The Fine Art of Decision Making

I conduct performance teach-in’s for the public. A teach-in is a once popular form of an intensive teaching, discussion and information event, which has fallen into oblivion during recent years. It developed in the context of the political movements of the 1960s and served as an instrument to point out grievances, and to develop possibilities of resistance against them. During the performance teach-in’s are held to examine the problems surrounding decision making and knowledge production – not only theoretically but also practically, using tangible examples and questions. The audience, or rather the participants, are explicitly invited to play an active part in the meetings: with questions, comments, with their own contributions. The teach-in’s are set up as open zones of knowledge exchange.

Reasoning and decision making are two of the most important activities in wich humans engage. But we don’t always do so is the best manner. When we don’t, the consequences can range from minor inconvenience to catastrophic loss. One of the contexts in which humans have best developed their capacities for good reasoning and decision making is scientific inquiry. Hence, that is where we will turn for guidance. Science is also extremely important to our own decision making as we rely on the results of scientific inquiry. This requires, though, that we understand how science works and be able to assess whether a given result is trustworthy.

Some of the questions I will address are:

(1) What makes for a good piece of reasoning?
(2) Can you ever be absolutely certain of the truth or falsity of a hypothesis?
(3) How objective is observation and how can humans avoid making mistakes in perception?
(4) What might we learn by systematic observation?
(5) What can we learn from discovering correlations between variables and how can we avoid being misled by illusory correlations?
(6) What does it take to establish a causal relationship?
(7) What are mechanisms, what role do they play in science, and how do scientists discover and reason about them?


This performance will emphasize active engagement in the kinds of reasoning and decision making which scientists use in testing hypotheses, especially through exercises and demonstrations.
The goal is to understand the logical and statistical principles by which claims are created and evaluated and to develop a critical appreciation for the methods by which knowledge is acquired in our society.
You might leave this performance with a better ability to distinguish good from poor reasoning and decision making.

The Performance Teach-in will comprise Radical Mutual Improvement through the following topics

Illusion of Control (Cognitive Bias #1)
This is the tendency to believe that you control, or at least partially influence, things that you do not.
Hyperbolic Discounting (Cognitive Bias #2)
This is the tendency for people to value more immediate payoffs higher than remote payoffs.
Focusing Effect (Cognitive Bias #3)
This is the tendency to compare two things based on one dimension rather than taking all dimensions into consideration.
Endowment Effect (Cognitive Bias #4)
This is the tendency for people to value something more as soon as they own it.
Disconfirmation Bias (Cognitive Bias #5)
The tendency for people to scrutinize evidence that contradicts their previous beliefs and to uncritically accept evidence that supports it.
Contrast Effect (Cognitive Bias #6)
This is the enhancement or diminishment of a weight or other measurement when compared with recently observed contrasting object.
Confirmation Bias (Cognitive Bias #7)
This is our uncanny tendency to search for, or interpret, information that agrees with our preconceptions.
Choice-supportive bias (Cognitive Bias #8)
This is the bias that makes one tend to believe that their choices of the past were better than they actually were.
Bias Blind Spot (Cognitive Bias #9)
This is the tendency to not see your own cognitive biases.
The Bandwagon Effect (Cognitive Bias #10)
It has to do with certainty, and the odds of your own judgment being challenged.

Aug 13th, 2012 | Posted in _materials
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