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Oprah - Great article in Newsweek today.
Posted: 07 June 2009 03:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Well, I think it’s a “problem” because it leads us to make irrational judgements, often bad, based on information from a source we trust despite its obvious unreliability. It evolved, presumably, for good reasons having to do with what psychologists call heuristics—quick and dirty shortcuts for making decisions iunder time pressure with little information. In many modern situations, like childhood vaccinations, for example, we have the opportunity to evaluate both the available information and its sources in careful, deliberate, and rational ways. If we instead believe what we’re told for the wrong reasons, I think this is a problem that leads us to make poorer decisions.

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Posted: 07 June 2009 04:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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mckenzievmd - 07 June 2009 03:05 PM

Well, I think it’s a “problem” because it leads us to make irrational judgements, often bad, based on information from a source we trust despite its obvious unreliability. It evolved, presumably, for good reasons having to do with what psychologists call heuristics—quick and dirty shortcuts for making decisions iunder time pressure with little information. In many modern situations, like childhood vaccinations, for example, we have the opportunity to evaluate both the available information and its sources in careful, deliberate, and rational ways. If we instead believe what we’re told for the wrong reasons, I think this is a problem that leads us to make poorer decisions.

Can these heuristics be reactions based on what “authority” figures are telling us? Or are these heuristics just short cuts in time for spur of the moment survival instincts? I mean alot of these “bad” decisions people are making are not spur of the moment items.
What are some of the “bad’ decisions people are making anyways?
The childhood vaccination issue. People are being torn between 2 conflicting schools of thought. One is presumably based on solid, scientific evidence, and has a proven track record of success around the world. The other is based on fear of complications such as Autism, or other “side effects”. Or just an outright naturalists fear of having their children subjected to “scary” immunizations. Who knows. But we know that the anti-vaccine issue is out there. Where does this information come from? How prevlent is the anti-vaccine movement? What percentage of children are not receiving all their required/recommended vaccinations in this country?
Is that on the rise, or are more children being vaccinated today than ever before?

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Posted: 07 June 2009 04:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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The anti-vaccine movement is an influential one, and a real problem in terms of causing enough people to forgoe vaccines that children are getting sick and even dying from preventable diseases because of it. In the UK measles outbreaks have been linked to a decrease in the rate of vaccination. And Haemophilus B infectious, some fatal, have occurred in unvaccinated children recently when they had been previously all but eliminated by vaccines. Real problems and real suffering based on decisions made by, among other factors, following the advice of influential and charismatic but clearly ignorant and unqualified advisors such as Jenny mcCarthy.

Here are some resources too look at if you’re interested:
Vaccinate Your Baby
Herd Immunity

In more general terms, the kinds of cognitive mistakes arising from how evolution has shaped our brains that lead us to make erroneous decisions is a well-studied area. So good popular books to look at on the subject are:

Don’t Believe Everything You Think: The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking

By Thomas Kida

On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not

By Robert Burton

How We Decide

By Jonah Lehrer

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts

By Carol Tavris

Blind Spots: Why Smart People do Dumb Things

By Madeleine L Van Hecke

The Science of Fear

By Daniel Gardener

[ Edited: 08 June 2009 08:49 AM by mckenzievmd ]
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Posted: 07 June 2009 04:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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While there are a whole variety of immunizations offered for children, your use of the word, “vaccination”, brings to mind an example.  The term was used first for smallpox immunizations.  I recall getting mine in about 1936 or 1937.  At that time all the kids got them as a matter of course.  There was no fear of any negative consequences, but there was still strong residual fear of contracting smallpox. 

Two things seem to happened in recent years.  First, some jerk came up with the fairytale that immunizations cause autism.  Second, the immunizations have been so successful that almost no child gets chickenpox, measles, whooping cough, polio, etc.  The former causes people to be fearful of the shots.  The latter has allowed people to forget being afraid of the diseases. 

Earlier, people responded to one fear by getting shots for their kids.  Now people respond to the other fear by avoiding them.

Those who do investigate and decide rationally have their children protected.  Only a small part of the school population is unprotected so those kids aren’t exposed to anyone with the diseases.  They don’t get any of them, so their parents can say (illogically), “See, I didn’t have my child immunized and they didn’t get sick so the immunizations are unnecessary.”  And, if the kid happens to be autistic, well, that was caused by insecticides on or additives in the food, etc.

I guess what needs to happen is for a few of those celebrities who don’t have their children immunized to have a child die of one of the childhood diseases.  Then we’ll have a switch away from one authority-driven belief to another authority-driven one (which happens to also have good research behind it).

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Posted: 07 June 2009 06:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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I think a lot of Oprah’s success come from the fact that most people don’t understand science, nutrition, and medicine, and sometimes they don’t like the messages it sends them like:

- “you need to exercise more”
- “you need to eat less”
- “menopause is a natural part of life. We can relieve your symptoms with estrogen but there is a small increased risk of breast cancer”
- “scientists really do know more than you”.

Oprah tells them what they want to hear like:

-“you can lose weight with magic herbal remedies that don’t require dieting”
- “you can escape the effects of aging and menopause by using bioequivalent hormones that have no side effects”
-“doctors and scientists aren’t really all that smart. In fact you probably know better than they do what’s good for you”

I think more than anything its that last message that really hits home for Oprah fans. Her devoted followers are obviously not the brightest people in the world, and when Oprah tells them they are smart enough to ignore the experts they feel empowered. The disgusting thing is that she knows the influence she has, but when her advice goes wrong she sidesteps her responsibility by claiming she has always said that people have to make their own choices.

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Posted: 07 June 2009 07:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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In more general terms, the kinds of cognitive mistakes arising from how evolution has shaped our brains that lead us to make erroneous decisions is a well-studied area. So good popular books to look at on the subject are:

Don’t Believe Everything You Think: The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking

By Thomas Kida

On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not

By Robert Burton

McKenzieVMD- We’re on 2 different topics here. We can subjectively look at what amounts to bad decisions, or analyze why people make “bad” choices.(and certainly there are plenty of examples of “bad choices” which are almost universally accepted, almost objectively observed)
My angle was concerning how these choices arise in the first place. The choice to abuse drugs, the choice to join the Army and fight in war, the choice to buy sneakers that a basketball star endorses, even though one couldn’t afford them, the choice to become a jehovas witness etc…..
These choices are a product of society itself. For example, Oprah Winfrey’s talk show, and the ensuing advice that may come from that show. Oprah Winfrey fills a need for a wide range of people who are looking for identity. They are looking for a “leader” or a “celebrity” who can guide them, and entertain them. Keep them interested in life.
Society, borne from human behavior, creates Oprahs. It always has. It creates Rush Limbaughs and it creates Dawkins.
Society also creates scientists, who find definitive answers to problems. Solutions. Cures. But there are also scientists who created Nerve Gas, Atom Bombs. These are all choices that arise from a complex society.
Do you think someone who is getting advice from a guest on a morning talk show, thinks they are making a choice? No, they are getting advice from a trusted source. The idea of a choice doesn’t cross their mind.
Just because you or I or anyone has the knowledge of options, and due to our specific knowledge we know the general right choice, doesn’t mean everyone has the knowledge of options.

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Posted: 07 June 2009 07:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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macgyver - 07 June 2009 06:54 PM

Oprah tells them what they want to hear like:

-“you can lose weight with magic herbal remedies that don’t require dieting”
- “you can escape the effects of aging and menopause by using bioequivalent hormones that have no side effects”
-“doctors and scientists aren’t really all that smart. In fact you probably know better than they do what’s good for you”

You forgot to mention that “If you think positive thoughts, good things will happen to you”.

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Posted: 07 June 2009 07:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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asanta - 07 June 2009 07:16 PM
macgyver - 07 June 2009 06:54 PM

Oprah tells them what they want to hear like:

-“you can lose weight with magic herbal remedies that don’t require dieting”
- “you can escape the effects of aging and menopause by using bioequivalent hormones that have no side effects”
-“doctors and scientists aren’t really all that smart. In fact you probably know better than they do what’s good for you”

You forgot to mention that “If you think positive thoughts, good things will happen to you”.

Absolutely true

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Posted: 07 June 2009 07:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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VYAZMA - 07 June 2009 12:00 PM

Really, so there are Russian, Swiss, Canadian, German equivalents of Oprah that have the same influence in their societies?  I’m completely unaware of any such individuals, but I can’t claim any expertise on international media.

Yes, there are equivalents of those shows, and worse. Countries such as Germany, Russia, Switzerland, and Japan, have far higher amounts of CAM too…if you didn’t know that either.

And no, your stating a proposed mechanism by which significant segments of the population accept their science from Oprah as opposed to scientists does not explain the rational of why they make that choice if they are presented with the information from both groups.  And, no I’m not hiding my head in the sand of I disagree with your characterization

.

You obviously had trouble digesting those practical tenents of social-tribal behavior in humans.And how that translates into the present day manifestation through technological advancement. In other words, Oprah has more visibilty than doctors, and scientists.(That relates to what I originally stated about Leaders having the platform, the Lectern so to speak)
The reason Oprah has the Platform, is she tells people what they want to hear- This goes back to what I said about the leaders talking points have more to do with Charisma, than they do with facts. Can you grasp that? It’s pretty simple.
Judging by your attempt to pigeonhole this as a uniquely American Problem, and your points in a neighboring thread, concerning the stupidity of +90% of all people, I would say you lack cogent ideas about human behavior. Perhaps you’d do best just to stick with calling Oprah Viewers stupid. That’s a convenient out for you.

While I am in disagreement with most of your points(and had posted a response to them), I’ll retract that and go with Occam’s recommendation and respect the spirit of the rules of the forum.  For whatever its worth, I don’t take what’s written on here personally.  So, best wishes to you.

[ Edited: 07 June 2009 07:53 PM by Hawkfan ]
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Posted: 07 June 2009 09:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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VYAZMA,

I guess I don’t really see what you’re getting at. I think the way people make choices is a function of how our brains work, and when we make choices that are irrational or based on thought processes likely to lead to error, it is usually because of inefficiencies in our brains, things that worked well enough to keep neoplithic humans alive and reproducing but which lead us astray more and more often in the world we have today.

The specific content of the choices we face and the options available is, of course, determined by when and where we live. But I don’t think culture is nearly as important as you seem to be saying (though again I’m having a hard time following you). We make the same kinds of mistkes everywhere because of what we are, so if we choose to kill the infidel because they don’t believe in Allah, or in Christ, or in Dawkins, it really doesn’t matter. The behavior and the mistakes are the same, and the specific form they take in a given time and place are less important.

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Posted: 08 June 2009 04:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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mckenzievmd - 07 June 2009 09:10 PM

VYAZMA,

I guess I don’t really see what you’re getting at. I think the way people make choices is a function of how our brains work, and when we make choices that are irrational or based on thought processes likely to lead to error, it is usually because of inefficiencies in our brains, things that worked well enough to keep neoplithic humans alive and reproducing but which lead us astray more and more often in the world we have today.

The specific content of the choices we face and the options available is, of course, determined by when and where we live. But I don’t think culture is nearly as important as you seem to be saying (though again I’m having a hard time following you). We make the same kinds of mistkes everywhere because of what we are, so if we choose to kill the infidel because they don’t believe in Allah, or in Christ, or in Dawkins, it really doesn’t matter. The behavior and the mistakes are the same, and the specific form they take in a given time and place are less important.

1. I’m getting at the options societies creates for itself. Not the choices people make from these sets of options.
2. I’m now beginning to see that you are using the word “choice” or “choose” to describe any set of actions in which a person moves forward through time. While this is good fodder for the philosophy section, it isn’t practical in discussing sociology.
3. I thought you would have answered my question concerning Oprah Viewers. Do you think, for example, that someone watching Oprah, who is listening to a guest speak about the benefits of Cod Liver Oil ( and the treatment, or med is irrelevant here) makes a choice, (as in picks from a set of options-consciously) to begin using Cod Liver Oil?
Some could argue NO, that isn’t really choosing to do someting. After all you could describe the next set of actions that person takes to get, and take cod liver oil without ever using the word “choose” or “choice”.( she went down to CVS, picked up some cod liver oil and took to tablets, she heard about it on Oprah).
Now if some wish to argue, that yes there was a choice made, well aside from semantical and philosophical angles, the burden of proof is on YOU.
In that given scenario, please tell me how all the option platforms were laid out. Let’s say Cod Liver Oil is bad for your health, based upon sound scientific research. Where did that person make a choice in relation to your qualifiers, regarding “good” and “bad” decisions?
First assume that person was unaware of the data concerning cod liver oil. Now that person is not making any choice.
They are acting upon advice from a “recognized source of communal information”.
Now let’s assume that person has heard that Cod Liver Oil is bad for your health. Now what? Now the person makes a choice from a set of options that society-CULTURE-has created. Hmmmn? What to choose?
  a. The friendly, warm familiar data source, that is revered by millions of people, and that “I” personally relate to?
  b. or the distant, ambigious information source, that I have never identified with. And one that I question, because, I can choose to go get Cod Liver Oil. It’s legal. “A friend takes it, and they are OK. I don’t know anyone who has suffered from cod liver oil.”
These are options that SOCIETY, CULTURE has laid out for us.
Not that I disagree with what you said. Obviously the mechnics of choice are made by the brain. Everything is made by the brain.
The important angle is what options, or choices are laid out in society. Our collective, Social brains have been slowly evolving these
mechanics of choice for thousands of years. A quick look at history easily shows that people have always made decisions based on Sociological stimulators, and these choices in turn lay out the foundations for more options to be made in the future.

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Posted: 08 June 2009 08:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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I guess I don’t see why the idea that somebody makes a “choice” when going down to CVS to buy cod liver oil is controversial or only appropriate in the rarefied air of the philosophy folder. If I hear somebody on Oprah say “cod liver oil is good for you,” I am free to take their word for it and go buy some, to say “Hmm, that’s interesting” and do nothing, of to think “what an idiot!” and scoff. Sure, there are a million factors that influence what I think and do, but it doesn’t seem at all impractical or unreasonable to say that I have a choice in what I decide to do here. I, for one, choose to evaluate the reliability of the source of information and give it the appropriate weight. Other people choose to believe whatever Oprah tells them. But “society” doesn’t make us do these things like we’re little robots. We do them ourselves, so how are we not making choices?

Anyway, this is all getting off track, IMO, into some kind of nature vs nurture argument we really don’t need to have. What the thread began to be about was is it a good or a bad thing that people in large numbers unquestioningly take the word of celebrities on questions of medical science when in fact these people are talking out their bahookies. I think it’s a bad thing, and that it happens largely because of the features of our thinking that have evolved as shortcuts for quick decision making but that are often leading us astray in the complex modern world. And I think that we can alter the liklihood of people exhibiting this behavior some by pointing out why it’s a bad way to make health care decisions, as the Newsweek article did. Maybe you disagree, which is fine.

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Posted: 08 June 2009 09:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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mckenzievmd - 08 June 2009 08:47 AM

I guess I don’t see why the idea that somebody makes a “choice” when going down to CVS to buy cod liver oil is controversial or only appropriate in the rarefied air of the philosophy folder. If I hear somebody on Oprah say “cod liver oil is good for you,” I am free to take their word for it and go buy some, to say “Hmm, that’s interesting” and do nothing, of to think “what an idiot!” and scoff. Sure, there are a million factors that influence what I think and do, but it doesn’t seem at all impractical or unreasonable to say that I have a choice in what I decide to do here. I, for one, choose to evaluate the reliability of the source of information and give it the appropriate weight. Other people choose to believe whatever Oprah tells them. But “society” doesn’t make us do these things like we’re little robots. We do them ourselves, so how are we not making choices?

Anyway, this is all getting off track, IMO, into some kind of nature vs nurture argument we really don’t need to have. What the thread began to be about was is it a good or a bad thing that people in large numbers unquestioningly take the word of celebrities on questions of medical science when in fact these people are talking out their bahookies. I think it’s a bad thing, and that it happens largely because of the features of our thinking that have evolved as shortcuts for quick decision making but that are often leading us astray in the complex modern world. And I think that we can alter the liklihood of people exhibiting this behavior some by pointing out why it’s a bad way to make health care decisions, as the Newsweek article did. Maybe you disagree, which is fine.


I didn’t say society makes us do these things. Society sets forth the options to choose from.
Again above you use the word “choose” too liberally. “Other people choose to believe whatever Oprah tells them.” Your front loading the issue with your own biased idea on what people believe to act upon. That’s why you use “choose” pejoratively.
We can easily say that phrase without using the word “choose”. And in fact, it more accurately describes the action. “Other people believe whatever Oprah tells them.” In most cases, nobody is actively, or consciously choosing to believe Oprah.
You keep confusing choice with action. The emphasis on “choice” easily comes out in these discussions because you perceive people “choosing” the wrong path. You have a prejudiced, pre-dialed “right path” of doing things, therefore when people take the other path you perceive this as choice. It helps you understand why people do things you don’t agree with.
I don’t think these issues, most of which are trivial, have anything to do with “evolutionary quick thinking survival instincts”.
I am quite certain that people believe Oprah for exactly the reasons I stated. She is a hierarchal figure, who can dispense with social-needs and soothing oration and advice. This administered effectively through TV and Magazines. Daily. Day after Day. Slowly. Slowly achieving and maintaining this sociological bond, which people trust. There are no knee-jerk reactions or survival type responses when people view and act upon Oprahs advice. The same dynamics are easily shown when Nike sneaker Co. Uses a famous BASKETBALL PLAYER to endorse sneakers. I think it is a stupid idea for people to pay $80-$120 for sneakers that were made by cheap foreign labor and have an actual value of probably $5-$15. But hey, that’s how forces are used in our SOCIETY.
It’s sociological behavior mechanisms. It’s not some evolutionary design flaw in our brains, that’s failed to keep up with technology.

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Posted: 08 June 2009 10:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Well, obviously I disagree, but I don’t see any point in a prolonged argument, VYAZMA. When you say “I am quite certain that people believe Oprah for exactly the reasons I stated,” you make clear that you aren’t open to hearing any other point of view, so we’d just be wasting our energy.

I do wish you’d stop making up stuff about what I think or say just because I disagree with you, though.

I do not use “choose” perjoratively, I just think some choices are better than others.
I do not “have a prejudiced, pre-dialed “right path” of doing things,” whatever the hell that is. That’s just your way of seeing what I’m saying because it doesn’t sound right to you.

You think people are manipulated by “SOCIETY.” I think advertising and celebrity cults like Orpah work because we are prone to behavior in certain ways and make decisions in certain ways based on what our brains evolved to do. These aren’t mutually exclusive explanations, just different levels of looking at the problem. But my explanation sounds like BS to you, so fair enough you’re free to disagree and ignore it as you like. NO worries.

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Posted: 08 June 2009 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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You think people are manipulated by “SOCIETY.” 

Who’s mistating what the other person says? I didn’t say that. For the 3rd time, Society(the organization of humans, into social networks borne from evolution-ie. the necessitiy to have hierarchy(leaders and figureheads who guide the group through super-peer interaction)) creates the options for choices.Society creates laws and justice systems- people can choose to break the law or follow the law. Society has a preset(and this varies from sub-society to sub-society) mating and courtship rituals, which people can choose to follow or not follow. Society has a network of healers, and amongst these are different schools of healing which people can freely choose from. Society has organized religions which people can choose to follow or not. Etc…etc..Another example of the super-peer would be the priest or pastor. He would be the Super-peer under the religion organization.People do what he says generally because he says so! He is a source of guidance for that sub-group.
 

I think advertising and celebrity cults like Orpah work because we are prone to behavior in certain ways and make decisions in certain ways based on what our brains evolved to do. These aren’t mutually exclusive explanations, just different levels of looking at the problem. But my explanation sounds like BS to you, so fair enough you’re free to disagree and ignore it as you like. NO worries.

No, funny enough, it doesn’t sound like BS to me now—it sounds like a concession. Just as long as you realize that the vast majority of actions people make every day are not based on conscious “choices”. Yes you could argue, that everything we do every second is a choice, that’s a cop-out. We choose what to eat from the cafeteria, we choose what tie we are going to wear. The vast majority of the “choices’ we make are reactions by an individual inside of the given societal system.
Do people make “choices” to stray from these mores, or “learned societal systems” you betcha! People choose to throw away religion, people choose to become better informed about health care. Or as the case may be, they are influenced by outside factors to change their way of thinking. Just like they were influenced by outside factors to believe Oprah about the benefits of Bee Pollen.

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