Arnold Kling  

How You Think in a Crisis

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Not very well, according to Tyler Cowen.


The more we feel out of control, the more our brains imagine patterns that don't really exist.

...Studies show that if people contemplate and reaffirm their most important values, such as honesty and compassion, they go on to make better and more rational decisions. That's because those thoughts help you feel more in control, which frees up your mind to focus on and think through the question at hand.


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COMMENTS (4 to date)
Jeremy, Alabama writes:

The reason honesty produces better decisions is that you don't need to hide anything, or to spend effort engineering a circumstance or outcome that is intended to hide anything. It is THIS, not the feeling of being in control, that enables full focus on the problem, rather than on the excuses, cover-ups and back-story.

Gary Rogers writes:

So, now I know what's wrong with me. I thought I was predicting doom because of the pattern of debt I keep seeing. $10 trillion in debt with no sign of ever living within their income seemed pretty real to me. I can be much happier now that I know I am just compensating for being out of control.

Dr. T writes:

The study does not prove what Tyler Cowen and Arnold Kling believe. Test subjects were asked to think back to a time when they were out of control. Then, when they looked at random images, they were more likely to see patterns than the control subjects.

All this shows is that stimulating powerful memories makes you more prone to imagine patterns in random images. The study should have divided subjects into three groups: 1. No prior discussion, just look at random images; 2. Asked to imagine a time when they were out of control before looking at random images; and 3. Asked to imagine a time when they were fully in control before looking at random images.

I believe that groups 2 and 3 would perform identically, and that falsely seeing patterns in random images correlates with being asked to imagine past situations that have strong emotional effects.

Runehorn writes:

Dr T, on what basis do you think 2 and 3 would perform identically? I'm not disputing, I'm just trying to determine whether there's data or if this is an experiment yet to be performed.

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