Author Archives: Maryfay Jackson

The House Always Wins

I never understood why people take more risks and make larger bets when they are losing at a casino. In what world does that make any sense, right? But in a casino or in a general gambling setting, people will lose so much money and will try to win it all back by making larger more risky bets and losing even more money. It seems like a vicious cycle, and that is how casinos make a lot of money….because the house always wins.

This is called risk aversion. People tend to be more risk averse with gains and more risk seeking with losses. Kahneman and Tversky wrote an article called Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk  where they explored the idea of risk aversion and came up with the prospect theory value function, which show that the feeling after gains smooth out quicker than the feeling after a loss. The more that you gain has less value and the more that you lose has more value.

With this in mind, the fact that people don’t risk as much for gains but will seek risks for losses, casinos or people in general will take advantage. When people are losing they are focused more on gaining that money back so they will take more losses and will probably lose more. That is what casinos count on. They want people to lose their money in the casinos, helping them make a profit.

People know how it feels when they lose and when they win, because losses feel more bad than gains feel good. So next time you decide to go to a casino and/or gamble, be aware of how you are taking risks.

 

How You Frame It

Can the way in which you speak effect they way a person is going to respond? Can you shape peoples points of view depending on the way you phrase a sentence or a question? Let go back to a classic question; which will drop the quickest, a pound of bricks or a pound of feathers? Automatically, peoples first response will be a pound of bricks because they know that the concept of bricks is naturally heavier than feathers, a lot of people mistake that they both weigh a pound in this scenario. But the choices are presented in a certain way that can influence decisions.

This is called framing. how we phrase a question can influence the way people make their decisions. The original study done on this subject was by Kahneman and Tversky in 1981. They took a group of people and game them two choice to pick from. One set of choices was based on the framing of acts, another set was based on the framing of contingencies, and the last set was based on the framing of outcomes.

Kahneman and Tversky (1981)  found that “The psychological principles that govern the perception of decision problems and the evaluation of probabilities and outcomes produce predictable shifts of preference when the same problem is framed in different ways”

This framing effect influences the way that people make decisions. This is a big idea when it comes to economics. People make decisions based on emotions when information on something is incomplete, so the way that people advertise is changing. The basis of economics used to be that people made rational decisions but studies show that more people make decisions based on how they feel and they way choice is presented.

With framing,people don’t like to take chances, so if the the questions are about money or disease, people choose the less risky option. The way we think is influenced by the way the choices are presented to us.

False Memory

The criminal justice system relies on eyewitness testimonies and that is something that is considered to be a concrete piece of evidence during a trial and has been known to help put people in jail, but what if what the witnesses are remembering is not actually what happened.

According to Roediger, a false memory is when you “remember events that never actually happened, or remembering them quite different than the way they actually happened.” This subject has caught the attention of many psychologists because these things have a large effect on our everyday lives and can even effect the lives of others. 

In Roediger’s study, Creating False Memories: Remembering Words Not Presented In Lists (1995), he looked at this topic of false memory and he tested it by using a word recognition task. He compiled lists of a lot of words and after the subject had a chance to look at them then he would ask them to see if any of the next set of words were in the previous list. The first list he produced would have a bunch of words related around a similar concept, such as sofa or sweet, then he would place words similar to that concept in the second set of lists. The participants were very confident with the words they picked and that they were in the first list.

What creates a false memory then. How do we think that something happened to us but it really didn’t, or it didn’t happen they way we thought it did. Another researcher that has been studying this field of psychology is Elizabeth Loftus, and she has been studying the creation of false memory through the power of suggestion and that after time passes, the memory that they created gets stronger and more vivid. Our memories naturally begin to change as time goes on as well as we incorporate new information about the words and have new experiences.

In the case of the criminal justice system, people are sent to jail based on eyewitness testimony, and annually too many people are found out to have been misidentified as the culprit after physical evidence turns up, however, the eyewitnesses are convinced that they have identified the right people.

Texas was the first state to pass legislation to try and stop this problem of faulty convictions. They are having the police department use techniques that have been proven to have better results and that researchers have developed to be a better way.

False memory happens to everybody and most of the time it is harmless and doesn’t effect anybody, however, it can also have serious consequences and can change somebody’s life. If you hear a story over and over again, it can eventually make its way into your brain and you can think that it happened to you. Of if you see faces in a photo array in a police station and all of the faces have similar features then you have a higher probability of picking the wrong one. More scientists have been focusing on this are of psychology and hopefully there will be ways in which we are able to limit the amount of wrongful convictions by using better techniques.

Did you notice anything different?

All of us have a weakness when it comes to missing the little things when you are focused on something else, whether it’s driving down a road and you don’t see a car swerve into your lane and you cause an accident or you don’t miss an airplane flying in the background of a movie based in ancient times. We miss these things in our everyday lives because we are so focused on something else.

The word for this is inattentional blindness. We become so focused on the task at hand that we become “blind” to the things happening around us. Our brain filters out things that it doesn’t seem to think is important so we can focus all of our attention of what we need at that time.

The most famous study done with with this concept is the Gorillas in our midst: sustained inattentional blindness for dynamic events. 

In this study, people were asked to pay attention and the count the number of passes either the team in white completed or the team in black completed in four different videos. While the players were passing the ball, a woman with an umbrella or a man in a gorilla suit walked through. After each video was played the participants were asked if they noticed anything unusual in the video, and eventually, if they noticed the woman with the umbrella or the gorilla.

Overall, the woman with the umbrella was noticed more than the gorilla by the participants and the people who were counting the black team’s passes noticed the strange things more than participants counting the white teams passes.

Illusionists use this trick of the mind all of the time. in the video above, the magician is performing a trick with matches and playing cards, however, the things around you are changing. There were three changes in the video, a red hankie to a green one, his shirt swapping to a t-shirt, then he had a totally different assistant at the end, and all of these things happened while you were so focused on the trick.

The magician in the video had a real knowledge of the way that our brain works. He knew that by making us focus on the things he was doing with the cards and the matches that we would miss the changes that were happening right in front of our eyes. Magicians and illusionists use this all the time, by making you focus on something specific you are missing the small things that make up the actual trick.

By knowing that our brain works in this kind of way, we can become more aware in our everyday lives. We might be able to see the car swerve lanes and are able to avoid the collision or maybe even be able to spot the mistakes that a movie is making. Or maybe not, or brain has a way of factoring out what it thinks is not important and having us recognize only what we think we need to.