Psychology of Political Thought - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

1 / 148
About This Presentation

Psychology of Political Thought


2 a theory that group(s) of people manipulate the social/physical world outside ... Why would liberals watch Fox News or 700 Club? ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

Number of Views:670
Avg rating:3.0/5.0
Slides: 149
Provided by: foxj


Transcript and Presenter's Notes

Title: Psychology of Political Thought

Psychology of Political Thought
  • TS2S 405
  • Fort Lewis College

Conspiracy Theory
  • Conspiracy 1 a to join in a secret agreement
    to do an unlawful or wrongful act or an act which
    becomes unlawful as a result of the secret
    agreement b SCHEME
  • A conspiracy theory is a description of how one
    or more groups of people manipulate different
    aspects of the world. 2 a theory that group(s) of
    people manipulate the social/physical world
    outside of the awareness of the general
  • Theory A proposed explanation of how the world

A Brief Typology of Conspiracy Theories
  • Anti Government JFK, Moon landing, CIA and
    Drugs, Bushes and SL, Clinton, Waco,
    fluoridation, microchips
  • Anti Corporate/capitalism oil companies,
    alternative fuels, money in politics, war,
    Christian conspiracies, OKC, voting machines
  • International New world order, UN, Bilderberg
  • Anti-Religious Anti-Mormons, Catholics, Jews,
    Masons, Moonies, etc.
  • Satanic and secular humanism conspiracies eye on
    dollar, etc.
  • Anti communist civil rights movement, John Birch
    Society, McCarthyism
  • Racial genocide, white policy on drugs, Klan,
    Churchs fried chicken, Snapple, Al Sharptons
    office bombing, OJ, Tuskeegee
  • Media conspiracies suppression of information by
    right or left
  • Events 9-11, TWA 800, Korean Air 007, Ron
    Browns commerce plane crash, JFK
  • Aliens and UFOs, ghosts/paranormal, Satan,
    Bermuda triangle
  • Individuals The Bushes, Ken Lay, Bill Gates, the
  • http//

Good Paper Topic Characteristics
  • Is related to political thought
  • You can find resources both pro and con on the
  • You can find at least 7 sources per side

How do we come to know what we think we know?
  • Epistemology The study of what we think we know
    and how we come to know it.
  • Its study implies finding truth is tricky
  • Neither do the ignorant love wisdom or desire to
    become wise for this is the grievous thing about
    ignorance, that those who are neither good nor
    beautiful nor sensible think they are good
    enough, and do not desire that which they do not
    think they are lacking.
  • Plato, Symposium 203E-204A

Methods of Knowing
  • 1. Authority. We listen to the experts, family,
    friends, Internet, media, etc.. But how do they
  • Problems people may not be true experts,
    authorities often disagree, etc.
  • This is knowledge based on FAITH
  • 2. Tradition. Thats the way its always
    worked/been, so it must be true.
  • Authority of the past.
  • May be prejudiced or simply reiterated falsehoods

Methods of Knowing
  • 3. Conventional Wisdom (media). All I know is
    what I read in the papers Will Rogers. and
    what other people are saying.
  • But, advertising campaigns try to sway this.
    Debeers example.
  • The media is not an unbiased presenter of info.
    It primarily entertains, focuses on negative,
    scandal, etc. Camera doesnt lie, but it doesnt
    tell the whole truth either.
  • 4. Common Sense it seems plausible or just
    makes sense.
  • Crude logic
  • But common sense can often be wrong. Gamblers

Methods of Knowing
  • 5. Formal Logic. Knowledge from rational
    argument. But while adhering to logical rules is
  • Logic only proceeds from uncertain assumptions.
  • There is no single affirmative answer to most
    logical problems
  • 6. Personal Experience. If I see it I believe it.
  • But can you really trust your perceptions?
  • Overgeneralization
  • Selective observation
  • Premature closure (selective exposure)
  • Optical illusions

Methods of Knowing
  • 7. Science. The dominant methodology today. A
    process for finding truth, a system of explicit
    rules and procedures to guide the accumulation
    and summary of observations among a community of
  • Science also requires faith in the method and the
    scientists themselves.
  • Since religion doesn't use this methodology, it's
    by definition not scientific rather religion
    turns to other authorities
  • Investment. People believe in the things in which
    theyve invested resources. They invest a lot of
    time, money, other resources in groups, causes,
    etc. They resist change in the face of
    conflicting information.

Science as a way of knowing
  • Science Greek for "to know"
  • Science is a set of procedures based on logical
    rules to arrive at the best (most probable)
    understanding of things we observe.
  • It helps us examine explanations (theories)
    through systematic comparison of logical
    predictions (hypotheses) against observable
  • Assumptions
  • Conclusions must obey rules of formal logic.
  • Object of study must be empirical, observable.
  • Conclusions based on probabilistic reasoning.
  • What is the probability that an answer is
  • Science is MUCH more rigorous and systematic that
    casual human thought.

The Scientific Process
  • Stages of the scientific research process. The
    Hypothetic-Deductive Method
  • Hypothesis, theory, research design, define
    observations (measurement), collect, summarize
    data (analysis), generalize from data

  • Theories Proposed explanations of how the world
    works and how concepts are linked. Purpose is to
    explain reality
  • Should explain the most with the least (fit
  • A theory is only as good as it is useful in
    explaining observations
  • Compare stick figure to real person
  • Theories are not necessarily true theyre
  • Theories are not necessarily universal theyre
    context sensitive
  • Without theory, social science would be a
    disconnected and meaningless pile of
    observations, data, and statistics. Theories help
    us know what to look for, what an observation
    might mean, and helps us make generalizations
    about how the world works.

  • Hypothesis Specific predictions deduced from a
    theory. A observable manifestation of a theory.
    A sentence proposing a relationship between two
    specific variables.
  • Ex Republicans approve more of George Bushs
  • They are statements to be proved or disproved.
  • Null hypothesis there is no relationship between
    the variables.
  • Variables must be clearly defined and observable

  • Measurement Factors of interest must be defined,
    observed, and counted To do that, translate
    concepts into observable indicators of a concept
  • Must define the key concepts (abstract
  • Concept class of related things
  • Ex Animal can't touch one, only its instances
  • Instances bears, dogs, cats, whales, horses.
  • Members of class actually differ in many
    important ways.
  • Ex Food, claws, habits, habitats, vocalization,
  • Concept is the common characteristic among them
  • We impose the commonality--it exists in our minds
    as our way of making sense of the world.
  • Concepts are 1) tentative, 2) based on social
    agreement, 3) useful only if they capture a
    useful slice of reality
  • Concepts are the building blocks of
    understanding, language and science

  • Variables (Indicators)-- Variables are observable
    manifestations of a concept
  • Must be observable
  • Must capture the concept (valid)
  • Must produce same results each time (reliable)

Research Design
  • A method for systematically gathering
  • Survey of citizens
  • Classical experiment
  • Participant Observation
  • Key How you gather observations affects the
    logical conclusions you can make from them.
  • Ex random sampling.
  • Then, go out and gather the data!

Data Analysis
  • Summarize your observations
  • Can be done descriptively (qualitative) or
    through statistical data analysis (quantitative)
  • Hypothesis test compare your observations to
    what the hypothesis predicted. Is the hypothesis
    correct given our observations?

Critique and Replication
  • Share your results with other scientists, get
  • Replicate study to see if you made a mistake or
    if theory is context dependent
  • In short, consider why your answer may NOT be
    correct and have others help expose problems in
    your logic, observations, measurements,
    statistics, and conclusions.

  • The scientific method is like reading from you
    grandmas cookbook. First, do step 1, then step
    2, etc. Easy right?
  • NO! Science, measured against reality, is
    primitive and childlike and yet it is the most
    precious thing we have. (Albert Einstein)
  • Its precious, but not perfect!

The Pitfalls of Science
  • Science is very tricky in practice its an art
  • There are many problems and errors that arise in
    the process.          
  • Ambiguity of language and concepts.
  • Example Equality (Overhead).
  • Hard to live with Clinton
  • No agreement on "is" or "sex"
  • Not sex, just an "inappropriate relationship"
  • Defining language is imprecise, yet politically

  • Ambiguity of Language and Concepts
  • Many of the things we care about are abstract
    concepts Happiness, freedom, terrorism, justice,
  • (try to define terrorism)
  • People want to make definitions in self-serving
  • Ex Bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki were terrorist
    by almost any current definition, but Americans
    choose not to think of it that way.
  • Often people and politicians want to avoid
    specifics in favor of vague language and abstract

More Problems
  • Data can be full of errors or manipulated.
  • Measurement problems. How do you get accurate
    figures on poverty (what is it in the first
    place?), violent crime, economic well-being?

More Problems
  • Overgeneralization (generalize from too few
    cases, sampling error)
  • No single best way to conduct scientific
    research, especially in social sciences.

More Problems
  • Inaccurate observations and psychological biases
  • Optical Illusions
  • (Well look at lots of these)
  • Asch Experiments Finds that people will bow to
    social pressure to choose an answer they know to
    be wrong.

More Problems
  • Cognitive and psychological mistakes
  • Selective Perception see what you want to see
  • We can never divorce ourselves from our own
    viewpoint. Maybe none can see the world
  • Selective Observation pay attention to cases
    that fit your explanation, ignore those that
  • Differential Perception. Different people see
    different things.
  • (Hey, well focus on these, too)

More Problems
  • There are no social laws, only useful
  • Recursive behavior. Our studies often change
    attitudes and behavior. So what are we
  • Illogical reasoning, bad methodology
  • Doby Gillis (on reserve)

Even Deeper Problems
  • Inability to prove something true
  • Falsification (Popper) Cannot prove things are
    true because there are always other explanations,
    or anomalies around the corner (David Hume also).
    We can only show that something is NOT TRUE (but
    not perfectly).
  • Experiment
  • Can never prove anything--haven't discovered
    truth as much as rejected obvious falsehoods.

Even Deeper Problems
  • Confusing Correlation and Causation
  • Correlation covariation (co-occurrence of
    change on two variables). This tells us nothing
    about cause (why the two variables changed)
  • Causation Change in A change in B
  • Or, Change in A
  • Or, Change in A ? change in B
  • Or, Change in A unrelated to change in B
  • Or, Change in A and Change in B both caused by a
    change in C
  • Observing a correlation does not tell us anything
    about causation.

Demonstrating Cause
  • 4 requirements to logically infer a causal
  • Covariation--statistical association if A
    changes, B must also change. This is necessary,
    but not sufficient.
  • Not enough alone to show cause. Why?
  • 5 Types of causal relationships w/i a correlation
  • Time order--IV must come before DV
  • big problem in surveys.
  • Abuse must come before violent behavior
  • Nonspurious--no third factor can explain the
  • Ice cream and violent crime
  • Theory--logical explanation of the relationship

Even Deeper Problems
  • Can Humans really do science objectively?
  • Thomas Kuhn Structure of Scientific Revolutions
  • Paradigm--widely accepted explanations, or
    theories protected by those who benefit from its
  • Normal science--routine verification of a theory
  • Scientists are prisoners of dominant paradigm
  • Anomalies build up--cases that don't fit the
  • Revolutionary science--abrupt development of new
    theory to help explain anomalies, resistance by
    status quo
  • Implication Science is as much a social and
    political process as a rational one. It's a group

Even Deeper Problems
  • Philosophical debate Can we know anything at all
    if we are not unbiased observers of the world?
  • Premodernism life is at it appears dont
    question own point of view. What you see is
  • Modernism Philosophy of the Enlightenment. Truth
    is knowable through rationality and science, but
    hard to discover due to human biases. Hence,
    group learning is key in a scientific community.
  • Most scientists are here!
  • Postmodernism no objective truth, only varying
    ways of viewing the world through different
    cultural lenses. Modernists wrongly impose their
    (European) version of truth.

So, what of science?
  • Its not perfect, but its favored because at
    least its a process of self-questing and
    self-doubt. Its skeptical.
  • It includes mechanisms for self-correction (peer
  • Procedures help insure that logic is not abused.
  • Once again, Einstein Science, measured against
    reality, is primitive and childlike and yet it
    is the most precious thing we have.

  • What is skepticism? One who questions the
    validity of a particular claim by calling for
    evidence to prove or disprove it.
  • How does this relate to science? Science is
    inherently skeptical, even of its own findings.
  • The good scientist always says their knowledge is
    subject to revision pending further evidence.
    Ive never written anything that was finished.
    (Hugh Nibley)
  • The flim-flam artist claims they know things for
    sure and theyve proven it.
  • What is credulity? Readiness or willingness to
    believe especially on slight or uncertain

Science vs. Pseudoscience
  • What is pseudoscience? (Shermer)
  • Claims that appear scientific and are couched in
    scientific language, but lack supporting evidence
    and logical plausibility.
  • How is pseudoscience different from science?
  • Science is a process of continually improving and
    refining our knowledge of the world, based on new
    observations and interpretations. Bad
    explanations can be falsified.
  • Pseudoscientists, however, do not try to correct
    error or change their point of view, they
    perpetuate their errors and views.

Thinking Gone Awry
  • Logical fallacies (Shermer Ch. 3) and PowerPoint
  • See also
  • See the PowerPoint on my web page.

Expected Utility Theories
  • A Normative (how it should be) theory of decision
  • Von Neumann and Morgenstern (1947)
  • Expected value cost/benefit x probability
  • Variations of EUT theories add randomness and
    subjective probabilities to make them more real

Some Key Assumption of EUT
  • Ordering of Alternatives Decision maker must be
    able to rank order all alternatives.
  • Cancellation if two alternatives have the same
    probability or value, that factor should be
    ignored in the decision.
  • Transitivity If you prefer A to B and B to C,
    you must also logically prefer A to C.
  • Continuity Should prefer gambles if they have
    higher expected values than sure bets.
  • Invariance Decision should not be affected by
    the way alternatives are presented (framed)
  • Full information and consideration of all

A Rational Decision
  • Define the problem
  • Specify all alternatives
  • Get full information
  • Analyze each alternative according to your
    weighted criteria
  • Choose the option with the greatest expected
  • Apply to buying a car

How Rational Are We?
  • An Experiment

Paradoxes in Rationality
  • Allais Paradox violates Cancellation if two
    outcomes have the same probability or value, that
    factor should be ignored in the decision.
  • How did you answer on 28a on the survey?
  • Ellsbergs Paradox
  • Because the additional feature is worth the same
    amount in each alternative, it should not lead to
    different preferences. It should be ignored.

Violating Intransitivity
  • The committee problem (Figure 8.5)
  • Also known as the Condorcet paradox
  • Order of comparison determines winner.
  • This is why we should NOT hold elections in
    successive pairwise comparisons.
  • Sometimes, there is not single intransitive

Preference Reversals
  • When people are asked to choose between two bets,
    they prefer the ones with the highest probability
    of winning, but when they are asked to set a
    price for how valuable the bets is, they prefer
    the ones with the highest potential payoffs.
  • Therefore, peoples preferences reverse based
    upon whether they look at the probability of
    winning or the potential payoff. Two
    preferences for the same options.
  • This shouldnt happen if principles of
    rationality are followed!

Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making
  • Scott Plous examines how people make judgments
    and decisions in the real world.

Behavioral Decision Theory
  • BDT is a revision of rationality as defined in
    classical economics
  • Claims to better describe how people reason,
    think, and decide.
  • Finds people systematically violate all of the
    assumptions of rationality (and by extension,
    classical economics)
  • Herbert Simon People are rational only to the
    extent that they dont do things that harm their
    utility, but other than that, the model fails.
  • But we must also ask ourselves throughout To
    what degree are these effects hothouse flowers?

Brain as a Belief Engine
  • The Brain is a belief machine, always trying to
    make sense of the world, to connect the dots
  • Learning Unit We are quick to see correlations
    while forgetting non-correlating pairs
  • Critical Thinking Unit We can be critical using
    tools weve learned, but only when we dont like
    the argument. (Ex Alcohol studies, Doby Gillis)
  • We turn this one on and off to suit our needs
  • Yearning Unit We seek answers, certainty, want
    to reduce anxiety

Brain as a Belief Engine
  • Input Unit The brain actively constructs meaning
    from sensory stimuli using preexisting thought
  • Emotional Response Unit Events with strong
    emotional stimuli are more memorable and
    believable to us, but could still be false
  • Memory Unit our memories are constructed and
    fallible, not just recalled
  • Feedback Unit the processing of incoming
    information reinforces or weakens our beliefs
    (weakens them only rarely due to defense

Selective Perception
  • What we expect to see or see what we want to see
    what we strongly influences perceptions.
  • Categorization We can only assimilate
    information into preexisting categories. Ex in,
  • In fact, we cant NOT use these categories. Ex
    Written Language
  • It is no stretch to say this is one of the most
    powerful psychological effects. It affects almost
    all others.

In and Sa

Read this.
  • Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy,
    it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a
    wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the
    frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The
    rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed
    it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn
    mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but
    the wrod as a wlohe.
  • Are you really reading the words as they are, or
    seeing what you expect to see?

Selective Perception
  • Reader survey 33 Did you get 11 Fs?
  • Or did your brain presume it knew what was on the
    page and ignore some it?
  • Dartmouth v. Princeton People systematically
    think the refs are against them and theyre
    getting all the bad calls
  • Hostile Media Effect Both Arabs and Israelis
    perceive media bias against their groups. Same
    for liberals and conservatives in US.

What examples can you think of in the real world?
  • Ideology x Walmart
  • Sexual harassment w/ Clinton vs. Thomas
  • 9/11 Blessing from God or act of evil?
  • Katrina Act of nature or act of God?
  • Patriot Act and/or torture Necessary evil or
    government gone too far?

Selective Exposure
  • Selective perception is enhanced by selective
    exposure (attention) to information
  • Most people seek out information that supports
    their preconceived way of viewing the world.
  • Why would a conservative want the dissonance of
    watching Democracy Now? Why would liberals watch
    Fox News or 700 Club?
  • PS Watching to mock doesnt count because youre
    not open-mindedly considering the information.
  • Result the illusion that you are informed and
    that the evidence fits your point of view.

Another Example
  • As reported on the front page of last Thursday's
    New York Times, the secretary of defense has
    formed his own "four- to five-man intelligence
    team" to sift through raw data coming out of Iraq
    in search of evidence linking Saddam Hussein to
    al-Qaida terrorists.
  • Rumsfeld has publicly continued to push this link
    as a primeor at least the most easily
    sellablerationale for going to war with Iraq,
    even after the CIA and the Pentagon's own Defense
    Intelligence Agency have dismissed the connection
    as tenuous at best. But Rumsfeld contends that
    the spy bureaucracies may have missed something.
    As his top team member, Deputy Secretary of
    Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz, put it to the Times,
    there is "a phenomenon in intelligence work that
    people who are pursuing a certain hypothesis will
    see certain facts that others won't, and not see
    other facts that others will." Since Wolfowitz is
    one of Washington's most forceful advocates of a
    second Gulf War, we can safely predict that he
    will find the facts he needs to make his case.
  • Source 10/29/02

Cognitive Dissonance
  • People want to reduce, avoid, or ignore cognitive
    inconsistencies, so they dismiss information that
    conflicts with their chosen view in order to
    preserve it.
  • Examples Jewish Tailor, Festinger and Carlsmith
  • Application changes in behavior can lead you to
    change your attitude and vice versa.
  • Ex Can oppose sex outside of marriage, until you
    do it. Then, you either reject the principle to
    justify the action or vice versa.
  • Ex Pre-commitment get people to give token
    contributions to political campaigns so theyll
    be sure to not change their minds later.
  • Part of the job of a liberal arts education is to
    make you more comfortable with dissonance.

  • We are NOT unbiased video recorders. Most memory
    degrades and existing memories change or are
    adapted (sometimes due to cognitive dissonance)
  • Doonesbury cartoon (overhead)
  • Ex Eyewitnesses notoriously unreliable.
  • How did you do on Q 34 of the reader survey?
  • Even how a question is asked about the past
    changes memory.
  • Smashed vs. hit. People made up seeing broken

(No Transcript)
  • People remember a general scenario or picture,
    not details.
  • Stop and remember a pleasurable moment or scene
    in your life. Were you in it? Did you really look
    at yourself during the event, or are you
    reconstructing the memory?
  • Memory is re-constructed rather than merely
  • Inferences fill in missing mental detail.
  • Memory must be forced into preexisting
  • Memory is easily created in children, and even
    adults (abuse).
  • What examples can you think of? (or did you

Hindsight Bias
  • Hindsight bias I knew it all along
  • We overestimate what we knew in the past because
    we integrate subsequent information. See
    Fischhoff and Beyth (1975)
  • Have you ever watched Jeopardy with someone, and
    after the answer is given that person says "I
    knew that one" or "That was an easy one"?
  • This may be why people overestimate whether they
    voted for winning president or not, or whether
    their candidate will win
  • Ex Pre gulf war people thought it another
    Vietnam. Afterward, confidently declared they
    knew it would be an easy win.
  • Ex Iraq people thought it a relatively easy
    win, underestimated the quagmire.

Hindsight Bias
  • In reality, we probably didnt know it before
    hand, and a decision that went bad doesnt
    necessarily a bad decision. It may still have
    been the best one, just without the benefit of
  • Implication We can be overly critical of people
    whose decisions went wrong and overly
    praiseworthy of people who made risky decisions
    that turned out well.
  • Even explaining this bias to people and telling
    them not to do it doesnt eliminate it (Fischhoff
  • What examples can you think of?

More Examples
  • medical context. A Dr.s second opinion does not
    differ completely from another Dr.s opinion if
    he/she is aware of the first opinion. This seems
    to be of serious consequence if one considers
    that a second opinion is only required when
    serious illnesses have been diagnosed.
  • legal context, hindsight bias was found to occur
    when a jury makes a final decision in court. In
    the course of a trial, the judge is empowered to
    order the jury to ignore certain testimonials, by
    disallowing them. It is impossible to ignore such
  • workplace context. A supervisor may not be able
    to make an undistorted judgment on his employees
    decision-making if he/she got information about
    some results of their performance. This is a
    special problem in the case of poor outcomes
    because a poor outcome could happen even if they
    acted correctly on the information they were
    given at the time.
  • Source http//

Context Dependence
  • Contrast Effects and Optical Illusions
  • Optical Illusions.ppt
  • Straight lines bend, and shapes appear larger
    or smaller depending on the context in which they
  • Nothing is big, small, hot, cold, smart, dumb,
    good, bad, etc. without something to compare it
    to. What is the reference point?
  • Application Real estate
  • What other examples can you think of?

Context Dependence
  • Primacy Effect
  • Asch (1946) found that characteristics appearing
    early in a list disproportionately affected
  • Did you rate emotional as high on Q. 3?
  • Application First impressions are key.
  • Other examples?

Context Dependence
  • Recency Effect Instances where information that
    comes last is most influential when its best
    remembered and rises to the top of the mind.
  • Primacy effect is stronger when pro and con info
    is presented at the same time.
  • Recency effect is stronger when pro and con info
    is separated in time. More recent info dominates.

Context Dependence
  • Halo Effect Evaluations on multiple unrelated
    characteristics are highly correlated.
  • Ex Beauty Halo an attractive person is also
    rated highly in intelligence, personality,
    friendliness, etc.
  • Did you fall prey in Q. 4?
  • Other examples First paper read when I grade,
  • What other examples can you think of?

Plasticity of Opinions
  • Public Opinion polling is widely used by
    politicians, media, researchers. How do we know
    what the public thinks? How well do we know it?
  • Do people have stable opinions? Can we trust
    public expressions of opinion as important in a

Plasticity of Opinions
  • A sampling of public opinion polling problems.
  • Question order effects presidential approval
    drops if you put it later in the survey rather
    than first.
  • Response order effects Recency effect. Choose
    last response in a list.
  • Pseudo opinions
  • Metallic Metals Act
  • Mistakes and misunderstandings
  • Israel an Arab country
  • Is candidate x a socialist?
  • all the other candidates seem quite social as
  • Womens Suffrage http//

Plasticity of Opinions
  • Inconsistent attitudes
  • Hypothetical attitudes dont predict specific
  • People might say they are tolerant, but then
    launch into a list of things or groups they would
    ban from public schools or libraries.
  • Abstract opinions do not equal behavior
  • Darley and Batson (1973) Good Samaritan

Question Wording
  • Slight changes in question wording alter
  • Whats your favorite example from Plous?
  • Mine Allow vs. forbid antidemocratic speeches
  • People use response alternatives as a frame of
    reference for reasoning about the Q.

  • Logically equivalent options that are stated
    differently produce different expressed
  • Item 25, 26 on survey
  • Lives saved v. lives lost in Asian Flu Scare
  • People are risk seeking in the domain of losses
  • People are risk averse in the domain of gains
  • Schelling example Tax deductions for families
    with children or tax increases for the childless.
    The policy is the same, but its description
    produces very different political considerations.
  • Kahneman and Tversky studies
  • The effect even exists among trained experts,
    like doctors, who deal with probability.

Framing Examples
  • A relaxed application of framing is when a
    speaker raises one subset of considerations to
  • Hows the economy doing at 1 GDP growth?
  • Worse than historical performance (Clinton frame)
  • Better than world performance (Bush 41 frame)
  • Tax increases versus reversing tax cuts
  • Application Expectations management. Bill
    Clinton as the comeback kid.
  • Application Debates have little effect people
    just root for the home team (selective
    perception)! But post-debate spin can have an
    influence. Ford Gaffe 1976.
  • Note Framing effects have been shown to be
    suppressed by partisan labels and sources that
    lack credibility.

Words Invoke Frames
  • Often individual words invoke different frames
  • Bureaucrat (neg) vs public servant (pos)
  • Terrorist vs Freedom Fighter, Martyr for the
    people, or defense force.
  • What examples can you think of?
  • Remember, biasing language was even used as a
    logical fallacy.
  • Most of politics is an ongoing war of frames.
  • Estate Tax versus Death Tax
  • http//
  • http//video.pbs.org8080/ramgen/wgbh/pages/frontl

  • Colorado Blue Book
  • What is a budget cut/tax increase?
  • Private/Personal Social Security Accounts
  • Was Iraq a new war started by us, or a conclusion
    of an old war started in 1991?

Framing Examples
  • TV news is mostly episodic focus on interesting
    cases, not general patterns.
  • News coverage of crime, terrorism, poverty tend
    to be episodic.
  • lack of focus on historical, economic, social
    antecedents to problems
  • Tends to focus instead on personal failures.
    conservative policy
  • Thematic stories that give in depth
    interpretive analysis.
  • Unemployment covered thematically, but most
    issues are not.
  • Iyengar . Affects attributions of political
    responsibility for events. Tend not to hold
    politicians accountable if episodic. But Thematic
    coverage tends to place blame on government or
    society as a whole.
  • Source Shanto Iyengar Is Anyone Responsible?
    How Television Frames Political Issues.

  • While Framing effects are caused by differential
    content of communication, priming effects are
    caused by different quantities of information
  • Considerations at the top of the head affect
    recall and information processing.
  • Sand, waves, sea, moon, palm, fish, blue
  • Asking survey questions about personal finances
    induces pocketbook-voting responses.
  • Application Agenda setting. Watching news
    stories about particular issues (terrorism) makes
    that issue rise in saliency (listed as most
    important). Iyengar and Kinder (1986)
  • Political ads try to affect what info you
    remember and consider in the voting booth.

Psychological Accounting
  • People reason differently and make different
    choices (even for equivalent outcomes) based on
    how they think of the loss or gain.
  • Ratio Difference Principle People want to save
    5 off a 20 purchase, but dont worry much about
    saving 5 if theyre buying a car.
  • Hence, car/home salespeople can make hundreds or
    thousands off you because the loss seems small in
  • Examples?

Other Descriptive Models of Decision Making
  • Satisficing
  • Prospect Theory
  • Certainty Effects
  • Pseudocertainty
  • Regret Theory
  • Multiattribute choice
  • Noncompensatory strategies
  • Most Important Dimension

  • Satisficing (Herbert Simon) People choose the
    option that satisfies their most important needs,
    even if it is not ideal. People dont optimize.
  • Optimization impossible because info is often
    missing, not all alternatives are explored,
    outcomes are uncertain, time and cognitive
    abilities are limited, etc.
  • Not a full model, rather a description of
    behavior in organizations.

Prospect Theory
  • Developed by Kahneman and Tversky
  • Finds losses are accounted more heavily than
  • Critical in politics because people respond to
    negative impacts and externalities more than
    positive ones.
  • Much easier to organize people and money around a
    political loss than an equivalent gain.

Prospect Theory
  • Key Implications
  • People are risk averse in the domain of gains,
    risk seeking in the domain of losses.
  • The key is the reference point, against which
    the comparison is made
  • Leads to framing effects
  • Leads to an endowment effect where people value
    what they have more than the value they would
    place on it if they did not own it.
  • The garage sale problem.
  • Implication killing existing programs very
  • Predicts a certainty effect People prefer a
    reduction in risk near zero to a greater one
    elsewhere. People would rather eliminate risk
    than reduce it.
  • People will pay more to remove the only bullet is
    a gun in a game of Russian Roulette to removing 1
    of 4, even though the decreased risk is the same
    in each case.
  • Application 3 strikes and youre out, zero
    tolerance, etc.

Prospect Theory
  • Application candidates will take political
    risks, run more negative political ads, risk a
    backlash if they are about to lose.
  • People will fight more for programs they may
    lose, than those they would like to implement.
  • Voters throw the incumbents out when things look

  • You are a campaign consultant. How can you
    exploit some of the logical fallacies or
    psychological biases discussed so far to further
    your cause to invade Iran? Your group should
    define 5 specific fallacies or biases and discuss
    how your campaign ads, news conferences, debate
    moments, etc. could try to play to these biases.
  • Choose to represent either pro or anti war
  • Try not to make them absurd

  • Choose a speech from a prominent politician, a
    party platform, and media story, or other
    communication of interest and critique it for
    lack of evidence, logical fallacies, or
    psychological biases.

Heuristics and Biases
  • Heuristics decision rules of thumb
  • Biases systematic tendencies toward a particular
    outcome in peoples thought processes.
  • Pioneered by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in
    multiple experiments
  • Provides a description of how people make
    judgments and decisions under uncertainty.
  • Why do we care about probability calculations?
    Arent they just academic?

When do we use probability?
  • Most political questions involve probability
  • What are your chances of being a victim of crime?
  • How likely are you to contract an STD?
  • How often does discrimination occur? How likely
    is x to happen?
  • How risky is smoking?
  • How long before another terrorist attack happens?
  • Are Americans pro-war?
  • What are people on welfare, politicians,
    bureaucrats like?
  • What are the chances we will invade Iran?

Representativeness Heuristic
  • People often judge probabilities by the degree
    to which A is representative of B, that by the
    degree to which A resembles B. (TK 1974)
  • Item 1 from reader survey.
  • Likelihood of Linda being a bank teller and
    feminist is lower than just being a bank teller.
  • Shows people commit the conjunction fallacy
    where they judge a subset of outcomes to be
    greater than than the full set because the subset
    sounds plausible and representative of someone
    they might meet because it is more detailed and

Neglect of Base Rates
  • A base rate is the relative frequency
    (probability) of occurrence seen over time.
  • Representativeness heuristics often arises
    because people ignore this information.
  • Ex 2 5 from my survey

Misjudging Sample Size
  • People make all sorts of mistakes in
    calculating probabilities. Misunderstanding
    inferences we can make from sample size is one of
  • Ex problem 6 my survey.

Regression to the Mean
  • Unusually high or low scores tend to be followed
    by scores closer to the mean.
  • Sports Illustrated Jinx. Athletes perform worse
    after being highlighted in Sports Illustrated.
    But their performance was highlighted because it
    was atypically good (or bad). Over time, their
    performance will settle back down toward their
  • Postwar slumps in presidential approval ratings.

Mistakes to Avoid
  • Dont be misled by detailed scenarios. The more
    detailed they are, the less likely they are to
  • Pay attention to base rates, particularly when an
    event is very rare or very common
  • Remember chance is not self-correcting
  • Dont misinterpret regression to the mean

Availability Heuristic
  • People assess the frequency of a class or
    probability of an event by the ease with which
    instances or occurrences can be brought to mind.
  • Some events will be more available for
    consideration because they are recent, easier to
    think about, vivid, emotional, plausible
  • Ex 7, 8 on reader survey, 1, 3, 4 on mine

  • Imaginability
  • Carroll (1978) Found that those who were asked
    to imagine Jimmy Carter winning were more likely
    to predict a Carter win, likewise for Ford.
  • So, if an outcome seems plausible and is easily
    imagined, it seems more probable.
  • I heard the military is using a new plane that
    can go 4x the speed of sound. I have no idea if
    its true, but it sounds plausible, so Ill
    believe it.
  • The Bush Administration is going to reinstate
    the Draft.
  • Israeli Soldier

  • Vividness
  • The more vivid or emotional an event is, the more
    likely we think it is, because it is more
    available in memory.
  • People found an unrepresentative verbal
    presentation of student evaluations of a course
    more useful in deciding whether to take a course
    than statistical information on all students
  • Implications politicians will be driven by
    vivid, but less probable events than systematic
    analyses show and can influence jury outcomes and
    advertising effectiveness.
  • Welfare queen, lazy or inept bureaucrat, 600
    dollar hammer.
  • Implication media pictures may are more
    impactful than talking head discussions by
    academics. (CNN effect)
  • Implication Our experiments show (so far)
    negative ads are more memorable. So do people
    overestimate the occurrence of negative
    advertising? (According to our research, yes).

Probability and Risk
  • People dont use Bayes Theorem to estimate
    probability. So, there are many statistical
    mistakes made.
  • P(BA) P(AB) P(B) / P(A)
  • Do you seriously use this?  
  • Also, positive outcomes are judged more likely
    than negative ones (overly optimistic)
  • Rosenhan and Messick (1966) People predicted
    smiling faces more, in all experimental
  • Most people think theyll be successful, but not
    die of cancer or in a car accident.
  • How did you answer Q 5 a-d on the reader survey?

Common Probability Mistakes
  • People overestimate the probability of
    conjunctive events (A and B both occur)
  • Example Space shuttle O ring failure.
  • 6 O rings w/ 97.7 chance of success each.
  • .9776.87 chance of success 13 chance of
  • People underestimate the probability of
    disjunctive events (A or B occurs)
  • When there are many possible low probabilities
    events, people overestimate the probability at
    least one will occur.
  • Conservatism People are slow to revise their
    estimates in response to new info.

  • People often perceive risks very differently than
  • People fear nuclear power most, statisticians
    tell us its less risky than riding a bicycle.
  • What is a risk? Skiing? Swimming? Genetically
    modified foods? Alcohol? Sex?
  • Dread risks those beyond peoples control that
    have great consequences, like nuclear power.
  • Voluntary risks Those people dont fear (due to
    underestimation of risk?) or risk knowingly
  • Perceived risks vary by culture.

Risk and Selective Perception
  • After SAC false Russian Missile Attack and 3 Mile
    Island, people didnt change their assessments of
    risk, or their preferences. They interpreted the
    info to confirm their prior expectations.
  • London/Madrid bombings?

Anchoring and Adjustment
  • People are biased by irrelevant information in
    estimating probabilities and proportions.
  • Random Actual higher/lower? Exact
    Af in UN
  • 64 lower 45
  • 10 higher 25
  • Random numbers impact our numerical evaluations
  • Application Salespeople throw out very high
    numbers and appear willing to negotiate.
  • Once estimates are anchored, people do not adjust
  • Finding are robust and apply in real estate and
    other areas.

Anchoring and Adjustment
  • Example estimate the thickness of a piece of
    paper folded on itself 100 times.
  • Most people say no more than a few yards or
  • Correct answer 800 trillion times the distance
    between the earth and the sun. You were swayed by
    the small thickness of paper.
  • Estimate the product of 8x7x6x5x4x3x2x1?
  • Mean Estimate 2250
  • (Correct number is 40320)
  • Estimate 1x2x3x4x5x6x7x8?
  • Mean Estimate 512

Anchoring and Adjustment
  • Reader Survey item 13
  • Only 23 people needed to have a 50 probability
    of 2 people having the same birthday on some day.
  • But 254 needed to have a 50 probability of the
    same birthday on a particular day
  • Implication Unspecified coincidences happen a
    lot by random chance!
  • (Many conspiracy theories rely on unspecified
    coincidences which the theorist falsely deems
    unlikely, and therefore in need of an
    alternative explanation.)

Perceptions of Likelihood
  • What are the chances? Given the preceding
    chapters, we dont have a clue.
  • We often assume low probability events cannot
    occur by chance, so we must have a different,
    often supernatural or conspiratorial explanation.

Common Political Heuristics
  • Party Identification
  • Ideology (Metallic Metals Act?)
  • Endorsements
  • Viability/support (polls)
  • Candidate Appearance
  • Name Recognition
  • (I prefer you try or other good
    source instead)

Which one is Julius Ervings Shooting sequence?
Patterns in Randomness
  • People see patterns in purely random events.
  • Gilovich et al (1985) demonstrated that streak
    shooting in basketball was an illusion (the
    probability of hitting a basket did not increase
    the probability of hitting the next one. In fact,
    it decreased!).
  • See item 38 on survey

The Myth of the Hot Hand
  • Data in table 2.1 contradict that notion that
    hitting one shot (x), increases the probability
    of the hitting the next.
  • This is also true of free throws (eliminating
    other variables as explanations)
  • Players were unable to predict their shot in
  • Gilovich believes people misperceive streaks
    where there are none because they have a faulty
    impression of what randomness looks like.
  • Clustering Illusion OXXXOXXXOXXOOOXOOXXOO is
    random, not streak shooting. Buttressed by
    representativeness heuristic and small sample
  • Prediction Those closest to basketball are most
    likely to make the mistake!
  • Ex People even see genetic similarities between
    parents and adopted children!

  • Implication we may think we see patterns in
    random police stops, hiring and firing, sporting
    event outcomes, stock trends, music played
    backwards, etc.
  • People also claim to see things in clouds, stars,
    tree leaves, paint splotches, etc. Are they
    really there, or are we constructing them?
    (selective perception)
  • http//
  • http//

Misperception of Random Data
  • Our belief engines predispose us to see order,
    patterns, and meaning in the world.
  • Randomness, chaos and meaninglessness are
    unacceptable to most people.
  • But our perceptions are often figments of our
  • Shermers examples faces and canals on photos of
    mars, Satanic messages in music, finding
    religious figures in shadows, on toast, on paint
    splotches and wood grains, hot streaks in sports
    and gambling.
  • Finding patterns is no doubt comforting to us.
  • Finding patterns is also the substance of
    science. The difference is that science utilizes
    procedures that minimize the probability of
    clearly faulty conclusions.

Correlation, Causation, Control
  • Illusory Correlation We often perceive
    correlations where there are none.
  • See 14 on reader survey. No correlation is
  • Bacon and Eggs?
  • Invisible Correlations
  • Jennings et al (1982) We often miss correlations
  • Correlation does not equal causation!
  • Ice cream and violent crime example
  • Causation does not require correlation!
  • Intercourse example

Attribution Theory
  • Who should be blamed or praised?
  • Fundamental Attribution Error
  • People over-attribute others behavior to
    disposition (traits) rather than situational
    factors. But the error is also self-serving.
  • If I fail, its the context if you fail, its
    because youre personally lacking
  • If I succeed, its due to my characteristics, if
    you succeed, its due to the situation
  • Example Racial Bias. Group X members fail
    because theyre lazy or incapable (rather than
    they have less opportunities, suffer
    discrimination, and lack silver spoons in their
  • Application Egocentric bias people claim more
    responsibility for joint outcomes, probably due
    to the higher salience and availability of info
    about their contribution.

Attribution Theory
  • Why does the error occur?
  • People tend to ignore consensus information (base
    rates), which is less salient to them than more
    biased story lines.
  • The more salient something is, the more likely it
    will appear to be causal
  • Taylor and Fiske (1978) found that 3 people
    listening to a conversation rated the person in
    their visual field as most influential on the
    conversation, because attention was focused on
  • Tend to attribute less variability to others than
    to oneself.
  • Implication If youre not responsible for your
    own failures, who is? This leads to blame
    displacement. The government? Those people?

Fixing Attribution Errors
  • Pay attention to base rates If most people
    behave similarly in a given situation, dont
    attribute it to disposition.
  • Ask how you would have behaved in the same
  • Walk a mile in someone elses shoes.

Social Influences
  • Of course, judgments and decisions dont occur in
    a vacuum. Were influenced by other social
    actors, norms, and pressures as well.
  • We worry about how others will perceive us and
  • Research shows that judgments and choices can be
    affected (negatively and positively) by our
    expectations of how others will view us.
  • Assumption Most people are more comfortable
    conforming and want to be liked and accepted.

A Few Social Effects
  • Social facilitation our performance is enhanced
    by onlookers for things weve mastered
    performance declines for unmastered tasks.
  • Social loafing People dont work as hard in
    groups as alone.
  • Diffusion of Responsibility Less likely to act
    because we figure its some elses problem.
  • Kitty Genovese Example
  • Social Comparison People compare their opinions
    and abilities to those like them to check
    performance and acceptability.
  • Appear to be more likely to act on behalf of and
    take advice from someone like them, and even feel
    less pain from electrical shocks!

A Few Social Effects
  • Asch experiments on conformity Many people
    espouse opinions that are obviously false if the
    majority of a group or a vocal minority assert an
    alternative truth.
  • Readers survey 32
  • Lone dissenters significantly decrease the
    effect, but dont get rid of it entirely
  • Application mob rule, conventional wisdom on

A Few Social Effects
  • Groupthink (Irving Janus 1982) A cohesive and
    insulated loyal group creates pressures to
    conform to the perceived dominant opinion self
    censorship of alternative opinions.
  • Groupthink leads to self-delusion and
  • Application any NSC meeting, group of
    presidential insiders, CEOs
  • Fix it by forcing opposing views in all
    discussions (playing devils advocate), leaders
    should let others speak before sharing own
    opinions, create redundant groups, invite
    outsiders and experts, share thinking with
  • A group effort at selective perception

  • Negative outcomes
Write a Comment
User Comments (0)