Comments on: Top 10 Thinking Traps Exposed — How to Foolproof Your Mind, Part I Exploring ways to use our minds efficiently. Mon, 16 Dec 2013 07:19:11 +0000 hourly 1 By: TaskRabbit RoundUp: A List for List-Lovers | Taskrabbit Blog Sun, 14 Aug 2011 17:47:47 +0000 […] Top 10 Thinking Traps Exposed, Parts I & II, from Litemind. This insightful list delves into the recesses of our minds, […]

By: How to Expand your Teaching Horizons (or how to think rationally and make good teaching decisions) « English Central Blog Mon, 27 Jun 2011 19:47:43 +0000 […] For more thinking traps to avoid, check out litemind’s blog: […]

By: Luciano Passuello Mon, 20 Jun 2011 12:56:44 +0000 Hi Neil. I’m not sure I follow you… are you saying that people may dislike both A and B, so they just don’t bother exchanging? To me, a decorated mug and a large Swiss chocolate bar have very different appeals (but that’s my opinion, of course).

On a side note, one thing that researchers should be very careful in the design of the experiment is to make switching as effortless as possible, to make sure the “nah, didn’t bother exchanging” case is as rare as possible.

Thanks for your comment!

By: Neil Mon, 20 Jun 2011 02:57:42 +0000 #2 assumes that the ratio between exchangers and keepers will be 1:1. But objects “A” and “B” are of similar value. So a person who is dissatisfied with “A” is equally likely to be dissatisfied with “B.” It would only make sense to exchange under special circumstances. The 9:1 bias you described isn’t necessarily invalid.

Bias is useful where it corrects such a statistical pitfall. I think that these cognitive biases are only traps where they exist for their own sake.

By: Luciano Passuello Thu, 02 Jun 2011 12:36:23 +0000

And as you have already paid for the ticket, the only effort you need to make is to overcome your tiredness.

Exactly. Your willingness to overcome your tiredness is the only thing you should take into account. The ticket is paid regardless of your choice.

By: paulmarkj Wed, 01 Jun 2011 17:48:21 +0000 “3. The Sunk Cost Trap: Protecting Earlier Choices

it’s a sunk cost, and it shouldn’t influence your decision.”


By going, you may enjoy yourself. And as you have already paid for the ticket, the only effort you need to make is to overcome your tiredness.

You have two choices:

1. you watch TV (total cost: 1 basketball ticket)
2. watch basketball (total coast: 1 basketball ticket + overcoming tiredness).

By: jsscali Fri, 15 Apr 2011 14:18:49 +0000 Sorry if someone else has mentioned this (a bit long to completely read through every comment) but I seriously dislike the fact that these are all called ‘traps’. Our brains are amazing things, and 90% of the time these biases/heuristics will lead us to the right answer. The interesting thing about when our minds fail us is that it demonstrates something interesting about the way that our minds work, and how we reason or problem solve. For example, the confirmation bias was probably extremely adaptive in evolutionary time, which is why we use it so frequently now (not to say that it’s not helpful currently). Aside from the mistakes that you would make with it, if a decision is not extremely consequential then it allows us to quickly make a decision that is near accurate, based on the information readily available to us (quickly being the key here!). As Herb Simon would say, there is a difference between ‘satisficing’ and ‘optimizing’ in that we usually won’t put all of our mental effort into getting to an optimum decision, if one that satisfies us is available for much less effort… it wouldn’t be worth it!

& just a last point, what you call ‘incomplete information trap’ is actually called base rate neglect, at least for the example that you used..

By: Peters JV Tue, 22 Feb 2011 16:13:16 +0000 Coming to this thread a bit late. “Half got what they wanted, half not” pre-supposes caring. The “advantage” of status quo is not some intrinsic power, it is the absence of power, i.e., apathy. You remove apathy, you remove the “advantage” of the status quo–in which case it’s quite possible that whatever people were offered, they simply refuse it.

The problem with these sorts of things is people setting out to prove something they already believe.

By: Luciano Passuello Wed, 26 Jan 2011 20:12:46 +0000 Hi Brent,

From your comment:

Saying 50% would exchange it for the alternative does not seem different to me than saying 50% of these people prefer coffee mugs to chocolate bars and 50% are the opposite.

Those are indeed different claims. Suppose, for example that all people (100%) preferred the mug. In that situation, when I hand the mug to 50% of people and the chocolate bar to 50%, what percentage of people are going to exchange the gift? 50% (the ones who got the chocolate bar).

You can do the math, but whatever the percentages of people who like each gift, the expected percentage of trades is always 50%.

Does that make sense?

By: Brent Wed, 26 Jan 2011 19:55:56 +0000 Why would 50% exchange it? I don’t understand your reasoning behind this assumption. Saying 50% would exchange it for the alternative does not seem different to me than saying 50% of these people prefer coffee mugs to chocolate bars and 50% are the opposite. Unless you’re implying that 50% would exchange it regardless of their own personal preference with regard to the gifts, which, frankly, sounds ridiculous to me. To think that 50% would exchange seems to imply to me that the two gifts are equal, because unless you take this assumption, the situation doesn’t make any sense as is evidenced by proposing the same argument with two objects which are clearly in different leagues of desirability. Even if you end up with 50% it seems to me that that would be more likely because you gave 50% of people the less desirable gift, not because of some overlying tendency for 50% of people to be dissatisfied with the gift they receive.