Monday, November 18, 2013

EE on the Shores of Lake Wobegone

The Lake Wobegone effect is the propensity for folks to believe that they're above average along any given dimension. Now, there are a lot of ways to interpret this result: ego preservation, cheap talk, systematic error, innocent self-delusion. It's usually not that big a problem, but it appears to be a cognitive bias that is exploitable (at least in the lab) for gain.

So if folks think they're smarter or better looking or stronger or whatever than they actually are, is it exploitation to sell them things that leverage this delusion?

Should Dove be upbraided for misleading marketing practices?

Before we put the spurs to this mustang, let's haul those reins in a bit there, Cowboy. If folks are objectively wrong about measuring up to an actual population parameter, what are the moral intuitions supporting third-party interventions?

Okay, hombre. Think of it this way: I've got a mental mannequin of what my life looks like and how it stacks up against my relative reference group (which changes, naturally, depending on what I'm measuring). I dress this mannequin up and align it in the poses I see fit based on my perceptions, faulty as they might be. Even if I'm systematically wrong, does that imply that I'm worse off? And even if I'm worse off, does that imply that a third party would know better? And even if I'm worse off and a third party knows better, does that imply that such a third party can consistently remedy my error in a way that will make me sufficiently better off to offset the resources spent to correct my error?

A dubious prospect made more dubious by the possibility that I actively enjoy my self-deception. I pay for escapist fantasies after all. I don't particularly relish having my delusions dashed.

Even if it's "for my own good."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?