The Splintered Mind has a great guest piece by G. Randolph Mayes reflecting on John Allen Paulos’s latest piece in the New York Times, entitled “Stories vs. Statistics” , which reflects on counter intuitve work of Nobel prize winning work of Tversky and Kahneman on conjunction fallacies. I haven’t read Paulos’s full article but this quote is his explanation the “Linda the feminist Bank Teller effect”:
The more details there are about them in a story, the more plausible the account often seems. More plausible, but less probable. In fact, the more details there are in a story, the less likely it is that the conjunction of all of them is true.
Early research in this field used to focus on the conjunction part of the effect (the statistics) but by focusing on the stories Mayes examines the fallacy part in more detail. He teaches you to lie more convincingly. You can read the whole thing at The Splintered Mind: The Convincing Explanation (by Guest Blogger G. Randolph Mayes).
This is, of course, very relevant to our project. If we want to get a rich, colourful but accurate picture of the experience and effects of drugs on people we have to balance the stories and the statistics. We have two aspects to it:
- The collection and collation of a wealth of statistical information about drug use.
- Some means of letting users tell us how that actually makes them feel.
But the trouble is people on drugs are not thinking straight but they are thinking very colourfully. They are going to tell us very convincing stories about what is happening to them which might not be true. (For your preferred value of the term ‘true’, etc, etc etc.) We have very little idea how to resolve this tension. So your suggestions are most welcome.
All I can tell you now is that it’s not just coincidence that YourBrainonDrugs.net was founded by a scientist and a sociologist. (Or am I lying?)
Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1983). Extensional versus intuitive reasoning: The conjunction fallacy in probability judgment. Psychological Review, 90 (4), 293-315 DOI: 10.1037/0033-295X.90.4.293
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