sense of _meaning_, in which "Italy won" and "France lost" do not have the same meaning at all. In this sense, the meaning of a sentence is what happens in your associative machinery while you understand it… The fact that logically equivalent statements evoke different reactions makes it impossible for Humans to be as reliably rational as Econs.
(364) The problem we constructed was influenced by what we had learned from Richard Thaler, who told us that when he was a graduate student he had pinned on his board a card that said COSTS ARE NOT LOSSES. In his early essay on consumer behavior, Thaler described the debate about whether gas stations would be allowed to charge different prices for purchases paid with cash or on credit. The credit-card lobby pushed hard to make differential pricing illegal, but it had a fallback position: the difference, if allowed, would be labeled a cash discount, not a credit surcharge. Their psychology was sound: people will more readily forgo a discount than pay a surcharge. the two may be economically equivalent, but they are not emotionally equivalent.
(365) … but we already know that the Human mind is not bound to reality….
[20 subjects in KEEP/LOSE frame experiment ranking system] rationality index
(367) Reframing is effortful and System 2 is normally lazy. Unless there is an obvious reason to do otherwise, most of us passively accept decision problems as they are framed and therefore rarely have an opportunity to discover the extent to which our preferences are _frame-bound_ rather than _reality-bound_.
(368) The different choices in the two frames fit prospect theory, in which choices between gambles and sure things are resolved differently, depending on whether true outcomes are good or bad. Decision makers tend to prefer the sure thing over the gamble (they are risk averse) when the outcomes are good. They tend to reject the sure thing and accept the gamble (they are risk seeking) when both outcomes are negative. These conclusions were well established for choices about gambles and sure things in the domain of money. The disease problem shows that the same rule applies when the outcomes are measured in lives saved or lost. In this context, as well, the framing experiment reveals that risk-averse and risk-seeking preferences are not reality-bound. Preferences between the same objective outcomes reverse with different formulations.
(369- 370) Thomas Schelling, Choice and Consequence: example of framing effect:
should the child exemption be larger for the rich than for the poor?
Should the childless poor pay as large a surcharge as the childless rich?
(370) We can recognize System 1 at work. It delivers an immediate response to any question about rich and poor: when in doubt, favor the poor.
NB: a kick the poors response for some of the rich?
(371) It is a better frame because the loss, even if the tickets were lost, is "sunk," and sunk costs should be ignored. History is irrelevant and the only issue that matters is the set of options the theater patron has now and their likely consequences.
(372) Broader frames and inclusive accounts generally lead to more rational decisions.
…..The mpg frame is wrong, and it should be replaced by the gallons-per-mile frame (or liters-per-100 kilometers, which is used in most other countries). As Larrick and Soll point out, the misleading intuitions fostered by the mpg frame are likely to mislead policy makers as well as car buyers.
(373) An article published in 2003 noted that the rate of organ donation was close to 100% in Austria but only 12% in Germany, 86% in Sweden but only 4% in Denmark.
These enormous differences are a framing effect, which is caused by the format of the critical question. The high-donation countries have an opt-out form, where individuals who wish not to donate must check an appropriate box Unless they take this simple action, they are considered willing donors. The low-contribution countries have an opt-in form: you must check a box to become a donor. That is all. The best single predictor of whether or not people will donate their organs is the designation of the default option that will be adopted without having to check a box.
Unlike other framing effects that have been traced to features of System 1, the organ donation effect is best explained by the laziness of System 2.
(380) Peak-end rule: The global retrospective rating was well predicted by the average of the level of pain reported at the worst moment of the experience and at its end.
Duration neglect: The duration of the procedure had no effect whatsoever on the ratings of total pain.
(381) The _experiencing self_ is the one that answers the question: "Does it hurt now?" The _remembering self_ is the one that answers the question: "How was it, on the whole?" Memories are all we get to keep from our experience of living, and the only perspective that we can adopt as we think about our lives is therefore that of the remembering self…
Does the actual experience count for nothing?
Confusing experience with the memory of it is a compelling cognitive illusion - and it is the substitution that makes us believe a past experience can be ruined. The experiencing self does not have a voice. The remembering self is sometimes wrong, but it is the one that keeps score and governs what we learn from living, and it is the one that makes decisions. What we learn from the past is to maximize the qualities of our future memories, not necessarily of our future experience. This is the tyranny of the remembering self.
NB: Kerkegaard's we live life forward and remember it backward.
(383) The same operating feature of System 1 accounts for all three situations: System 1 represents sets by averages, norms, and prototypes, not by sums. Each cold-hand episode is a set of moments, which the remembering self stores as a prototypical moment. This leads to a conflict. For an objective observer evaluating the episode from the reports of the experiencing self, what counts is the "area under the curve" that integrates pain over time; it has the nature of a sum. The memory that the remembering self keeps, in contrast, is a representative moment, strongly influenced by the peak and the end.
(387) A story is about significant events and memorable moments, not about time passing. Duration neglect is normal in a story, and the ending often defines its character…
Caring for people often takes the form of concern for the quality of their stories, not for their feelings.
(390) Odd as it may seem, I am my remembering self, and the experiencing self, who does my living, is like a stranger to me.
(394) The mood of the moment depends primarily on the current situation. Mood at work, for example, is largely unaffected by the factors that influence general job satisfaction, including benefits and status. More important are situational factors such as an opportunity to socialize with coworkers, exposure to loud noise, time pressure (a significant source of negative affect), and the immediate presence of a boss (in our first study, the only thing that was worse than being alone). Attention is key. Our emotional state is largely determined by what we attend to, and we are normally focused on our current activity and immediate environment.
(395) From the social perspective, improved transportation for the labor force, availability of child care for working women, and improved socializing opportunities for the elderly may be relatively efficient ways to reduce the U-index of society - even a reduction by 1% would be a significant achievement, amounting to millions of hours of avoided suffering.
(397) The satiation level beyond which experienced well-being no longer increases was a household income of about $75,000 in high-cost areas (it could be less in areas where the cost of living is lower). The average increase of experienced well-being associated with incomes beyond that level was precisely zero. This is surprising because higher income undoubtedly permits the purchase of many pleasures, including vacations in interesting places and opera tickets, as well as an improved living environment. Why do these added pleasures not show up in reports of emotional experience? A plausible interpretation is that higher income is associated with a reduced ability to enjoy the small pleasures of life. There is suggestive evidence in favor of this idea: priming student with the idea of wealth reduces the pleasure their face expresses as they eat a bar of chocolate!
……."The easiest way to increase happiness is to control your use of time. Can you find more time to do the things you enjoy doing?"
(400) Even when it is not influenced by completely irrelevant accidents such as the coin on the machine, the score that you quickly assign to your life is determined by a small sample of highly available ideas, not by a careful weighting of the domains of your life.
(402) Any aspect of life to which attention is directed will loom large in a global evaluation. This is the essence of the _focusing illusion_, which can be described in a single sentence:
Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking about it.
(406) Daniel Gilbert and Timothy Wilson introduced the word _miswanting_ to describe bad choices that arise from errors of affective forecasting. This word deserves to be in everyday language. The focusing illusion (which Gilbert and Wilson call focalism) is a rich choice of miswanting. In particular, it makes us prone to exaggerate the effect of significant purchases or changed circumstances on our future well-being….
The focusing illusion creates a bias in favor of goods and experiences that are initially exciting, even if they will eventually lose their appeal. Time is neglected, causing experiences that will retain their attention value in the long term to be appreciated less than they deserve to be.
(407) The mistake that people make in the focusing illusion involves attention to selected moments and neglect of what happens at other times. The mind is good with stories, but it does not appear to be well designed for the processing of time.
(408) I began this book by introducing two fictitious characters, spent some time discussing two species, and ended with two selves. The two characters were the intuitive System 1, which does the fast thinking, and the effortful and slower System 2, which does the slow thinking, monitors System 1, and maintains control as best it can within its limited resources. The two species were the fictitious Econs, who live in the land of theory, and the Humans, who act in the real world. The two selves are the experiencing self, which does the living, and the remembering self, which keeps score and makes the choices.
(409) We believe that duration's important, but our memory tells us it is not. The rules that govern the evaluation of the past are poor guides for decision making, because time does matter. The central fact of our existence is that time is the ultimate finite resource, but the remembering self ignores that reality. The neglect of duration combined with the peak-end rule causes a bias that favors a short period of intense joy over a long period of moderate happiness. The mirror image of the same bias makes us fear a short period of intense but tolerable suffering more than we fear a much longer period of moderate pain.
(412) The decision of whether or not to protect individuals against their mistakes therefore presents a dilemma for behavioral economists. The economists of the Chicago school do not face that problem, because rational agents do not make mistakes. For adherents of this school, freedom is free of charge.
(413) Thaler and Sunstein [Nudge] advocate a position of libertarian paternalism, in which the state and other institutions are allowed to _nudge_ people to make decisions that serve their own long-term interests. The designation of joining a pension plan as the default option is an example by being automatically enrolled in the plan, when they merely have to check a box to opt out. As we saw earlier, the framing of the individual's decision - Thaler and Sunstein call it choice architecture - has a huge effect on the outcome. The nudge is based on sound psychology, which I described earlier. The default option is naturally perceived as the normal choice.
(417) Its operative features, which include WYSIATI, intensity matching, and associative coherence, among others, give rise to predictable biases and to cognitive illusions such as anchoring, nonregressive predictions, over-confidence, and numerouss others.
(418) There is much to be done to improve decision making. One example out of many is the remarkable absence of systematic training for the essential skill of conducting efficient meetings.
(424) In social interaction, as well as in training, rewards are typically administered when performance is good, and punishments are typically administered when performance is poor. Bu regression alone, therefore, behavior is most likely to improve after punishment and most likely to deteriorate after reward. Consequently, the human condition is such that, by chance alone, one is most often rewarded for punishing others and most often punished for rewarding them. People are generally not aware of this contingency. In fact, the elusive role of regression is determining the apparent consequences of reward and punishment seems to have escaped the notice of students of this area.
NB: Time lag and our inability to recognize it: we always want a proximate cause.
(428) Studies of choice among gambles and of judgments of probability indicate that people tend to overestimate the probability of conjunctive events and to underestimate the probability of disjunctive events. These biases are readily explained as effects of anchoring….
Because of anchoring, people will tend to underestimate the probabilities of failure in complex systems. Thus, the direction of the anchoring bias can sometimes be inferred from the structure of the event. The chain-like structure of conjunctions leads to overestimation, the funnel-like structure of disjunctions leads to underestimation.
(431) This article described three heuristics that are employed in making judgments under uncertainty: (i) representativeness, which is usually employed when people are asked to judge the probability that an object or event A belongs to class or process B; (ii) availability of instances or scenarios, which is often employed when people are asked to assess the frequency of a class or the plausibility of a particular development; and (iii) adjustment from an anchor, which is usually employed in numerical prediction when a relevant value is available. These heuristics are highly economical and unusually effective, but they lead to systematic and predictable errors. A better understanding of these heuristics and of the biases to which they lead could improve judgments and decisions in situations of uncertainty.
(435) For example most respondents in a sample of undergraduates refused to stake $10 on the toss of a coin if they stood to win less than $30.
(438) These considerations suggest a category-bound effect: A change from impossibility to possibility or from possibility to certainty has a bigger impact than a comparable change in the middle of the scale.
NB: Hence the resistance to switching from a problem mindset to a solutions mindset.
(445-446) The preceding analysis implies that an individual's subjective state can be improved by framing negative outcomes as costs rather than as losses. The possibility of such psychological manipulations may explain a paradoxical form of behavior that could be labeled the dead-loss effect. Thaler (1980) discussed the example of a man who develops tennis elbow soon after paying the membership fee in a tennis club and continues to play in agony to avoid wasting his investment. Assuming that the individual would not play if he had not paid the membership fee, the question arises: How can playing in agony improve the individual's lot? Playing in pain, we suggest, maintains the evaluation of the membership fee as a cost. If the individual were to stop playing, he would be forced to recognize the fee as a dead loss, which may be more aversive than playing in pain.