X-Message-Number: 27716
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From: David Stodolsky <>
Subject: Re: Fear of a strange future
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2006 12:54:34 +0100

On 15 Mar 2006, at 07:06, marta sandberg wrote:

> One of those answers is fear of a strange future and lots of people  
> have
> said that I am brave because I have chosen cryonics.

Fear of the future and love of the "Good old days" results from the  
perceptual bias of "framing" among others:


Prospect theory, which was developed by Kahneman and Tversky (1979),  
is one of the most often quoted and best-documented phenomena in  
economic psychology. The theory states that we have an irrational  
tendency to be less willing to gamble with profits than with losses.
Tvede (1999)

"A theory that incorporates such framing effects has been proposed by  
Kahneman and Tversky (1979). Termed prospect theory, it has been  
extraordinarily influential. It is based on the idea that people  
evaluate gains or losses in prospect theory from some neutral or  
status quo point, an assumption consistent with the adaptation-level  
findings that occur not just in perception but in virtually all  
experience. That is, we adapt to a constant level of virtually any  
psychological dimension and find it to be neutral. In a similar way,  
we adapt to the reduced light in a movie theater when we enter it  
finding it not particularly dark after a few seconds and then readapt  
to the much brighter light outside when we leave the theater finding  
it not to be unusually bright after a few seconds. But since choice  
varies by framing it as a gain or a loss, it cannot reveal underlying  
Dawes (2001) p 195

"Unlike expected utility theory, prospect theory predicts that  
preferences will depend on how a problem is framed. If the reference  
point is defined such that an outcome is viewed as a gain, then the  
resulting value function will be concave and decision makers will  
tend to be risk averse. On the other hand, if the reference point is  
defined such that an outcome is viewed as a loss, then the value  
function will be convex and decision makers will be risk seeking."
Plous (1993) p 97
"Prospect theory also differs from expected utility theory in the way  
it handles the probabilities attached to particular outcomes.  
Classical utility theory assumes that decision makers value a 50  
percent chance of winning as exactly that: a 50 percent chance of  
winning. In contrast, prospect theory treats preferences as a  
function of  decision weights,  and it assumes that these weights do  
not always correspond to probabilities. Specifically, prospect theory  
postulates that decision weights tend to overweight small  
probabilities and underweigth moderate and high probabilities.
Plous (1993) p 98

"Prospect theory represents a great improvement over classical  
expected utility theory. Indeed, many violations of expected utility  
theory are explicitly predicted by prospect theory."
Plous (1993) p 105

"In a nutshell, prospect theory assumes that investors' utility  
functions depend on changes in the value of their portfolios rather  
than the value of the portfolio. Put another way, utility comes from  
returns, not from the value of assets."
Cornell (1999)


> Of course, the future is perceived as even more frightening if all  
> your
> friends and relatives will be dead when/if you wake up.
> Let me add one more thing.  Somehow or other, people perceiver the  
> future as
> even more frightening because you are not SURE you will actually  
> wake up.
> Go figure.

Uncertainty and anxiety are proportional.

The main point is that a 'rational' argument (based upon the economic  
man assumption) alone, will not result in an appropriate choice.


David Stodolsky    Skype: davidstodolsky

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