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Contents:


  1. Career Protocol
  2. What Could Have Been
  3. Avoiding Suffering
  4. Dan Ariely: Are we in control of our own decisions? | TED Talk Subtitles and Transcript | TED
  5. Second-Guessing the Need to Second-Guess

Now, you might say, "These are decisions we don't care about. How could we care about something less than about something that happens after we die? So a standard economist, somebody who believes in rationality, would say, "You know what? The cost of lifting the pencil and marking a "V" is higher than the possible benefit of the decision, so that's why we get this effect. But, in fact, it's not because it's easy. It's not because it's trivial.

It's not because we don't care.

Career Protocol

It's because we care. It's difficult and it's complex. And it's so complex that we don't know what to do. And because we have no idea what to do, we just pick whatever it was that was chosen for us. I'll give you one more example. This is from a paper by Redelmeier and Shafir. And they said, "Would this effect also happens to experts? People who are well-paid, experts in their decisions, and who make a lot of them? They presented to them a case study of a patient. They said, "Here is a patient.


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He is a year-old farmer. He's been suffering from right hip pain for a while. All these medications, nothing seems to be working. So you refer the patient for hip replacement therapy. Then they said to half of the physicians, "Yesterday, you reviewed the patient's case, and you realized that you forgot to try one medication. You did not try ibuprofen. What do you do? Do you pull the patient back and try ibuprofen? Or do you let him go and have hip replacement? Very good for the physicians. To the other group of physicians, they said, "Yesterday when you reviewed the case, you discovered there were two medications you didn't try out yet — ibuprofen and piroxicam.

You let him go, or you pull him back? And if you pull him back, do you try ibuprofen or piroxicam? This decision makes it as easy to let the patient continue with hip replacement, but pulling him back, all of the sudden it becomes more complex. There is one more decision. The majority of the physicians now choose to let the patient go for a hip replacement. I hope this worries you, by the way —.

The thing is that no physician would ever say, "Piroxicam, ibuprofen, hip replacement. Let's go for hip replacement.

I'll give you a couple of more examples on irrational decision-making. Imagine I give you a choice: Do you want to go for a weekend to Rome, all expenses paid — hotel, transportation, food, a continental breakfast, everything — or a weekend in Paris? Now, weekend in Paris, weekend in Rome — these are different things.

They have different food, different culture, different art. Imagine I added a choice to the set that nobody wanted. Imagine I said, "A weekend in Rome, a weekend in Paris, or having your car stolen? It's a funny idea, because why would having your car stolen, in this set, influence anything?

But what if the option to have your car stolen was not exactly like this? What if it was a trip to Rome, all expenses paid, transportation, breakfast, but it doesn't include coffee in the morning? If you want coffee, you have to pay for it yourself, it's two euros Now in some ways, given that you can have Rome with coffee, why would you possibly want Rome without coffee?

It's like having your car stolen. It's an inferior option. But guess what happened? The moment you add Rome without coffee, Rome with coffee becomes more popular, and people choose it. The fact that you have Rome without coffee makes Rome with coffee look superior, and not just to Rome without coffee — even superior to Paris.

What Could Have Been

Here are two examples of this principle. This was an ad in The Economist a few years ago that gave us three choices: Now I looked at this, and I called up The Economist, and I tried to figure out what they were thinking. And they passed me from one person to another to another, until eventually I got to the person who was in charge of the website, and I called them up, and they went to check what was going on.

The next thing I know, the ad is gone, no explanation. So I decided to do the experiment that I would have loved The Economist to do with me. I took this and I gave it to MIT students. I said, "What would you choose? Thankfully, nobody wanted the dominant option. That means our students can read. But now, if you have an option that nobody wants, you can take it off, right? So I printed another version of this, where I eliminated the middle option.

Avoiding Suffering

I gave it to another students. Here is what happened: Now the most popular option became the least popular, and the least popular became the most popular. What was happening was the option that was useless, in the middle, was useless in the sense that nobody wanted it. But it wasn't useless in the sense that it helped people figure out what they wanted. In fact, relative to the option in the middle, which was get only the print for , the print and web for looked like a fantastic deal.

And as a consequence, people chose it. The general idea here, by the way, is that we actually don't know our preferences that well. And because we don't know our preferences that well, we're susceptible to all of these influences from the external forces: One more example of this. People believe that when we deal with physical attraction, we see somebody, and we know immediately whether we like them or not, if we're attracted or not. This is why we have these four-minute dates. So I decided to do this experiment with people. I'll show you images here, no real people, but the experiment was with people.

Dan Ariely: Are we in control of our own decisions? | TED Talk Subtitles and Transcript | TED

I showed some people a picture of Tom, and a picture of Jerry. I took Photoshop and I made Jerry slightly less attractive. For the other people, I added an ugly version of Tom. And the question was, will ugly Jerry and ugly Tom help their respective, more attractive brothers? The answer was absolutely yes. When ugly Jerry was around, Jerry was popular. When ugly Tom was around, Tom was popular.

This of course has two very clear implications for life in general. If you ever go bar-hopping, who do you want to take with you?

Second-Guessing the Need to Second-Guess

The second point, or course, is that if somebody invites you to bar hop, you know what they think about you. What is the general point? The general point is that, when we think about economics, we have this beautiful view of human nature. How noble in reason! The behavioral economics perspective is slightly less "generous" to people; in fact, in medical terms, that's our view. But there is a silver lining. The silver lining is, I think, kind of the reason that behavioral economics is interesting and exciting. Are we Superman, or are we Homer Simpson?


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  • I gave up second guessing my decisions. Here's what happened - Career Protocol?
  • When it comes to building the physical world, we kind of understand our limitations. And we build these things that not everybody can use, obviously. We understand our limitations, and we build around them. But for some reason, when it comes to the mental world, when we design things like healthcare and retirement and stock markets, we somehow forget the idea that we are limited. I think that if we understood our cognitive limitations in the same way we understand our physical limitations, even though they don't stare us in the face the same way, we could design a better world, and that, I think, is the hope of this thing.

    You have JavaScript disabled. Details About the talk. We can create picture-perfect ideas of how life would have turned out had we chosen option b, or even c or d, and find ourselves overwhelmed with remorse and regret. Why do we do this? Why is this the human tendency and how can we fight it?

    The reason that second-guessing is so detrimental is that it assumes that our choices should provide us with a suffering-free outcome. My point is this: With that reality in mind, why would you base a decision by trying to avoid the impossible? It may be true that a certain decision will lead to one type of suffering vs.

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    When suffering arises, rather than turning to second-guessing, remind yourself of the why behind your decision in the first place. If it was a good discernment, you likely have some solid reasons.