Part 2 in a short series of posts. Part 1 and part 3 are also available.
One of the most powerful ideas in physics is the principle of locality. This principle insists that objects can only be influenced by other objects that touch them. Two items separated by a distance cannot directly exert any force or influence on each other, but must communicate via some medium which physically transmits the force from one to the other.
Albert Einstein described this principle as "no spooky action at a distance" and it applies to his theory of gravity as well as all the other physical forces (it gets more complicated when we consider quantum mechanics, but that would take a whole other article). The Scottish physicist James Maxwell also used it in developing his theory of electromagnetism.
Instead of the magnets directly pushing or pulling each other, each magnet creates an electromagnetic field, and sends out the field into the world around it, transmitted by light waves. When anothe…
The much-delayed final episode in a short series of posts - part 1 and part 2 here.
Lassie died one night.
As Thomas Schelling* pointed out in a thought-provoking 1982 essay, millions of people watched it happen on television one Sunday evening, and cried. Yet they all knew Lassie was not real – and that the dog who played her was probably in perfect health. Why did they experience the same emotions, the same sense of loss that they would expect to feel if their own dog had died, or even their own grandfather? Why should fictional outcomes and situations provide us with (positive or negative) utility? (And if they do, why can we not simply conjure up unlimited happiness by indulging in films or books that we enjoy and hiding from the world?)
The two hypotheses laid out in the previous posts can provide an explanation not only for this, but for a number of other psychological phenomena:
H1: That potential decision outcomes are automatically evaluated by an associative network representi…
Discussion number 1 in a series of 3: on goal-setting. Part 2 and part 3 have now been published.
Much of decision-making psychology (and by extension behavioural economics) explores the processes by which people solve a problem or achieve a goal. Usually the papers in this field contrast the rational, expected-utility way to solve these problems with the approaches people actually use in practice.
An important question they rarely address is "Why that goal?" How is it that people choose the particular problem they want to solve, the objective to work towards? In the psychology lab, the answer is easy: the person in a white coat gives it to them. In real life, that doesn't happen.
Answering this question is essential to developing a comprehensive theory to replace or challenge classical economics. Standard microeconomic theory has a clear, simple answer to this: we always have the same goal, maximising utility. Any other objective (finding the best job, working out how m…