September 22, 2016

Mistaking Odds for Wrong When the Underdog wins

Mistaking Odds for Wrong When the Underdog wins: Alan Dershowitz, the famous lawyer and law professor, is clearly a super-smart guy. He recently wrote an article in the Boston Globe, picked up by, titled “Why It’s Impossible to Predict This Election.” In supporting his argument, he used the surprise result of Great Britain voting […]

September 08, 2016

Making Better Predictions by Keeping It Simple

A few days ago, I heard a story on that offered a great tip about making predictions. I strongly recommend that you listen to the story, “Want to Make Better Predictions? Researchers Explore How.” In under three minutes, it provides valuable insights into predictions and acting on them. Shankar Vedantam, host of the Hidden […]

August 31, 2016

How Resets Predict When We Look for a New Job

Imagine overhearing this conversation: Person 1 asks, “Are you happy?” Person 2 responds, “Compared to whom?” If you are the first person, you probably think that response is not a good sign. If you are the second person, however, that response is actually pretty reasonable. For all the importance we place on happiness (or satisfaction […]

August 13, 2016

On the Olympic Medal Stand, It’s Easy to Confuse “Goals” with “Strategies”

Steve Martin’s stand-up comedy, some of which you can find on YouTube, put a brilliant twist on self-deprecating humor. Instead of presenting himself as a “suffering everyman” (think Rodney Dangerfield or Woody Allen), he created a suave, smug onstage persona. Then he became of the butt of the jokes as he repeatedly showed how he […]

August 03, 2016

Would You Risk Death for an Olympic Gold Medal? Temporal Discounting and the Zika Virus

In the run-up to the start of the Summer Olympics on Friday, a lot of stories have focused on the health risks from the Zika virus. Fear of the virus is fueled by every high-profile announcement of an athlete skipping the Olympics. Athletes are having to make a calculation about whether to participate, weighing the […]

July 30, 2016

Boxing Out at the Democratic National Convention: The Democrats Cover Republican Court

On Thursday night, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar addressed the Democratic National Convention. Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s third all-time leading rebounder, knows a few things about the strategy of boxing out. He definitely wasn’t the only one on the stage who did. The entire show on the final night of the DNC was an object lesson in boxing out. […]

July 29, 2016

Motivated Reasoning: Seeing what you want to see (or don’t want to see) in Tim Kaine

Is it possible for a major-party candidate to be both too liberal and too conservative? That was the quandary of the Washington Post in an article headlined, “Kaine Not Liberal Enough? Just Ask Virginians.” The Post points out the irony between the criticism among groups claiming to speak for progressives (“a loyal servant of the […]

July 12, 2016

Doctors’ Disclosure of Bias: Why Get a Second Opinion if You Don’t Know What to Do with the First?

When you get advice from a doctor (or any other professional), you want to know if they have any potential biases. A potential financial conflict-of-interest might cause you to discount a doctor’s advice, even when offered in good faith based on professional expertise. In some instances, according to former physician and Cornell management professor Sunita […]

July 05, 2016

Spinning Brexit

Thanks to Motivated Reasoning, We Don’t Let Facts Get in the Way of Our Beliefs Mathematical aptitude does not inoculate people from biased thinking. In fact, being math-smart can actually make you more likely to interpret statistics to fit preexisting biases. I thought about this while I was watching an interview with Nigel Farage on […]

June 28, 2016

Work Martyrs and Mental Accounting: The Mystery of Lost Vacation Time

I just learned, thanks to an excellent Washington Post article, “Are You a Work Martyr?”, that every year we fail to use 658 million days of vacation time. The consequences reverberate through the economy, according to Post economics columnist Robert Samuelson. According to the article, 90% of full-time U.S workers receive some form of paid […]