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Milton Friedman on Fundamental Attribution Error

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout: Debate & Discussion' started by Brandyon, Nov 6, 2012.

  1. Brandyon

    Brandyon Member

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    During these election times, we see the attribution effect sweeping across our country more heavily than ever. Here at D&D, I am reminded of it constantly by posters such as BigTexxx, but during a window of time every 4 years, it simply cannot be avoided for more than a few minutes at a time on a national level.

    -Milton Friedman from The Indispensable Milton Friedman

    What's so harmful about this, specifically with our two party system, is that BOTH major parties emphasize the caricatures of their opposition. Voters cannot reasonably understand their choices, because they are not presented with a reasonable valuation of behavior, or the explanations for them.

    I've mentioned the cognitive biases that wedge issues are used to exploit them before. People will naturally feel the need to jump in and defend their side of gun control, abortion, etc in order to defend their moral position, regardless of the fact that moral reasoning is not the motivation for politicians continue reiterating the same issues.

    It takes effort make rational decisions. We react a certain way to sharks, even when coconuts kill 100 times as many people in a given year, because we are animals. What separates humans is the ability to reason before making a decision. We can only stop ourselves when the impulse to react arises. Until people recognize the value cooperative game decision making, and condemn the commonplace manipulation of emotion perpetuated by the media and politicians, we will be doomed to seeing the country be control by those wealthy enough to make their voices louder than everyone else's.

    I voted 3rd party, but what can really be done to change something so engrained within our culture now?
     
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  2. Nolen

    Nolen Contributing Member

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    I don't have much to contribute right now, too tired- I just want to say that this is an excellent start to a thread and I hope it goes somewhere.
     
  3. Brandyon

    Brandyon Member

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    Give it a shot tomorrow, haha! I've felt that there needs to be more debate and discussion outside of what the hot topics the media focuses on for a while now. It's been hard to keep peoples attention out of the rut that is wedge issues when I post in threads dedicated to them. Hopefully, this helps :)
     
  4. Cohete Rojo

    Cohete Rojo Contributing Member

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    Politicians say what they say because it is what people want to hear. Mitt Romney started his campaign with a bulletpoint list of economic issues he wanted to resolve as president. BORING! People don't want to hear that. People want something generic, morally justified and comfortably translated to fit their interests, not some free-market screed.

    People need something simple to fall back on when they find themselves in situations that require independent thought (I'll admit that I do this). Because independent thought is scary to most folks, they instead choose to fall back on their the tried-and-true religion/politics/philosophy rather than think for themselves.

    For example, as an individual stock investor, I try not to become attributively biased. So sometimes, I try not to justify why the market is up or down; it is what it is. I find it better to not assign conotation, and instead focus on what I do know. This way I can find companies, sectors and events I understand and focus my energy on that - rather than spend endless amounts of energy saying "told you so".
     
  5. Brandyon

    Brandyon Member

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    I think even this much is debatable. Politicians say what they say, because it's what THEY want people to hear. Getting a crowd fired up emotionally is very different from actually telling a person what they wanted to know before you touch that nerve.

    Moral issues are primarily used to subvert actual motivations in our politics. We can't help but react to issues that make us emotional, which is exactly what makes wedge issues so effective. The problem is our leaders should be looking to work around these issues, rather than exploit them.

    Romney's problem was that he was too obvious. It's one thing to simplify and outline policy. It's another thing to give every group you see a different version of the same outline, while claiming they are all identical.

    I fully agree with this. There isn't a person out there who doesn't defer to "experts" to give us a simplified view on various topics. It's necessary for us, as our brains are not computers. At certain points in history we could rely on the media, nonpartisan moderators, etc to bring focus back to the issues, but now everyone is on the payroll.

    That itself is the problem. Our politics is not that they give us dumbed down versions of the issues, but that they intentionally use "slight of hand" to get everyone looking away from the issues. They aren't solving Americas problems. They are solving their own problems, while keeping the public focused on the caricatures.

    I read an interesting article this morning and I think this quote is relevant:
    Psychologist Robert Cialdini, a professor at Arizona State University and an expert in persuasion, pioneered the social insight that if people know what their peers are doing, they are more likely to do the same.

    They are using some basic behavioral economics to induce voluntary compliance. We need leaders willing to take the fear out of independent thought. Most of our best presidents did just that. Not to distract people so they can slip controversial policy through the back door at the behest of their constituency, but because it was best for the country.

    Unfortunately, I'm not a believer that these types of fundamental changes could happen without catastrophe. The same way a sea barrier wasn't worth building until Captain Hindsight lets everyone know.
     
  6. dmc89

    dmc89 Member

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    Good thread. But as to your original question about how can we change something so ingrained in our culture? Like you, I don't expect much from human beings. I also agree that nothing ever gets done unless a cataclysmic event happens, and there is vocal debate (finger pointing) that our inaction exacerbated the event.

    Whether it's a financial or natural disaster, a subtle invisible hand of natural selection (?) eventually goads people to get off their asses. I think social inequality will become a lot worse in this country before there is substantive conversation from the masses about how to change our plutocracy and the political arena.
     

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