Survivorship bias: when we focus only on success

We were sitting around with friends and family recently over some very nice red wine when our friend Noel asked me about my weekly Toastmasters meetings, and specifically about whether I thought there are some people who simply never learn to feel comfortable speaking in public even after Toastmasters training. After a moment’s contemplation, I replied to Noel:

“I can’t really say – because those who actually feel too uncomfortable probably just stop attending after a while. The ones who stay seem pretty happy!”

It turns out that what I was describing is essentially what’s known as survivorship bias.*  Continue reading

The mob mentality revisited

You Are Not So Smart is a fascinating blog “devoted to self-delusion and irrational thinking”. Launched by its resident brainiac David McRaney (who is also the author of a book by the same name), YANSS reminds us that, no matter how smart we may like to believe we are, the intriguing reality is likely that “we have no idea why we act or think the way we do.”

And what McRaney wrote recently about mob behaviour helped to make some  sense out of something that until now has made absolutely none to me: the moronic behaviour of the thugs who burned, looted and trashed the beautiful streets of downtown Montreal in 2012, and Vancouver in 2011. Continue reading