Tag Archives: overcoming-bias

Financial Equivalents of Life Events

Willingness to pay to prevent traumatic life events is “the relevant standard” for measuring the hurt they inflict upon a person.

This is according to Robin Hanson, responding to comments in an earlier article of his (previously) where he suggested that as cuckoldry “is a bigger reproductive harm than rape, so we should expect a similar intensity of inherited emotions about it. If 2+% of women were raped and we had a reliable cheap way to identify the guilty party, don’t you think we’d require that?”

Many were offended by Hanson’s comparison of the hurt a man has inflicted on him through cuckoldry to the hurt inflicted on a rape victim, so he notes that, according to the aforementioned relevant standard, men seem to hurt more in some situations (divorce, death of a spouse/child, etc.) than women (original article by Paul Frijters), so why not in this situation?

What’s a marriage worth? To an Aussie male, about $32,000. That’s the lump sum Professor Paul Frijters says the man would need to receive out of the blue to make him as happy as his marriage will over his lifetime. An Aussie woman would need much less, about $16,000.  But when it comes to divorce, the Aussie male will be so devastated it would be as if he had lost $110,000. An Aussie woman would be less traumatised, feeling as if she had lost only $9000. […]  The lifetime boost to happiness that flows from a birth – for the mother around $8700, for the father $32,600. […]  The death of a spouse or child causes a woman $130,900 worth of grief. […] It costs a man $627,300.

Note(s): It is not clear whether the gender pay gap is taken into consideration in the above calculations.
It’s also worth noting that if one were to put a financial value on cuckoldry and rape, cuckoldry’s more obvious financial implications (raising another man’s child) must be taken into account (i.e. subtracting it, at least in part, from the figure).
In this context cuckoldry refers to non-paternity events, rather than just unfaithfulness. With this in mind, I agree with Robin Hanson: “I’d prefer to be raped rather than cuckolded”.

Incidence and Prevention of ‘Non-Paternity Events’

A non-paternity event is a situation whereby the biological father of a child is “someone other than who it is presumed to be”. Typically this involves some form of paternity fraud.

In one of the most gut-wrenching articles I’ve read in months (due to the many human interest stories in the article, no doubt), the surprising incidence of non-paternity events, and remedies for how to combat the situation, are discussed:

The most extensive and authoritative report […] concluded that 2 percent of men with “high paternity confidence” — married men who had every reason to believe they were their children’s father — were, in fact, not biological parents. Several studies indicate that the rate appears to be far higher among unmarried fathers. […]

At a federally convened symposium on the increase in paternity questions, a roomful of child-welfare researchers, legal experts, academics and government administrators agreed that much pain could be avoided if paternity was accurately established in a baby’s first days. Several suggested that DNA paternity tests should be routine at birth, or at least before every paternity acknowledgment is signed and every default order entered.

The same care that hospitals take ensuring that the right mother is connected to the right newborn — footprints, matching ID bands, guarded nurseries, surveillance cameras — should be taken to verify that the right man is deemed father.

via Overcoming Bias (Robin Hanson, suggesting that mandatory paternity testing at birth should be introduced, noting how many birth defects with an incidence of far less than 2% are routinely tested for.)

Testing Rationality and Bias

How can we test our rationality and various biases?

Shouldn’t you get more rationality credit if you spend more time studying common biases, statistical techniques, and the like?  Well this would be good evidence of your rationality if you were in fact pretty rational about your rationality, i.e., if you knew that when you read or discussed such issues your mind would then systematically, broadly, and reasonably incorporate those insights into you reasoning processes.

But what if your mind is far from rational?  What if your mind is likely to just go through the motions of studying rationality to allow itself to smugly believe it is more accurate, or to bond you more closely to your social allies?

So just because you know of all the cognitive biases and fallacies doesn’t mean you’re not going to fall victim to the bias blind spot or actually become more rational.

This puts me in mind of this (paraphrased) quote from an anonymous advertising executive:

Those who claim to be well versed in the ‘psychology of advertising’ and to therefore be ‘immune’ not only don’t know much about psychology or advertising, but are our ideal targets.

Lying for Education

“Now I know some of you have already heard of me, but for the benefit of those who are unfamiliar, let me explain how I teach. Between today until the class right before finals, it is my intention to work into each of my lectures … one lie. Your job, as students, among other things, is to try and catch me in the Lie of the Day.” And thus began our ten-week course.

A novel – and seemingly powerful – way to teach your students critical thinking and analysis, from Overcoming Bias.

via kottke