Sunday, August 21, 2011

Avoiding optimism bias

If a potential quality that you're contemplating is desirable to you, consider a potential quality of similar likelihood which is undesirable to you before deciding to chase the former quality.

For example:

1. The odds of winning the lottery are 1 in 20 million*. Yeah, those numbers are outrageous, but I'm going to play the lottery, anyway. You never know!

2. The odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 20 million*. Phew, that's good to know. That's one less way of dying that I'll ever, ever have to worry about. It's basically a guarantee that it'll never happen to me.

Funny how we think about things differently depending on whether they benefit us -- even when the data are exactly the same in all instances! Regardless of what topics you're entertaining, always be sure to control for optimism bias during the decision-making process.

* These odds were fabricated for the purpose of the example.

1 comment:

  1. Heh, that's an interesting post.

    Your good post to bad post ratio is now 1/3459732895732895738295783957398250738295732895701750891357198035729805728935