|Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)|
Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.
In today's selection -- the decoy effect. Suppose, as suggested by psychologist Daniel Ariely, someone is given a choice between two vacations -- a week in either Paris and Rome at the same price with free breakfast each day -- where they are equally likely to choose either one. Then further suppose that a third choice is added -- Rome at the same price without the free breakfast. With that third choice, that same person will become much more likely to select the option of Rome with the free breakfast. That is because relativity helps us make decisions in life -- he or she now has a better basis for assessing the value of the Rome package: "it's the same price plus I get free breakfast so it must be a good deal." This is known as the "decoy effect," and knowledgeable psychologists and marketers realize it extends to most choices in life -- from buying a house to selecting someone to date. It is the same phenomenon that causes some restaurants to include a highly expensive entree on the menu even though few will order it, simply because it results in more patrons ordering the second most expensive entree on the menu:"I asked [25 MIT students] to pair the 30 photographs of MIT men and the 30 of women by physical attractiveness (matching the men with other men, and the women with other women). That is, I had them pair the 'Brad Pitts' and the 'George Clooneys' of MIT, as well as the 'Woody Allens' and the 'Danny DeVitos' (sorry, Woody and Danny). Out of these 30 pairs, I selected the six pairs -- three female pairs and three male pairs -- that my students seemed to agree were most alike."Now, like Dr. Frankenstein himself, I set about giving these faces my special treatment. Using Photoshop, I mutated the pictures just a bit, creating a slightly but noticeably less attractive version of each of them. I found that just the slightest movement of the nose threw off the symmetry. Using another tool, I enlarged one eye, eliminated some of the hair, and added traces of acne. ...
"It was now time for the main part of the experiment. I took all the sets of pictures and made my way over to the student union. Approaching one student after another, I asked each to participate. When the students agreed, I handed them a sheet with three pictures. Some of them had the regular picture (A), the decoy of that picture (-A), and the other regular picture (B). Others had the regular picture (B), the decoy of that picture (-B), and the other regular picture (A). ... After selecting a sheet with either male or female pictures, according to their preferences, I asked the students to circle the people they would pick to go on a date with, if they had a choice. ..."What was my motive in all this? Simply to determine if the existence of the distorted picture (-A or -B) would push my participants to choose the similar but undistorted picture. In other words, would a slightly less attractive George Clooney (-A) push the participants to choose the perfect George Clooney over the perfect Brad Pitt?"There were no pictures of Brad Pitt or George Clooney in my experiment, of course. Pictures (A) and (B) showed ordinary students. ... Would the existence of a less perfect person (-A or -B) push people to choose the perfect one (A or B), simply because the decoy option served as a point of comparison?"It did. Whenever I handed out a sheet that had a regular picture, its inferior version, and another regular picture, the participants said they would prefer to date the 'regular' person -- the one who was similar, but clearly superior, to the distorted version -- over the other, undistorted person on the sheet. This was not just a close call -- it happened 75 percent of the time (out of a sample of 600). ..."Let's take a look at the decoy effect in a completely different situation. What if you are single, and hope to appeal to as many attractive potential dating partners as possible at an upcoming singles event? My advice would be to bring a friend who has your basic physical characteristics (similar coloring, body type, facial features), but is slightly less attractive (-you)."Why? Because the folks you want to attract will have a hard time evaluating you with no comparables around. However, if you are compared with a '-you,' the decoy friend will do a lot to make you look better, not just in comparison with the decoy but also in general, and in comparison with all the other people around. It may sound irrational (and I can't guarantee this), but the chances are good that you will get some extra attention. Of course, don't just stop at looks. If great conversation will win the day, be sure to pick a friend for the singles event who can't match your smooth delivery and rapier wit. By comparison, you'll sound great. ...
"Relativity helps us make decisions in life."
Author: Dan Ariely
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Date: Copyright 2009 by Dan Ariely
"For all the moral complexity of combat, coming home is often a more distressing and disorienting experience. The transition from battle zones and M.R.E.s to parking lots and fast food can unsettle even the most well-adjusted veterans. In a 2008 study, the rand Corporation estimated that P.T.S.D. affected fourteen per cent of those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Symptoms of the disorder range from minor insomnia to debilitating flashbacks, and studies of veterans suggest that the likelihood of developing P.T.S.D. increases with each combat deployment."
"The quality of care varies from one V.A. facility to the next. In 2004, the V.A. Inspector General called the Dallas facility the worst in the nation; last year, a Dallas TV station interviewed veterans who alleged that the facility was so poor that it put “lives at risk.” The V.A. tends to be slow, taking an average of nine months to determine if it will cover a veteran’s health claim. And getting a claim approved can be even more difficult if symptoms are not observed at a veteran’s exit physical. Yet P.T.S.D.’s symptoms may not emerge for a while, and they are often accompanied by a cascade of other health problems. Chiarelli, the former vice-chief of the Army, told me that doctors should be “given more latitude” in assessing combat veterans, adding, “But there’s where you get into cost issues.” The V.A. is a sclerotic and overwhelmed bureaucracy; it barely has the resources to maintain its current level of health coverage, let alone expand it."
By the time a poor child is 1 year old, she has most likely already fallen behind middle-class children in her ability to talk, understand and learn. The gap between poor children and wealthier ones widens each year, and by high school it has become a chasm. American attempts to close this gap in schools have largely failed, and a consensus is starting to build that these attempts must start long before school — before preschool, perhaps even before birth.
There is no consensus, however, about what form these attempts should take, because there is no consensus about the problem itself. What is it about poverty that limits a child’s ability to learn? Researchers have answered the question in different ways: Is it exposure to lead? Character issues like a lack of self-control or failure to think of future consequences? The effects of high levels of stress hormones? The lack of a culture of reading?
Another idea, however, is creeping into the policy debate: that the key to early learning is talking — specifically, a child’s exposure to language spoken by parents and caretakers from birth to age 3, the more the better. It turns out, evidence is showing, that the much-ridiculed stream of parent-to-child baby talk — Feel Teddy’s nose! It’s so soft! Cars make noise — look, there’s a yellow one! Baby feels hungry? Now Mommy is opening the refrigerator! — is very, very important. (So put those smartphones away!)Intelligence, as measured by IQ scores and as demonstrated by academic and occupational achievement, happens to be highly heritable. How smart your child is and how well he does in school is strongly influenced by how smart his four grandparents were. Adopted children resemble their biological parents in intelligence more than they resemble their adoptive parents who raised them from birth. Socio-economic status and intelligence are positively correlated. All of these facts are diligently ignored by the writer of this article.
Hart and Risley were studying how parents of different socioeconomic backgrounds talked to their babies. Every month, the researchers visited the 42 families in the study and recorded an hour of parent-child interaction. They were looking for things like how much parents praised their children, what they talked about, whether the conversational tone was positive or negative. Then they waited till the children were 9, and examined how they were doing in school....
All parents gave their children directives like “Put away your toy!” or “Don’t eat that!” But interaction was more likely to stop there for parents on welfare, while as a family’s income and educational levels rose, those interactions were more likely to be just the beginning.
The disparity was staggering. Children whose families were on welfare heard about 600 words per hour. Working-class children heard 1,200 words per hour, and children from professional families heard 2,100 words. By age 3, a poor child would have heard 30 million fewer words in his home environment than a child from a professional family. And the disparity mattered: the greater the number of words children heard from their parents or caregivers before they were 3, the higher their IQ and the better they did in school. TV talk not only didn’t help, it was detrimental.
Hart and Risley later wrote that children’s level of language development starts to level off when it matches that of their parents — so a language deficit is passed down through generations. They found that parents talk much more to girls than to boys (perhaps because girls are more sociable, or because it is Mom who does most of the care, and parents talk more to children of their gender). This might explain why young, poor boys have particular trouble in school. And they argued that the disparities in word usage correlated so closely with academic success that kids born to families on welfare do worse than professional-class children entirely because their parents talk to them less. In other words, if everyone talked to their young children the same amount, there would be no racial or socioeconomic gap at all. (Some other researchers say that while word count is extremely important, it can’t be the only factor.)Well, we'll see how well this latest fad works out. So far, they found that they might be able to increase the number of words poor women direct at their infants and toddlers. But that is a long way from demonstrating a positive impact on school achievement. Since nothing else* has ever worked to increase school achievement among the poor, I'm guessing that this will turn out the same way. But, like I said, we'll see.
Our estimates of Head Start effects were roughly comparable to those reported in the Head Start Impact Study. For example, when comparing children who attended Head Start with all other children, we found that the effect sizes for PPVT–III and WJ–R Letter–Word Identification from the propensity score matching models (which essentially were treatment-on-treated [TOT] analyses) were 0.19 and 0.16, respectively; while the effect sizes for social competence and attention problems were 0.14 and −0.16, respectively.Okay. First of all, you made their attention problems worse by sending them to Head Start. But secondly, those effect sizes are puny. If you had a treatment for depression with those kind of effect sizes, by the end of the study you would still have a bunch of depressed patients.
We cannot know his legendary head with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso is still suffused with brilliance from inside, like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low, gleams in all its power. Otherwise the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could a smile run through the placid hips and thighs to that dark center where procreation flared. Otherwise this stone would seem defaced beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur: would not, from all the borders of itself, burst like a star: for here there is no place that does not see you. You must change your life.
|John Perry Barlow|