[extropy-chat] Humans--non-rational mode

Damien Sullivan phoenix at ugcs.caltech.edu
Thu Mar 9 18:50:25 UTC 2006

On Thu, Mar 09, 2006 at 10:28:25AM -0500, Keith Henson wrote:

> The unexplained freakin' out of the Libertarians over "Memes, MetaMemes and 
> Politics" is perhaps due to these paragraphs being seen as an attack on the 

I haven't heard of this.

> >The assaults on rationality that come to mind:
> >
> >1. (the first one I ever heard of) Schelling's examples of how
> >    it is sometimes very rational to be irrational (the words
> >    here are very problematic, obviously)
> >
> >2. general emotional behavior: anger, love, envy, and so forth
> >    surely have evolutionary explanations, and moreover, one
> >    easily sees that the *propensity* to become angry, for
> >    example, in many situations pays dividends

Yes.  But does jealousy make you happier, or does it serve the purposes of
your genes?

Does *love* serve your purposes, or those of your genes?  May that depend on
who you find yourself falling in love with?

What *are* your purposes, when it comes down to it?

> >3. the famous Damasio card experiment in which (as I understand
> >    it) one cannot rationally keep track of so much data, and so
> >    feelings of disfavor towards situations are necessary for
> >    optimal human performance. (I dare say that such brain
> >    processing can literally create a bad taste in one's mouth.)
> >
> >4. Gladwell's book "Blink" which I have not read and do not
> >    recommend, but joins the parade of claims that many situations
> >    are best *not* dealt with rationally (e.g. the legend of "The
> >    Marines vs. the Wall-Street brokers)

5. The Wason card test, where even people trained in logic have trouble
giving the right answer to a pretty simple abstract problem, while an
isomorphic problem in the language of social cheating (detecting underage
drinkers) is easy for everyone to solve.

6. "X and Y add up to $110, Y costs $100 more than X.  How much is X?"
Reportedly the fast answer even for trained people is "$10", but this effect
fades if the total is $233 insstead of $110, say.  This may not seem to
serious, but I think it may say something about how fast responses (habit,
pattern completion) can sideline reasoning.

-xx- Damien X-) 

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