Saturday, September 27, 2008


“[A]nchoring … lower[s] your anxiety about uncertainty by producing a number, then you ‘anchor’ on it, like an object to hold on to in the middle of a vacuum [or a storm]. [An] anchoring mechanism was discovered by the fathers of the psychology of uncertainty, Danny Kahneman and Amos Tversky … [They] had [test] subjects spin a wheel of fortune. The subjects first looked at the number on the wheel, which they knew was random, then they were asked to estimate the number of African countries in the United Nations [the true quantity being one of which they were completely ignorant, presumably]. Those who had a low number on the wheel estimated a low number of African nations; those with a high number produced a higher estimate.”

If you want a bargain start with a ridiculously low number? This “reference point in [the] head [will] start building beliefs around [it]. … The discussion will be determined by that initial level.”

source: The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

It rings true to me that the mind in a state of uncertainty is happy to cling to an idea, or gasp with relief at a suggestion, or huddle in the inadequate shade of the merest of hints, whether or not idea, suggestion or hint has a real world source. These mental landmarks feel real, thus provide comfort before the threatening panic of being lost and helpless.

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