day in the life plus learning to gossip better

Still getting up and doing work instead of relaxing. This morning,  I did manage to read a poem each by Adrienne Rich,

Anne Sexton

and John Updike.

These are the three poets I am reading these days.

Then I settled down to transcribing Christ lag in Todes Banden BWV 695 into a Finale doc. I converted the original two stave version to a three stave version with the alto melody in the pedals.

My brother and my sister-in-law arrive today for an overnight visit. I managed to get our bills done before Eileen needed the computer to finish our taxes.

Yesterday, I started reading in Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

Kahneman (along with his recently deceased colleague, Amos Tversky) has spent a lifetime studying how we decide about things.  In his introduction he says he is aiming his book at the kind of conversations that people have around the water-cooler, namely gossip.

This might seem an odd way to approach this for the winner of the Nobel Prize 2002 in Economic Sciences. But it’s actually quite logical. The intuitive way we judge affects our understanding and our opinions. Kahneman thinks that we can begin to see how others are coming to inaccurate conclusions and then we can turn the light on ourselves

Initially he approached experts in many fields with the idea that the way we make decisions and assessments about statistics are often completely inaccurate. He and Tversky would win over experts by showing them how they were coming to false conclusions about facts and statistics.

He would do it like this.

Consider Steve taken from a random sample:

“An individual has been described by a neighbor as follows: ‘Steve is very shy and withdrawn, invariably helpful but with little interest in people or in the world of reality. A meek and tidy soul, he has a need for order and structure, and a passion for detail.’ Is Steve more likely to be a librarian or a farmer?”

“The resemblance of Steve’s personality to that of a stereotypical librarian strikes everyone immediately, but equally relevant statistical considerations are almost always ignored. Did it occur to you that there are more than 20 male farmers for each male librarian in the United States? Because there are so many more farmers, it is almost certain that more ‘meek and tidy’ souls will be found on tractors than at library information desks.

“However, we found that participants in our experiments ignored the relevant statistical facts and relied exclusively on resemblance. We proposed that they used resemblance as a simplifying heuristic (roughly, rule of thumb) to make a difficult judgment. The reliance on heuristic caused predictable biases (systematic errors) in their predictions.”

Kahneman aims to “improve the ability to identify and understand errors of judgment and choice, in others and eventually in ourselves, by providing a richer and more precise language to discuss them.”

My copy of this book is an inter-library loan one which is due soon. Since other people want to see this book, I am unable to renew it. I read in it yesterday to get a sense of it. Now I’m pretty sure I want to somehow own a copy to read.

Fascinating stuff.

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