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Psychology of Misjudgment #22: Authority-Misinfluence Tendency


LongHaul
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22. Authority-Misinfluence Tendency:

 

"Living in dominance hierarchies as he does, like all his ancestors before him, man was born mostly to follow leaders, with only a few people doing the leading. And so, human society is formally organized into dominance hierarchies, with their culture augmenting the natural follow-the-leader tendency of man.

 

But automatic as most human reactions are, with the tendency to follow leaders being no exception, man is often destined to suffer greatly when the leader is wrong or when his leader’s ideas don’t get through properly in the bustle of life and are misunderstood. And so, we find much miscognition from man’s Authority-Misinfluence Tendency.

 

History is filled with examples of people who put their faith in someone and things turned out well enough. And there are countless other examples where they ended up worse off.

 

The obvious implication: be careful whom you appoint to power because a dominant authority figure will often be hard to remove…"

 

And a funny story from the book Influence:

"There’s a funny story about a doctor who ordered ear drops to be administered in the right ear of a patient who was suffering from an ear infection. Doctors are notorious for poor handwriting skills and using shorthand notations. In this case, instead of completely writing out “right ear” on the prescription pad, the doctor abbreviated and instead wrote “R ear.” The nurse on duty received the prescription with the instructions from the doctor and promptly put the ear drops on the patient’s anus. She knew it was an ear infection so putting the ear drops on the patient’s rear end made absolutely no sense, but she never questioned the instructions because they came from a doctor. The patient went right along as well. No one bothered to question the misinterpreted instructions because they came from someone in a position of influence."

 

Doctors are 3rd leading cause of death in the US.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/22/medical-errors-third-leading-cause-of-death-in-america.html

 

Authority bias is huge.  Frankly I underestimate it sometimes.  The pandemic has been fascinating as it is a psychology lab in real time.

 

Trump doesn't like or wear masks and Republicans follow and don't like them. 

The CDC says stay 6 ft away and everyone just follows, except the virus doesn't always bring along it tape measure.  (6 ft is better than 2 feet but I

think 15 feet outside is safer.)

 

The amount of unquestioning and freethinking in society is glaring to me at times and I have yet to fully understand it. 

 

Other great examples appreciated.

 

 

 

 

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This is one of my most hated biases but I also think it is one misunderstood and it's important to be clear on what the actual bias is.

 

Richard Feynman called it "honors":

 

In his words, it is "rotten" and I agree.

 

But at the same time, people sometimes mistake authority with expertise.

 

To use your eardrop example - yes there was miscommunication, but that does not mean the nurse, nor yourself or WebMD, nor your tax accountant or politician of choice, should be the one examining and prescribing medicine for your ear ache.

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The CDC says stay 6 ft away and everyone just follows, except the virus doesn't always bring along it tape measure.  (6 ft is better than 2 feet but I

think 15 feet outside is safer.)

 

 

Obviously 15 is safer but its not like as a guideline the CDC can teach people about probability distributions/geometry/fluid dynamics/viral loads so you just pick a number that's pretty safe but still allows society to function and hope for the best.

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If NOT following the leader hurts your pocket book, the rational thing is to follow your pocket book -'yes' men exist for a reason.

We also actively discourage NOT following the leader - as most employers will fire you if you short or buy puts on your employer, despite it mitigating your employment risk.

 

But if most of the leaders in your industry make similar bad decisions, at about the sane time - the employee is golden!, as now he/she can safely short the competitor, and REALLY mitigate the employment risk. The more gamblers, the higher the odds of a industry blow-up, and collecting on the short. If he/she subsequently loses their job, they will be a collection of severance as well. Group think exists for a reason!

 

Every good leader knows it's a limited term engagement - and to NEVER piss off the little people!

If they had your skills, you'd be the one doing the janitors work  ;)

 

SD

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is one of my most hated biases but I also think it is one misunderstood and it's important to be clear on what the actual bias is.

 

Richard Feynman called it "honors":

 

In his words, it is "rotten" and I agree.

 

But at the same time, people sometimes mistake authority with expertise.

 

To use your eardrop example - yes there was miscommunication, but that does not mean the nurse, nor yourself or WebMD, nor your tax accountant or politician of choice, should be the one examining and prescribing medicine for your ear ache.

 

Great Video of Feynman.

 

I agree that laymen should be not be prescribing medicine but we should be challenging doctors and other experts when they might be wrong after we have done thinking and research.  In the last year my Dad has had a cardiologist give very bad advice and another doc wanted to remove part of his Colon.  The Colon removal was highly unethical, bad advice and unnecessary and the doc was ashamed and backed down after my Dad confronted him.  (Incentives are powerful).  If you are not challenging you doctors at times then you are not optimizing you health.  I have seen this too many times where the doctor puts money over the health of the patient.  I have also heard stories of Orthopedic surgeons getting drunk at weddings and then laughing at all the unnecessary back surgery they do.  Caveat Emptor.

 

 

 

 

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The CDC says stay 6 ft away and everyone just follows, except the virus doesn't always bring along it tape measure.  (6 ft is better than 2 feet but I

think 15 feet outside is safer.)

 

 

Obviously 15 is safer but its not like as a guideline the CDC can teach people about probability distributions/geometry/fluid dynamics/viral loads so you just pick a number that's pretty safe but still allows society to function and hope for the best.

 

6 feet is better than nothing but I think the CDC should be giving advice based on evidence and not politics, etc.  If 15 feet is safer then they should clearly say that because I see tons of people (>95%) believing in the 6 feet, when in reality the more distance the lower the rate of transmission.

 

Same with masks.  N95 is the way to go. 

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This is one of my most hated biases but I also think it is one misunderstood and it's important to be clear on what the actual bias is.

 

Richard Feynman called it "honors":

 

In his words, it is "rotten" and I agree.

 

But at the same time, people sometimes mistake authority with expertise.

 

To use your eardrop example - yes there was miscommunication, but that does not mean the nurse, nor yourself or WebMD, nor your tax accountant or politician of choice, should be the one examining and prescribing medicine for your ear ache.

 

Great Video of Feynman.

 

I agree that laymen should be not be prescribing medicine but we should be challenging doctors and other experts when they might be wrong after we have done thinking and research.  In the last year my Dad has had a cardiologist give very bad advice and another doc wanted to remove part of his Colon.  The Colon removal was highly unethical, bad advice and unnecessary and the doc was ashamed and backed down after my Dad confronted him.  (Incentives are powerful).  If you are not challenging you doctors at times then you are not optimizing you health.  I have seen this too many times where the doctor puts money over the health of the patient.  I have also heard stories of Orthopedic surgeons getting drunk at weddings and then laughing at all the unnecessary back surgery they do.  Caveat Emptor.

 

Yes I agree. That is why it’s important to distinguish between authority and expertise. A diagnosis isn’t valid just because a doctor delivers it (authority) but on its merits (expertise).

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Guest cherzeca

as for doctors' authority, and relying on it at your peril, you have to go no farther than cholesterol and arteriosclerosis. I have read a lot about inflammation given my RA and I know that there is no proven connection between blood level cholesterol and arterial placquing.  yes cholesterol plaques and clogs coronary arteries, but the inflammation that causes arterial placquing is not well understand and not directly correlated with cholesterol blood levels.  Doctors practice liability medicine because there is outdated and inferior epidemiological research relating to cholesterol and they are afraid to tell patients to eat a healthy balanced diet and dont try to reduce cholesterol by pharma intervention or wacky diet.  whenever I meet a cardiologist at a party we have a grand old time! 

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"Doctors are 3rd leading cause of death in the US."

 

One antidote with the doctor is to chose the best specialised doctor in the field

and educate yourself if the doctor is doing the right thing.

Try to understand the incentives of the doctor ("You are running for your live and

the doctor only for one meal") and seek second, third or more opinions of other good doctors.

You have all the downside (that´s a lot like the investment business) and the doctor practically none.

The authority seldom says "I don´t know", because of the authority status and

that´s very dangerous.

Be aware of the Man with only 1 hammer syndrome.

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Guest cherzeca

"Doctors are 3rd leading cause of death in the US."

 

One antidote with the doctor is to chose the best specialised doctor in the field

and educate yourself if the doctor is doing the right thing.

Try to understand the incentives of the doctor ("You are running for your live and

the doctor only for one meal") and seek second, third or more opinions of other good doctors.

You have all the downside (that´s a lot like the investment business) and the doctor practically none.

The authority seldom says "I don´t know", because of the authority status and

that´s very dangerous.

Be aware of the Man with only 1 hammer syndrome.

 

and who has only 10 minutes of his time to spend with you

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Just to throw one out for the boiler maker ....

https://medium.com/incerto/surgeons-should-notlook-like-surgeons-23b0e2cf6d52

 

"Say you had the choice between two surgeons of similar rank in the same department in some hospital. The first is highly refined in appearance; he wears silver-rimmed glasses, has a thin build, delicate hands, a measured speech, and elegant gestures. His hair is silver and well combed. He is the person you would put in a movie if you needed to impersonate a surgeon. His office prominently boasts an Ivy League diploma, both for his undergraduate and medical schools.

 

The second one looks like a butcher; he is overweight, with large hands, uncouth speech and an unkempt appearance. His shirt is dangling from the back. No known tailor in the East Coast of the U.S. is capable of making his shirt button at the neck. He speaks unapologetically with a strong New Yawk accent, as if he wasn’t aware of it. He even has a gold tooth showing when he opens his mouth. The absence of diploma on the wall hints at the lack of pride in his education: he perhaps went to some local college. In a movie, you would expect him to impersonate a retired bodyguard for a junior congressman, or a third-generation cook in a New Jersey cafeteria.

 

Now if I had to pick, I would overcome my suckerproneness and take the butcher any minute. Even more: I would seek the butcher as a third option if my choice was between two doctors who looked like doctors. Why? Simply the one who doesn’t look the part, conditional of having made a (sort of) successful career in his profession, had to have much to overcome in terms of perception. And if we are lucky enough to have people who do not look the part, it is thanks to the presence of some skin in the game, the contact with reality that filters out incompetence, as reality is blind to looks.

 

When the results come from dealing directly with reality rather than through the agency of commentators, image matters less, even if it correlates to skills. But image matters quite a bit when there is hierarchy and standardized “job evaluation”."

 

In this analogy, the little people are the butchers - dealing directly with reality, everyday.

We don't see them, because their gains went into the very unglamorous purchase of multiple rental properties, and mortgage retirement. They live modestly and own their multiple properties outright  ;D

 

SD

 

 

 

 

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Another tangent to SD’s post. Those who do not “fit the mold” may be a better choice also because they realize that “the mold” does not matter.

 

It reminds me of stories of Fermi, who while creating the worlds first nuclear reactor, would also help the cleaning crew and janitors empty trash and tidy up at the end of the day, to his colleagues bewilderment and amusement.

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