Skip navigation
Help

Boing Boing

warning: Creating default object from empty value in /var/www/vhosts/sayforward.com/subdomains/recorder/httpdocs/modules/taxonomy/taxonomy.pages.inc on line 33.

Back in 2002, psychologist Daniel Kahneman won the economics Nobel Prize for showing that human beings don't have a really good intuitive grasp of risk. Basically, the decisions we make when faced with a risky proposition depend more on how the question is framed than on what the actual outcome might be.

The classic example is to tell a subject that there's going to be a disaster. Out of 600 people, she has a chance of saving 200 if she takes x risk. If she doesn't take the risk, everybody dies. Most people will take the risk in that scenario, but if you present the same situation and frame it differently—"If you take this risk, 400 people will die"—the decisions suddenly flip in the other direction. Nothing has changed about the outcome. But everything has changed in terms of how people feel about the decision they have to make. This is the kind of thing that matters a lot to economics because it helps to explain why economic behavior in the real world isn't always as rational and self-interested as it is in theory.

There's a new study out in the journal Psychological Science that might add another layer of complexity to Kahneman's research. If you're thinking and talking in your native language, you're likely to respond to a risky situation pretty much exactly as in the classic example. But, these researchers found that if you're thinking and talking about the situation in a second language, things change. At Wired, Brandon Keim explains:

The first experiment involved 121 American students who learned Japanese as a second language. Some were presented in English with a hypothetical choice: To fight a disease that would kill 600,000 people, doctors could either develop a medicine that saved 200,000 lives, or a medicine with a 33.3 percent chance of saving 600,000 lives and a 66.6 percent chance of saving no lives at all.

Nearly 80 percent of the students chose the safe option. When the problem was framed in terms of losing rather than saving lives, the safe-option number dropped to 47 percent. When considering the same situation in Japanese, however, the safe-option number hovered around 40 percent, regardless of how choices were framed. The role of instinct appeared reduced.

That's interesting. The researchers tried this basic thing with several different groups of people—mostly native English speakers—and used several different risk scenarios, some involving loss of life, others involving loss of a job, and others involving decisions about betting money on a coin toss. They saw the same results in all the tests: People thinking in their second language weren't as swayed by the emotional impact of framing devices.

One study doesn't prove this is universally true. Even if it is true, nobody knows yet exactly why. But Keim says that the researchers think the difference lies in emotional distance. If you have to pause and really put some brain power into thinking about grammar and vocabulary, you can't just jump straight into the knee-jerk reaction.

Read the rest of Keim's write-up on the study at Wired.com

Via Marilyn Terrell

0
Your rating: None

My old Boulder High School friend Rick Rosner is deeply weird and very funny. I also knew he was smart -- he liked to talk about quantum physics during lunch in the school cafeteria-- but I had no idea he was as smart as this. Here's Madeleine Scinto's profile of Rosner in The Daily.

If you believe his IQ scores, the smartest person in the world just might be a 51-year-old former male stripper from Southern California who writes jokes for a famous late-night TV host and speaks openly of his addiction to online porn.

Rick Rosner describes himself as a cognitive freak of nature and has a raft of astronomically high IQ test results to buttress his case, including certified results in the 190s — the rarified territory of historic geniuses like Isaac Newton and Leonardo da Vinci. The Giga Society, a club for the handful of individuals who have posted one-in-a-billion scores on IQ tests, counts him as a member.

“I’ve probably outscored anyone who’s ever taken these types of tests on at least 10 of them,” Rosner told The Daily. “And right now I have a score that places me in the one-out-of-2 billion people range.”

But sometimes being one in 2 billion isn’t quite special enough — especially for a guy who is prone to strange obsessions and who welcomes media attention. After stepping away from intelligence tests for more than a decade, Rosner has come back to them as part of a middle-aged mission to establish himself as cleverest of the clever.

“I’ll challenge anyone to a face-off,” said Rosner.

A Beautiful, Dirty Mind: World’s smartest man – almost – is a TV joke writer and admitted pornoholic

0
Your rating: None


If the previous ATM skimmer posts didn't scare the pants off you, this one from San Fernando Valley, which Brian Krebs reports on, might. It has a near-undetectable pinhole camera for recording timestamped footage of your PIN entry, and apart from that indicator, the only way to spot it is to yank hard on the front of the ATM before you start using it.


A few tips about ATM skimmers and skimming scams. It’s difficult — once you’re aware of how sophisticated some of these skimmers can be — to avoid being paranoid around ATMs; friends and family often tease me for stopping to tug at ATMs that I pass on the street, even when I have no intention of withdrawing money from the machines.

Still, it’s good and healthy to be somewhat paranoid while at an ATM. Make sure nobody is “shoulder surfing” you to watch you enter your PIN. A simple precaution defeats shoulder surfing and many other types of video-based PIN stealing mechanism: Cover the PIN pad with your hand or another object when you enter your PIN.

Skimtacular: All-in-One ATM Skimmer

0
Your rating: None

A British game-show called "Golden Balls" concludes each installment with a single-shot version of the Prisoner's Dilemma in which the two players' choices can result in a large cash prize being awarded to both of them, neither of them, or just one of them. The players are allowed to tell each other what they plan on doing, but they are also allowed to lie and try to trick the other player into making a choice that would leave the whole pot in the trickster's hands.

In this remarkable clip, a player named Nick runs an extraordinary end-game that has to be seen to be believed. As Bruce Schneier says,

This is the weirdest, most surreal round of "Split or Steal" I have ever seen. The more I think about the psychology of it, the more interesting it is. I'll save my comments for the comments, because I want you to watch it before I say more. Really.

Once you've watched the clip, check out Bruce's spoiler-y discussion of what is going on there.

Amazing Round of "Split or Steal"

0
Your rating: None

In Before the Lights Go Out, my new book about the future of energy, I made a joke about the formation of fossil fuels that I would like to rescind.

"All three fossil fuels come from the same place—ancient plants and animals that died and were buried beneath layers of earth and rock, often millions of years before dinosaurs roamed this planet. (That's right. Oil isn't made from dinosaurs. But an apatosaurus makes a better corporate mascot than a phytoplankton does.)"

After watching this video about the secret lives of plankton, produced by TEDEducation and marine biologist Tierney Thys, I feel that the above statement is in error. Clearly, plankton—including phytoplankton, which are just tiny plants, as opposed to zooplankton, which are tiny animals—would make excellent mascots. Somebody at Standard Oil really dropped the ball on this one.

Side Note: I found this video through a link to The Kid Should See This, a blog that aggregates kid-friendly wonders from science, art, technology, and more. If you aren't reading it, you should be. Even if you don't have kids.

Via Jason Robertshaw

Video Link

0
Your rating: None


Randall Munroe's produced another in his series of his spectacular, gigantic charts of unimaginably large and complex things compared and rendered tractable by the human imagination. "Lakes and Oceans" has everything you need to cultivate an appreciation for the vasty depths and the ocean blue. Plus, a snarfworthy punchline at the deepest depths.

Lake and Oceans

0
Your rating: None

The Daily Telegraph has determined the world's ugliest buildings. Some of them are hideous indeed, but the collection is perhaps more interesting as an illustration of what the fancier echelons of British conservative like to be told about architecture. [Telegraph via The Awl. Photo: Steve Cadman, CC BY 3.0]

0
Your rating: None