People who meditate are more aware of their unconscious brain activity – or so a new take on a classic “free will” experiment suggests. The results hint that the feeling of conscious control over our actions can vary – and provide more clues to understanding the complex nature of free will. The famous experiment that challenged our notions of free will was first done in 1983 by neuroscientist Benjamin Libet. It involved measuring electrical activity in someone’s brain while asking them to press a button, whenever they like, while they watch a special clock that allows them to note the time precisely. Typically people feel like they decide to press the button about 200 milliseconds before their finger moves – but the electrodes reveal activity in the part of their brain that controls movement occurs a further 350 milliseconds before they feel they make that decision. This suggests that in fact it is the unconscious brain that “decides” when to press the button. In the new study, a team at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK, did a slimmed-down version of the experiment (omitting the brain electrodes), with 57 volunteers, 11 of whom regularly practised mindfulness mediation. The meditators had a longer gap in time between when they felt like they decided to move their finger and when it physically moved – 149 compared with 68 milliseconds for the other people.
Archivio per giugno 2016
Two recent events in the UK made it look like prediction markets’ predictions aren’t worth much. The soccer team Leicester City won the premiere league title despite the markets putting the odds of them doing so at 5,000 to 1 (.02%). Last week, people in the UK, voted to leave the European Union. A few hours before it was sure they would exit, a prediction market put their probability of leaving at 10%. See the figure above from PredictIt. X axis is roughly time before the outcome was certain. Y axis can be interpreted as probability of exit (70 cents = 70%). It jumped from 10% to 90% in just five hours. Analysts like to “explain” market results, coming up with a reason why an event was a failure of the prediction market. For instance, in the two events above, the Wall Street Journal, perhaps correctly, claims the bets were unduly influenced by London bettors. Through big London bets the odds moved to reflect what Londoners believe instead of the sentiment of the crowd. In predicting a Brexit, the sentiment of the crowd is exactly what you want. Whenever the prediction market is far on the wrong side of 50%, explanations will arise as to why the prediction market was wrong. Let’s take a step back here.
In a study published in Psychological Science, researchers Shira Baror and Moshe Bar at Bar-Ilan University in Israel tested the creativity of study participants while they had high or low mental “loads,” or the amount of things to juggle in their working memory. As Bar detailed in a column for the New York Times, the level of creativity was measured by free association tasks: Participants were given a word (for example, shoe) and asked to give the first response that came to mind (sock). At the same time, they were asked to attend to an easy or challenging cognitive task: in one experiment, holding a two-digit or six-digit string of numbers in mind; in the next, holding a two-digit or seven-digit string of numbers in mind; in the next, naming the alphabetical order of the first two or three letters of a word; and in another attending to the color of letters in a word.
Interventions rooted in behavioral economics can significantly and safely boost the use of fuel- and carbon-efficient flight practices in the airline industry, according to economists at the University of Chicago and the London School of Economics and Political Science. The large-scale study, which incorporated data from more than 40,000 unique flights, found significant savings in carbon emissions and monetary costs when airline captains were provided with tailored monthly information on fuel efficiency, along with targets and individualized feedback. The behavioral effects of such interventions are currently estimated as the most cost-effective way to prevent a metric ton of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. The study was conducted in partnership with experts in sustainability and flight operations at Virgin Atlantic. It included UChicago economists John List, the Homer J. Livingston Professor of Economics, and Robert Metcalfe, Becker Friedman Institute research scholar; as well as Greer Gosnell, a PhD researcher at LSE.
‘TEN’ stands for The European Nudging Network. The Network is managed by The Center for Science, Society and Policy (ISSP) in a collaboration between ISSP, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and HEC Paris. The mission of TEN is to ensure a scientifically and ethically responsible dissemination of applied behavioural insights throughout Europe and beyond. We do that through a range of Open Access (OA) online resources and member activities
Humans exhibit a suite of biases when making economic decisions. We review recent research on the origins of human decision making by examining whether similar choice biases are seen in nonhuman primates, our closest phylogenetic relatives. We propose that comparative studies can provide insight into four major questions about the nature of human choice biases that cannot be addressed by studies of our species alone. First, research with other primates can address the evolution of human choice biases and identify shared versus human-unique tendencies in decision making. Second, primate studies can constrain hypotheses about the psychological mechanisms underlying such biases. Third, comparisons of closely related species can identify when distinct mechanisms underlie related biases by examining evolutionary dissociations in choice strategies. Finally, comparative work can provide insight into the biological rationality of economically irrational preferences.