February 22, 2009

Daniel Gilbert on TED

Harvard Social psychologist, Daniel Gilbert, recently had a talk posted on TED, though it looks like the talk was originally given in 2005.

It's good though. Gilbert is widely known for his research on happiness. What makes us happy? Can we predict future happiness? How do traumatic events effect our long-term happiness? And such.

Though related to his happiness research, this talk centered on general decision making (and specifically, erroneous economic decisions that we make). Basically, the gist of the talk is that people are notoriously bad in money matters because of two cognitive biases. The first causes us to make erroneous judgments in estimating the odds of a potential gain. The second causes us to make erroneous estimates in the positive value of the potential gain.

His reasoning for why we have these cognitive biases goes back to us being evolved creatures. Firstly, we evolved in environments that rarely changed. We lived in small groups, had short lives and had to make relatively few choices. Instead our ancestors focused on the here and now. In his words: "the highest priority was to eat and mate today."

Well, anyways, check out the video. It's good, and there's a Q&A section at the end.

Check it out:


David Ryan Schurtz said...

If we are so bad at predicting the future how do people reach retirement? How do people collect massive amounts of goods across a life span?

These exciting questions and more will be answered by.... well someone who isn't me.

pr1ttyricky said...

hey, thanks for the comment!

i think preparing for retirement is partly due to our inability to predict the future. we prepare for retirement, because we can't predict how things will turn out in the long-term. as well, i think the issue about having a welfare system like social security even highlights how bad a lot of us are at such preparation/prediction.