Julian's blog: TED session 4: Irrational Choices

July 15th, 2010
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Sheena Iyengar Psycho-economist

The practice of choice is very different depending on culture. The American model (have it your way) is not necessarily best, though Americans blithely assume that everyone in the world only needs to adopt it to be happy. Three underlying assumptions, each of which can be challenged.
1 – we should make our own choices (but it can be better to defer to family or community)
2 – more options lead to better choices (but Eastern Europeans don’t see Coke v Pepsi as a choice – both are just soda – and they see lots of choices as stress-inducing and wasteful)
3 – never say no to choice (but US parents who are given the choice to switch off life support for their baby suffer guilt and depression for years, whereas French parents (where the doctor makes the choice) recovery and assimilate much faster).
The benefits of choice are culturally and situationally sensitive.

 

Laurie Santos Cognitive psychologist
We make repeating mistakes in markets because we think relatively and we are loss-averse – hence we hang on in bear markets. Monkeys in tests do the same. We need to recognise this flaw in our design and consciously compensate, because these errors are predictable and immune to feedback.

 

Short talk from Mark Elliott, pastor – look for miracles and life is richer. Quotes Einstein: there are two ways to live: either as if nothing is a miracle, or as if everything is a miracle. I know which I prefer.

 

Lewis Pugh Coldwater Swimmer
Lewis is back to update us. Not content with his awe-inspiring 1km swim at the North Pole, he climbed half way up Everest and swam at 5,300m altitude in a lake that shouldn’t be there – it was left behind by retreating glaciers. “There is nothing more powerful than a made up mind.” Clearly true as he survives near death and completes the swim, learning that past experience is no reliable guide to the present as he has to swim very slowly due to lack of oxygen. Respect.

 

Jamil Abu-Wardeh Comedy Impresario
The man who birthed Muslim stand up comedy tells us how he did it – and what it is achieving. With Axis of Evil – an Iranian, a Palestinian and an Egyptian – touring the world (including the Arab world), comedy festivals in Saudi Arabia and even a women-only comedy festival, comedy is changing the narrative and ‘righting writing wrongs’. Inspiring.

 

Maz Jobrani Comedian
We get a taste of the real thing as Maz (of the Axis of Evil) runs through some outstanding material that so clearly makes nonsense of stereotypes and creates empathy, as well as being downright hilarious.

 

A solid session. And so to lunch.

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