Video Of The Week: Simon Singh on Confirmation Bias

My friend Mark Ghuneim sent me two books last week, Simon Singh’s The Code Book and Bruce Schneier’s Secrets and Lies. I am reading The Code Book first and really enjoying it. So I went on YouTube this morning and started watching Simon Singh talks. There are a bunch of them.

My favorite is this short (~6 mins) video where Simon demonstrates how the brain is susceptible to confirmation bias. It’s pretty great.


Comments (Archived):

  1. jason wright

    we are of the universe, the universe is not of us.

  2. Richard

    The only downside to hacking is all the 17 year olds not hacking a guitar / music. jimmy page and robert plant were so talented (and 19 when they released led zeppelin 1) that they could probably play the song backwards.

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      Just remember they had revolution nine to go by.

    2. pointsnfigures

      My friend owns a vintage guitar store. 17 yr old kid was playing Stairway to Heaven, and doing it really really badly. Jimmy Page came into the store, walked around, looked at some stuff, looked at the kid and walked out. Kid didn’t even know who he was…..

  3. Richard

    Daniel Kahman’s Book “thinking fast and slow” is a good book on why the brain uses confirmation bias.

    1. William Mougayar

      Kahneman’s work is amazing.

      1. Girish Mehta

        Kahneman is just simply brilliant !

    2. JamesHRH

      Couldn’t read it – i must only think fast.

  4. William Mougayar

    Understanding how our brain works is an amazing thing. If you want to experience and see how your brain reacts to various senses or thoughts, you’ve got to try the InteraXon Muse band coupled with an iPad. I was given a demo this week, and was very impressed.In the near future, you’ll be able to control music or devices in your home all with your mind. Forget speech or pushing buttons.

    1. Richard

      Maybe, but I’m not convinced that the swipe and the touch will be easy to displace. Look at how kids use an ipad, the engagement of touch seems to offer a sensory pleasure, almost as if its some type of grounding effect.

      1. JLM

        .The iPhone swipe is second only to the middle finger as being the most repeated gesture in the history of the world.One should perhaps use both? Frequently?JLM.

    2. Kirsten Lambertsen

      That’s so cool. I’ve been watching this kind of technology for a few years now. It’s exciting to see it get beyond the basic games (we have the one where you control the speed of a fan, that blows a little ball around, with your focused concentration).I’m also really intrigued by the bio-feedback possibilities, helping people with everything from asthma to autism.

      1. Anne Libby

        or chronic pain…

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen


      2. William Mougayar

        yes, there are multiple applications when we start to understand our brain. fascinating.

  5. mikenolan99

    Such a powerful topic. Do you recall the sales technique “Feel, Felt, Found”? It goes like this:Upon hearing an objection by the client: “I understand how you feel – in fact Fred felt the very same way. Interestingly, Fred discovered – and it really was amazing – the product did in fact exceed his expectations.” pause… “You worked with Fred back in the 90s – didn’t you? (link to a successful time together…)”It is amazing how little tricks like this work. I just talked a friend who has her first outside sales job. I warned her that we often trained sales people who got too good – too close to the dark side. It can be that powerful… the real trick is to develop trust enough not to need the hocus pocus….

    1. JLM

      .Very few people are sophisticated enough to be able to think this through. In the business of interviewing suspected espionage agents, this technique is used to force a strawman choice — choice between two fake alternatives.If the suspect picks a particular one, it is a tell as to their preferences. The preference cannot really be masked.1. Do you like ice cream?2. Which of these two ice creams do you like better?You do NOT ask question no 1, instead asking question no 2. Craft the right questions and work them into the interview and the suspect reveals what they know or what they did. Not the specifics, mind you, but the framework.In this manner, you can establish the suspect should know something because they have admitted they were there or the understand that technology or some other bulwark against denial and retreat.Only then do you go to work on the real subject.In the sales world what you suggest simply works. Again, few are able to lay the trap correctly.JLM.

      1. Anne Libby

        Of course our politicians — on all sides of all of the aisles — have mastered this dark art. Sigh.

        1. JLM

          .The reality of a new politician going to DC, of either party, and being able to withstand the brainwashing, the money, the allure, the power is beyond the strength of almost anyone’s character.K Street is the center of power in DC, not the WH or the Capitol.When Paul Ryan trots out a budget proposal which cuts the WH 5.5% rate of growth to 3.5% and suggests it is a “conservative” budget and the President describes it as “draconian” — reasonable people can understand why we have the deficit we do, the National Debt, etc.They are all just scribbling around the margins. Nobody is really doing anything. Both parties are complicit in screwing America.A good financial guy could cut the Pentagon budget by half and reduce government spending to balance in less than two years. It would require just a tiny bit more than pretending to play with the rate of growth.We are enjoying RECORD Federal receipts as we speak. The highest in the history of the US.If we cannot make progress now, when?JLM.

          1. sigmaalgebra

            What you are saying is not in the MSM; informing the citizens is just not in their ‘business model’.When? Hopefully soon from the Internet, from a better informed public, where the information available is much better and, also, easier to find,curate, etc.

          2. JLM

            .I am perfectly willing to consider the accuracy of your point having seen more than my fair share of “low information” voters but amongst the Political Illumininati, even the readers of Fred’s blog, there is an unwillingness to see how freakin’ easy this would all be.Stop a few huge way in the future Pentagon programs. We can delay the 5th gen fighter, as an example since the world cannot currently hang with our current offering the 3rd gen fighter.Make the cuts everyone knows are required by entitlement reform — age, eligibility, income testing and opt out — and the program is saved, solvent and no longer a drain on the economy.Fully fund the SBA.Reduce taxes — maddening truth EVERY time in the history of the US taxes have been LOWERED net receipts to the IRS have INCREASED. This is like debating the merits of indoor plumbing.Take the lightest stab at getting rid of corruption. IRS would be a good place to start.Voila, balanced budget.Put some mustard on that hot dog like getting rid of 2-3 Departments and we run a surplus.We have record receipts. Record high tax collections.Now is the time to act.JLM.

          3. sigmaalgebra

            That’s an example of the message that needs to get out there. With Fred’s blog and the Internet, you have nearly as much ‘ink’, tons of it, as the NYT.So, (1) use good means (I’m working on some) to find and collect good information. (2) Start a blog to get the good stuff out there in ways that will convince people, maybe just the ‘thought leaders’ at first. (3) When the blog gets influential, continue the effort and, finally, actually change elections and actions.It’s just gotta be 80%+ of US citizen adults who really care about the issues you wrote about and would get up on their hind legs shouting, and voting, if the word really got out there in appropriate form.

          4. JLM

            .It will be less than half of the voter participation rate.Amongst this group are the low information voters.The ones who do not even bother to vote are hopeless.JLM.

    2. PhilipSugar

      Exactly why they should teach sales in business school.

      1. Anne Libby

        I could not agree with you more. It’s a huge hole in my MBA training.

        1. JLM

          .Don’t let the training stop. Keep learning. I think I have learned way more stuff since getting out of school than I did in school.JLM.

          1. LE

            Schools are better at teaching things that are digital rather than analog with nuance. At least with respect to business. My opinion.School is good for learning what is possible of course in sales and deal making which is part of the battle in trying to convince someone (knowing, like with the atomic bomb, what is possible).That said once you understand (as I always push) the basics you can apply something in a situation that isn’t even being used in a particular industry.Part of learning is also being able to reverse engineer what others have done and why it might work and then apply it in a completely different situation that you have.

          2. Vasudev Ram

            Can’t resist a Mark Twain quote:”I never let my schooling interfere with my education.”…

          3. JLM

            .Excellent.Well played.JLM.

          4. Vasudev Ram

            Thanks 🙂

        2. LE

          If you want to learn about sales go out and do some selling. Or go tag along with a salesman. Also selling is many things (including problem solving, being creative etc.) and doesn’t lend itself to book learning that much at least without some foundation. You have to understand the basics of course but more important is actually trial and error over time and learning what works (for you which is not the same as someone else) and what doesn’t.

          1. Anne Libby

            Much of my job is actually selling — and has been since the beginning of my business career (started in banking).What I’ve come to see in the last 5 years is that some of what I do and don’t do by “instinct” magnifies my success (or lack thereof).Some of this is mechanics, which can be taught. Some of it is relationship management, which can only be learned…though I sat at the elbow of an awesome boss for several years.That said, and to your point, I recently had a client who works in one of the “wire houses,” where they have the mechanics tuned to a science. This is the piece that belongs in a bschool curriculum.

      2. JLM

        .Business schools think they are training CEOs.When I got my MBA, I remember thinking I was ready to run Mobil Corp.JLM.

        1. PhilipSugar

          The funny part is to become CEO and stay there guess what you need to do??? Sell.

          1. Anne Libby

            It’s in every job!

          2. JLM

            .How dare you, Philip Sugar, how dare you burst our bubble and betray your own biases.The fact you are perfectly correct buys you nothing, my friend.Well played.JLM.

          3. LE

            “The fact you are perfectly correct buys you nothing, my friend”Same with politicians. It’s essentially a sales job.

          4. awaldstein

            You can teach it to a point.The best salespeople are a wonder of nature to work with.But you can teach the basics to a degree. For both outbound sales and inbound customer support I’ve designed the pop screens and training.Some just suck at it, even with prompts and can’t do it. The very few are really good at it.

      3. LE

        I dont’ know about you but I can always tell immediately someone who has been taught sales as opposed to someone who has learned sales organically.The people taught sales seem to telegraph things and tend to be very rigid in their approach and technique. And without even knowing the books that they’ve read (since I don’t read books on sales and negotiation lest I might damage my already pretty accurate gut) I know they are trying something they read somewhere or heard from someone or in a seminar. In the same way the corporate manager in a restaurant hearing your complaint sounds different than the restaurant owner who was raised in the business.Most importantly you can’t learn in school how to interpret human body language, micro expressions, vocal nuances etc it’s something some people are born with. And some people aren’t. A good salesman is absolutely capable of taking advantage of many tools that help him close a deal. [1][1] Another class of salesman of course (since you really can’t lump it all together) is actually good at cold calling specifically because they can’t interpret this! That’s why they don’t feel rejected by the receptionist who gives them the icy stare and they keep plugging away.

        1. PhilipSugar

          I disagree. If you are told: here is what you do, follow this script do this do that, I agree. Ask somebody so would you like to increase business?? What a stupid question. Yes you can spot this a mile away.That is different than learning, and your bias is why they don’t teach it. Why learn organically?? You can figure out what sex is, but why not at least read a bit? Sure if you just do the same thing every time, its bogus, but you are a fool.

      4. Rohan

        They do now, Phil. I’m not sure about all schools but I do know that Kellogg has revamped its curriculum in the last 3 years and selling is a popular course

        1. PhilipSugar

          Great, I will throw that in President Harker’s face and tell him I told you so for the last 20 years.

      5. sigmaalgebra

        As a former prof in a relatively decent MBA program, I can assure you that they very much do not want to do any such thing, not that they want to make this too clear with a former graduate, worth $500 million, 82 years old with no wife, children, brothers, or sisters. Also no ‘trophy’ girlfriends!Why? B-school, which we can abbreviate BS, which of course is before MS, or more of the same, or Ph.D., piled higher and deeper, wants to be ‘applied social science’, which, of course, in mathematical terms is something useful from the empty set, and where the ‘social science’ has ‘physics envy’ and especially the exalted special case of ‘mathematical physics’ envy. In particular, BS wants to be far above, and far away from, anything like professional, technical, or, horrors, ‘vocational’ training. And somewhat curiously, BS doesn’t want to be like law, medicine, or even professional engineering with certifications, professional societies, etc.Why? For what you are suggesting, the BS profs could be directly compared with people who are doing real work! And those profs are not stupid, you know!Ah, this is just one early lecture in ‘Life 101 for Dummies — Young People’, that is, the people who don’t yet know that youth is such a wonderful time of life too bad it’s wasted on young people.Still the best work in academics is terrific stuff, some of the very best there is. For the rest, that gets piled higher and deeper. It’s a little like a mountain stream, cold, wet, full of mud and gravel but also one of the best places to look for gold.

    3. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Yeah, it made me think of the old Encyclopedia Britannica sales technique. Keep asking the prospect a series of questions that they can say Yes to. Culminating with “Are you ready to make this important investment in your child’s education today?”

      1. PhilipSugar

        Is that where that comes from??? I hate that technique. I have literally asked somebody doing that do me: “I have a rhetorical question for you….if I crack you in the head with a baseball bat would it hurt?”To follow with your comment yesterday, and to answer LE. If you use any of these techniques all the time or without skill it is terrible. No different than if you read Cosmopolitan and just do what they say over and over. It doesn’t mean its not a good read. (Although I really don’t like Cosmo, leaves me scratching my head)

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          I *think* that’s where it came from. I have to confess that I didn’t fact-check myself before leaving my comment, but it’s something like that and dates pretty far back.Agreed. Once you learn the techniques, it’s so obvious when it’s being applied to you.

        2. JLM

          .And that is rhetorical why?JLM.

        3. sigmaalgebra

          The remark I heard about Cosmo is that it was for the office slut!

    4. Vasudev Ram

      Though somewhat off topic, the reminds me of the book “The Greatest Salesman in the World”. It is not about confirmation bias, but still interesting.

    5. Matt A. Myers

      High pressure sales tactics are amazing to watch, and piss me right off.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        My wife and I never had anything like training in ‘selling’, and, actually, she thought that anything like selling, or even business, especially for a woman, was ethically offensive. Still we had two successes.First, as a B-school prof, I got some consulting offers. So, she talked with the customers, especially one. They treated her like a dear daughter, e.g., telling her, “Having our children was the most rewarding thing we did.”. It worked: Our customer relations were terrific.Second, still as a B-school prof, in the first two weeks on campus, I played a leadership role in computing for the college and, soon, the university (not small, 55,000 students on campus). I was opposed by a world famous ‘super salesman’ who flew in twice, gave seminars to the students, was given a cocktail party to meet the faculty, etc. When the dust settled, super salesman 0%, me, 100%. I was appointed Chair of the college computing committee and to other related committees on campus.I was also opposed by the university CIO, then the longest sitting in US higher education. One day I got a call to come to the Dean’s office. As a precaution, I took an armload of technical documentation. Well, the CIO was there, and we had a shootout in front of the Dean. We talked about disk drives; my papers supported my position; and I won. We talked about air conditioning, and I won again. Later one of the committees I served on was to pick a new CIO for the university.My success didn’t do me much good: My department Chair was angry because my work had in effect picked up all the office carpet and drapery budget for the school, and the Chair felt threatened! No good deed goes unpunished!One more: I was in a software house working for the Navy. Some engineers wanted some software written to process some data collected at sea. One goal was a statistical estimate of the power spectrum of ocean waves, e.g., to drive a simulation of the system that kept a missile firing submarine the right depth to fire a missile. So, I got out Blackman and Tukey, ‘The Measurement of Power Spectra’, basically an old Bell Labs thing, read it while eating dinner, in a rush wrote some illustrative software, called in one of the engineers from the customer, showed him the software output and gave him a 101 level crash course in power spectral estimation, and, net, our software house suddenly had the only proposal, of three competitive ones, the Navy wanted. We won the contract.Selling? I had an uncle who could sell ice to Eskimos, and I couldn’t give away ice water in a desert. Still, it was possible to have some successes.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          That’s selling the right way, proving you’re capable.

  6. baba12

    Interesting, how many times have the USV’s of the world been influenced by the biases/prejudices in making investing in startups. I am guessing 100% of the time, after all the mantra used is we invest in people who have a track record or have been introduced to us, so they go into a meeting with a bias/prejudice to begin with and the pitch given by the startups are at most icing on the cake. I doubt that Fred or USV would have an experience that they could share where they went into a meeting without any preconceived notion (bias) given that they wouldn’t be in a meeting with someone they had not been introduced to or the research had shown they have some traction/track record to work with.Wonder if there is data that shows that correlation in the VC business.

    1. fredwilson

      spot on

      1. baba12

        Do you believe you are one capable of changing that and two willing to make the effort to do so? My guess would be that we would say it is normal behavior and not attempt to correct it. Preconceived notions are par for the course is how most of us seem to operate.

        1. Anne Libby

          It will be interesting to see how long it takes for people here to stop actively debating Fred’s recent choice to refer to engineers as “she.”

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen


        2. LE

          That would be a mistake. You don’t mess with something that works. You don’t mess with something that works without looking at the downside of messing with it. Reason I don’t read books on subjects where I feel I am pretty good. I don’t want to question the gut reaction. In fact this entire discussion is actually dangerous (to Fred) for that reason.

    2. SubstrateUndertow

      “Conformation-bias” implies prejudice that is poorly rooted in any pro-actively validated informational-probabilities ?Surly it is the strong/formal methods of “pro-actively-validated informational-probability” that separate “confirmation bias” from “informational-probability bias”?Sure “confirmation bias” and “informational-probability bias” are played out on a continuum that is separated only by the strength and cleverness with which we develop, disseminate and apply scientific-epistemalogies in order to collectively triangulate around those “confirmation bias” potholes but that continuum should be of pivotal focus to our collective mind’s eye.

    1. LE

      From the wired article:”it suggests that the visual trumps the audio, even in a setting where audio information should matter much more.””I’ve always noticed that the same music in a car at night (when it’s dark) sounds better than during the day. My theory has always been that at night you have less visual information to process so your brain devotes more resources to audio (and is not distracted from the main goal of enjoying the music (and driving of course). [1] Call it the Helen Keller effect.Somewhat related is also my observation that it’s easier to run on a treadmill when not in front of a tv or one of those treadmill screens. My theory on that is that you are pulling resources and attention and are not in the zone you need to be in to operate at peak efficiency and energy. (Music or a music video though isn’t the same because music leads to mania and will actually allow you to exercise at a higher rate).[1] Otoh music to me anyway almost always sounds better when set to visual images (particularly live concerts). To me that’s an enhancement of the experience for sure. But that’s a bit different because the music is timed to the visual (even in a movie) whereas when you are watching tv and exercising it generally isn’t (unless of course you are watching a live concert).

      1. Anne Libby

        Yup. And why it’s an advantage to “look like Zuck” — or going back to Moneyball (the book), to make sure a ball player has the right girlfriend before you hire him.

        1. LE

          When I used to go door to door to try to sell car waxing I would bring my girlfriend with me. The idea was that I would appear less threatening (and more trustworthy (these were high end neighborhoods)) with a girl than without. It worked. [1] Things not learned in business school that you have to be able to figure out because it makes sense on it’s face.[1] This is where the academic would want to know if I did double blind studies with correlation to prove that it actually worked. Which is why they are academics and are teaching.

      2. sigmaalgebra

        > Helen Keller effectYup.

  7. JLM

    .Once you have a bit of life experience almost everything is a confirmation of that bias or a magnetic draw toward that bias.There is a reason why khaki pants, a button down collar shirt and Topsiders has been preppy wear for what — big chunk of a century. Substitute jeans, cowboy boots, tee shirt, straw cowboy hat at your choice.This is true of work, politics, religion, etc.It is not a great problem if your biases are sound — even if by accident. “This always works”When you get to 50 and get a whiff of the perspiration of your own mortality, this is why Harley sales go up and why blondes become so attractive. You are looking at the back side of the mirror of your own biases.OK to do as long as you only act on a few of them.JLM.

    1. Girish Mehta

      An area where rich experience (and deliberate practice) pay dividends is in pattern recognition. Great chess players see an outcome several steps ahead by a simple glance at the chessboard thru pattern recognition. Often the same with experienced leaders.And one of the areas where we struggle and our thinking fails us is when we see patterns (and assume narratives) where none really exist.Pattern recognition can be a powerful strength….except when it isn’t.

      1. JLM

        .Your comment is brilliant. Looking for patterns is always a good thing.Trying to figure out if they are real is another thing altogether. Discerning whether they are repeatable or to be repeated is something else altogether also.The parallels in the Ukraine with the start of WWII are meaningful enough to trouble folks and others, perhaps low information folks, cannot see either the trees or the forest let alone a pattern.Having been a chess player for a long time, it is a very strong observation.Buying the dips, seeing the business cycle — all perfect examples of where folks see something but their courage fails them.Well played.JLM.

        1. sigmaalgebra

          For nearly any definition of random data and nearly any pattern, get enough random data and will see the pattern in there somewhere. This has long been a problem in statistics and is more pressing now with analysis of ‘big data’, but there are some techniques to ‘test’ if the pattern is ‘real’ and not just from random data.A guess is that one of the pressing reasons for Newton, etc. was to get away from the ‘patterns’ seen by superstition, religion, charlatans, idiots, drunkards, etc. and, instead, move to a much more solid approach to ‘decision making’. Likely for a significant fraction of college majors in math or physics is a desire to have an approach to ‘truth’ that is, for whatever special reasons they care, just rock solid and beyond question.

          1. JLM

            .You come out of your big house.The road is wet.Has it rained?Has the street sweeper been making its rounds?Data must be married with judgment to be truly useful.Alternatively —The market takes a 600 point slide.You buy?You sell into the shit storm?JLM.

          2. sigmaalgebra

            That’s right: Getting solid answers from data alone is tough. Instead, judgment can help a lot. But, the techniques used with the data can, in some cases, be tested over and over and establish a track record while judgment varies and can be tough to count on in the future.One of the reasons Newton was so successful is that he worked on problems, especially the motions of the planets, that are far from human judgment or the forbidding complexity of daily life and, otherwise, in important respects simple.Successfully applying science to ‘bread box’ scale daily questions is from challenging down to next to hopeless. E.g., physics can predict the lunar eclipses for centuries but can’t say where a falling leaf will land. Social science, confronting much of the forbidding complexity of human life, has had a much harder time making progress as a ‘science’ than physics. So, for daily life, usually human judgment is either still necessary or just totally blows away anything that can be done scientifically.For daily ‘macro’ problems, math and science approaches can occasionally make good contributions, but often the work is tricky.But, broadly, for more in economic productivity and standard of living, and to exploit the promise of computing, we are trying to automate everything we can, and such automation, say, running just in a server farm, tries to do with less or no human judgment. I.e., we are trying to get the work done without humans heavily ‘in the loop’. E.g., Amazon is trying to do well in retailing without a cute clerk helping you to make a selection, and a lot of cute clerks are on the way to losing their jobs.

        2. Drew Meyers

          I’m just starting to get into chess again, and I’m so so rusty. I’m not seeing the patterns ahead of time like I used to…and getting crushed by my friends who do as a result 🙁

  8. awaldstein

    The big trick is to choose to ignore and use your biases at will.Understanding cultural and community biases is key to what marketers do.Learning to not look at biases of gender, preference, appearance as an advisor or investor has been amazingly empowering for me.

  9. LE

    If you listen to the playback (as I did) without viewing the words on the screen (I was deleting emails in another screen but was listening really carefully) you absolutely don’t hear what he says you will absolutely hear.Confirmation bias obviously exists (there is also priming for that matter) but I don’t think this is a particularly good example of it.

    1. Anne Libby

      That’s exactly the point, though. What we see influences what we perceive.(And it’s actually what we think we see: our brains fill in much of what we think we’re seeing and send it to us as “reality.”. My college neuroscience is pretty rusty, hopefully someone else can chime in and clarify/elaborate.)

      1. LE

        “what we see influences”.Not really in my opinion. It is not specific to what we see visually as being an overly important factor in the bias. In other words the bias worked for the word “satan” because it was more clearly there and easy to hear but absolutely not for the rest of the paragraph (which you had to literally follow in real time). There you were just matching words to sounds. They could have been vastly different words (just like on am radio song play). If it was truly a bias you wouldn’t need to have the words right in front of you. So now you can go back and play (without the words) and see how much stands out!Confirmation bias (also called confirmatory bias or myside bias) is the tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses.[Note 1][1] People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. People also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position. Biased search, interpretation and memory have been invoked to explain attitude polarization (when a disagreement becomes more extreme even though the different parties are exposed to the same evidence), belief perseverance (when beliefs persist after the evidence for them is shown to be false), the irrational primacy effect (a greater reliance on information encountered early in a series) and illusory correlation (when people falsely perceive an association between two events or situations).

    2. SubstrateUndertow

      Maybe it’s just semantics but I thing there is a subtle difference between the brain’s innately pro-active powers of curve-fitting/pattern-matching as demonstrated here and the attributal behaviours that drive conformation-bias ???Conformation-bias brings in a whole subliminal list of emotionally/socially/commercially driven volitional self-interests beyond just the innate brain mechanics of pro-active curve-fitting/pattern-matching.

  10. JimHirshfield

    Neat. Funny thing is, I played your voice to text blog post from yesterday backwards and I’m certain I heard today’s complete blog post. The brain is powerful.

  11. baba12

    Fred have you seen the PBS/ITV series Bletchley Circle not you may want to check it out sometime…

  12. JoshGrot

    Really interesting post and comments on several levels.First off, I admire Singh and his work: I read both Fermat’s Enigma and the Code Book many years ago and found him to be one of the few science writers who can take difficult-to-understand topics and make them not just comprehensible but also relevant: he went to particularly great trouble to investigate and understand multiple mathematical fields of study before seeking to explain to laymen like me Andrew Wiles’ solution to Fermat’s theorem.Secondly, the video brought up memories from MANY years ago when the Beatles were still together. Rumors floated around that McCartney had died, and that one could ascertain facts about his death by reading certain lyrics, looking at some specific album art (his back turned on the Sgt. Peppers album and his not wearing shoes on the cover of Abbey Road) AND playing Revolution 9 backwards. (So, I guess, that once again the Beatles beat Zeppelin to the punch.)Thirdly, as mentioned by some, the video also reminded me of a lot of the pioneering work by Kahneman and Tversky and underscored how difficult it is to be truly “fact based” and objective in our analyses of phenomena.Finally, I would have thought that that many of the comments would have dealt with behavioral finance…or, failing that, at the very least the way some religions/movements and/or some religious leaders or cult extremists can manipulate information to fit a pre-determined conclusion.I was therefore a bit surprised to see that most of the comments dealt with sales techniques and subsequently the extent to which business schools are or can ever be effective in imparting sales training.While I found that discussion fascinating in its own right, I didn’t really see how this sales technique meme spoke directly to Singh’s piece on confirmation bias. In the case of confirmation bias, subjects look for information (or screen out non-supporting data) to confirm pre-existing beliefs. In sales, it seems to me, a subject is trying to change beliefs and attitudes and behaviors.That said, perhaps I didn’t fully get the gist of Singh’s piece and need to hear it again. Maybe I should play it backwards?