Showing posts from 2020

How to debunk an electoral fraud claim

There are plenty of claims of US election fraud floating around this week. Most of them fall into three categories: Too vague to be meaningfully evaluated or investigated Too small to matter (a few individual ballots being challenged here and there, possibly valid but not enough to affect the results) Too wild to stand up to any kind of scrutiny Together, these claims are certainly problematic: they create a fog of doubt about the legitimacy of the democratic process. But a fourth category is more insidious. A twitter mutual retweeted the thread quoted below. You can click through to read the whole thread, but I have embedded the highlights. It's a well-told story, with several characteristics that make it effective - as well as dangerous. To start with, the data comes from an authoritative source, the New York Times. Even better in this case: a source associated with "the other side". Surely the liberals can't deny the truths from their own newspaper? The followin

Predictions for the next decade in Behavioral Science

Behavioral Scientist have put together their favourite predictions, ideas, worries and challenges in the field of behavioral science for the next decade. We were delighted they accepted our pitch on cogitive economics as one of the new oppportunities in the future! Here is our prediction for the future - what is yours? "The twenty-first century is pushing us toward an ever more digital, information-driven, persuasion-based global economy—just as a new set of tools are emerging in neuroscience and psychology that offer the power to understand these phenomena in a new way. Cognitive economics is a new field rooted in behavioral economics, paralleling the shift from behavioral to cognitive psychology. Rather than focusing on biases in choices between material goods, cognitive economists explore how people consume intangible products with their minds. Consumers no longer strive to acquire only material goods or earn the most money. Instead, they seek purpose, symbolic value, inte

Am I the person Dominic Cummings is looking for? A followup to The Times

For those interested in a bit more background to my Times article today , here are some details on how Cummings's topics have showed up in my cognitive economics research. You can judge for yourself if I have spotted what he is working towards. Starting with Judea Pearl's modelling of causality. Pearl developed a way of using graphs (a kind of diagram showing a network of relationships between objects – like the chocolate example below) to express and work out cause-and-effect relationships. For example, you might use them to determine whether smoking causes cancer, or carbon dioxide causes global warming – or more locally, whether cutting Universal Credit reduces unemployment. Quite often, we find that when scientists discover something about the structure of the world, the human brain has got there before us. The brain has evolved to seek out cause-and-effect relations in the world around us, and assemble them into a graph just like this. It learns the relationships by o