We are excited to introduce “HRW’s Behavioral Summer Camp”!
Throughout August, our internal team of behavioral scientists (known as HRW Shift), will teach you about some of the larger principles that drive behavior.
To begin our summer course, have a look at the first three questions below to get your brain juices flowing, then scroll down for the solution.
We hope you enjoy.
The HRW Shift team
Consider a regular six-sided die with four red faces and two blue faces. The die will be rolled 20 times and the sequence of red (R) and blue (B) will be recorded.
Which sequence is more likely?
Linda is 31 years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice, and also participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations.
Which is more probable?
- Linda is a bank teller
- Linda is a bank teller and active in the feminist movement
Which of these statements is more probable?
- Samantha is a doctor
- Samantha is a doctor and bikes to work
One of the main themes we will continue to revisit in our exploration of behavioral themes, is the idea that people are inherently bad statisticians. All these questions are designed to expose our tendency to believe in a narrative (representativeness bias), which clouds our judgment and leads us to value what seems plausible more than what is statistically probable (the conjunction fallacy).
For example, when we look closely at the two options for the dice rolling question, the first option simply has an additional ‘R’ for red side added to the beginning of the sequence compared to the second. Due to rules of probability, adding any additional roll or condition, regardless of the expected color, will decrease the chances of occurrence but our intuition fights this logic. Knowing four sides of the dice are red, we expect to see more ‘R’s’ in the string of rolls as it feels more plausible, and we gravitate toward the less statistically probable option 1.
Similarly, the Linda problem is designed to construct a narrative of a young progressive woman to distract you from the fact that her activity in the feminist movement is an added condition, making it statistically less likely even though it aligns with your expectations of her behavior based on the description:
Conversely, when we are asked about Samantha (whom we know nothing about) we are less drawn to the second option which states that she is both a doctor and bikes to work. In the absence of a description and idea of Samantha in our minds, we are more likely to abide by the rules of probability.
Please contact our team of behavioral experts, HRW Shift, if you would like to find out more.