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December 20, 2012

Psychology of Mis-Judgement

Charlie Munger,Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Corporation, has discussed how our mind plays tricks on our decision-making in his book "Poor Charlie's Almanac." That chapter is also available on line at Psychology of Mis-Judgement.

Uncertainty, Chaos, Complex confusing circumstances, Friction and fog of war, turbulence, unpredictability, and similar topics kept me spell-bound during past few months. And thus, when I have time, I would like to share my understandings of famous books like Judgement Under Uncertainty by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, and many such books.

Munger turned out to be sort of a kindred spirit to me. Even before I read his "Almanac," I read such books in minutes, zeroing in on what Munger calls "really big ideas." You must have noticed that here in my posts, I share such juicy, hand-picked "really big ideas."

Munger lists 25 factors that can skew our judgement and then urges the readers or future scholars to tidy up his list. Here is my attempt to do so:

  1. Greed, Liking, Envy/jealousy, Social Proof, Over-Respect, Over Optimism, Curiosity(Seeking Fun, Variety, Adventure, Thrill etc)
  2. Fear, Dislike, 
      Avoiding pain, doubt, inconsistency, discomfort etc
      Seeking confirmation, seeking meaning
      Loss aversion
      Over-reaction to deprival
  3. Association, Pavlovian conditioned reflexes
      Anchoring
      Oversight of convergence of many factors 
      Availability-Misweighing
      Pride, arrogance, over-confidence
      Excessive self-regard 
  4. Stress
  5. ?


People familiar with Buddhist literature will notice that these are what Buddha calls defilements or hindrances as explained by Venerable Nyanaponika, and by Wiki teams.

Kamachanda(Sensual desire, lust, craving, grasping)


Here, you want something very badly. This is what can happen:
  1. You lose sight of other relevant factors. e.g. In a Taoist tale, a thief grabbed and ran away with a gold piece in a crowded marketplace because he "saw only the gold", not other humans who would catch him.
  2. Numerous Chines kings and princes who believed that soldiers from the enemy army were deserting in droves simply because they desired such an outcome whereas in truth, those soldiers just went into hiding to lay ambush.

Vyapada (Ill-will, hatred, anger, fear)


Here, you hate someting so much that you refuse to believe it.
e.g. Hitler would not accept that Soviet factories were producing more tanks etc than his own factories.

Thina-middha (Sloth and torpor)


Here. you are not awake.

Uddhacca-kukkucca (Restlessness,worry, agitation)


This is what we today call stress and anxiety.

Vicikiccha (Doubts or hesitation)


This is plain confusion, contradiction, paradoxes, and lack of faith.

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