Learning and applying the principles of behavioural economics and the mental shortcuts or biases which we are all prone to can be bewildering and frustrating. When I checked on Wikipedia, there are 173 pages relating to biases of judgement and decision making, including long lists of decision making, belief and behavioural biases, social biases, and memory errors (link below). Similarly, The Visual Guide to Cognitive Biases by the Royal Society for Account Planners (worth reading, link below) lists over 100 different biases. Surely there must be some key principles to these?
“There comes a time in the affairs of man when he must take the bull by the tail and face the situation.” - W.C. Fields
In What the Dog Saw, Malcolm Gladwell discusses the effects of the fundamental attribution error (FAE) in several different articles. For example, in one chapter he discusses the Challenger disaster and the impossibility of having complete control of complex technologies and systems, arguing that attempts to find causes and scapegoats in such situations are futile. Without acknowledging the FAE, his argument in the chapter touches on the desire of all of us to attribute outcomes, and especially bad outcomes, to specific traits of the people involved rather than the situation they are in. Read more »