What should I ask Daniel Kahneman?

I will be having a Conversation with him on November 12, unfortunately the GMU event is already sold out.  In the meantime, what do you suggest?  What should I ask him?


Should any type of cognitive testing be required for public offices?

AKA clever swipes at Trump that in fact target the likes of Maxine Waters.

IQ test for right to vote, who loses more votes Dems or Reps? My guess close to a wash.

Maybe depends on the threshold. Requiring "pretty smart" might favor GOP, while requiring "super smart" might cut the other way. And don't take this as an endorsement of either.

"IQ test for right to vote, who loses more votes Dems or Reps? My guess close to a wash."

In general, yes I think you are correct. But it might drastically change the party nomination process.

I'm guessing Reps. They can't even get into the good schools today. There's a reason Harvard and the rest of the Ivy Leagues are full of liberals and not conservatives.

Show him a Youtube video. Then ask if he saw the gorilla.

Throw something at his head and yell "Think Fast!"

Does the replication crisis undermine his life's work?

Definitely pursue this line of questioning, especially regarding loss aversion?

He's addressed that.


But he could always go into more detail. Which results does he think will hold up to replication? Which ones will not? Etc.

But haven't his most popular experiments been replicated many, many times? I can tell you that the Asian Flu experiment has been replicated A LOT, especially by his early detractors.

What is the relationship (linear, exponential, etc.) between the difficulty of overcoming a cognitive bias and the number of people involved in making the decision potentially subject to the bias (individual decision-maker vs. , e.g., Congress)

Strong question. Would be very interested to hear his take on this. But presume there is a literature that has already looked at this? Maybe a future MR post too...

When does a preference function become a cognitive bias?

Jewish history, at least since the incursion of Rome into the Levant, can be understood as a contrarian take on world history. You can study Jewish life during the crusades, or in Ayyubid Cairo, or in 19th century Hungary and it is like looking at the world through a completely different lens. Has this counterintuitive tradition shaped his thinking? Did it help attract him to working with an economist? Did it make him suspicious of commonly held narratives about things?

overrated or underrated: behavioural economics

How does the loss aversion hypothesis account for the popularity of casino gambling?

I may be mistaking one story for another but if memory serves, the literature on loss aversion was an early instance of p-hacking fakery, and Kahneman later admitted as much.

I think there's been debate about the extent to which the loss aversion literature shows a genuine loss aversion effect vs. other psychological patterns, but I don't think the actual literature itself is considered illusory and overturned in the sense that e.g. priming and stereotype-threat literature are.

“More perceived risk more bank capital (equity), less perceived risk less capital”. Is that an illusion of validity?

With respect to “intuitions vs. formulas” is not risk weighted capital requirements for banks an extraordinary case of someone trying to be too clever?
With respect to “Expert intuition: when can we trust it?” Kahneman writes “The acquisition of expertise in complex tasks such as… firefighting is intricate and slow because expertise in a domain is not a single skill but rather a collection of miniskills” Ask Kahneman if that should not apply to bank regulators too?

Does the “Irrational perseverance” “sunk-cost fallacy” explain why regulators, even after a 2007-08 crisis caused exclusively by assets against which they allowed banks to hold especially little capital, they still insist in their risk weighted capital requirements?

With respect to “Regression to the mean” have bank regulators understood that concept? If not, might “our mind is strongly biased towards casual explanations” be the explanation? I mean what is more casual than risky is risky and safe is safe and there´s no more to that!

Finally ask Kahneman whether “more-risk-more-equity and less-risk-less-equity”, could be such a powerful System 1 intuition that it stops System 2 deliberations rights in its tracks, not allow these even to begin?


What is his take on the prescriptability of heuristics (in the Thaler direction) or is it just a way to understand cognition?

Does he think people generally persist with professional & research projects too long, or not long enough? If people could modulate their own level of grit-persistence, should they turn the dial up or down?

If his work on loss aversion and behavioral economics stands up:


Underrated/overrated: Herbert Simon.

Hi Tyler,

I would be interested to know Daniel's insights on using "system 1" and "system 2" as it relates to financial risk. Specifically, how user interfaces can "nudge" the use of system 1 when the task is really for system 2.

1. What is the best way to mathematically / from a modelling perspective tie his life's work / behavioral economics together?
2. What is the best way to tie that model to neoclassical economics?

3. How should one think about Bayesian updating with respect to anchoring bias?

What loose ends of Behavioral Economics / heuristic psychology have the greatest potential for impact / are the most promising?

What unsolved business / societal problems / sub-sectors of the economy are best suited to be addressed by those armed with your insights?

What businesses / trends are you most skeptical about their future potential?

What's his leading solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict?

Confidence heuristics: does it explain the loyalty of Donald Trump's followers? Here is Cass Sunstein on the subject: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-10-18/donald-trump-s-success-as-a-con-man-explained-by-science

1. What insights/questions led him to conduct his early research? (In one of his earliest pieces he (& Twersky/Slovik?) write about how reversion to the mean makes it SEEM appropriate to credit the technique, when training pilots, of not praising good outcomes while harshly criticizing bad outcomes - because next time both unpraised very good and harshly criticized very bad results would likely in any case revert toward the mean. [Which is why intuition, as well as bad research design that does not account for reversion to the mean, keeps leading e.g. educational policy in circles.])
2. How to deal with the criticism of some behavioral economists to the effect that they set themselves up as the only ones with sufficient insight to pierce the veil of irrationality and make prescriptions about public policy. How do we evaluate *their* rationality compared to the rationality of others?

He has often stated that he's rather pessimistic that people can improve cognition, and to 'get out of their own way' regarding the systematic and predictable errors made by human minds. I wonder, however, whether he's even a bit more optimistic now that there's growing awareness of this body of work. As it becomes part of 'how communities talk' in some cases, thus suggesting new norms of both cognition and conversation (cognition through conversation) might be be willing to update his optimism/pessimism priors?

Many (most?) behavioral effects are demonstrated by comparing means between the treatment groups.

1. Has there been progress on understanding how the full distributions change?
2. Is there a class of people less affected by biases?
3. Perhaps are there people who see the game and react more strongly in the opposite direction?
4. Or even how do treatments affect higher order moments?

5. How good are the best debiasing treatments? Do we have any hope of improving them?

Did working on your non-native language influence your ideas about system 1 and 2?

If the effect size of any of his major findings were actually large, his work would be extensively used by therapists and psychiatrists and internists. His work is never used by these people “on the ground.” Replication crisis aside, what does this say, if anything?

I doubt you would address this but I leave it here anyway. The preface to "Thinking, Fast and Slow" is largely a paean to the network effects of putting brilliant minds together, in re: his collaborations with Tversky.

Does it occur to him that current admissions practices at the Ivies act to scatter brilliant minds to the four winds?

I've been inspired by the lists of open questions people have been posting (in the mold of https://patrickcollison.com/questions), some of which you've posted here on MR. What open questions is Daniel Kahneman most fascinated by?

What did he learn about himself, his country, psychology, or economics, from his service in and for the IDF, that he might not otherwise have learned or even encountered.

+1 for this. A VC recently talked about the harshness of environment in Israel being critical in shaping the nature of companies that are built there. Interested in his perspective on this influence.

He's assembling a team for an analytical challenge like, say, forecasting. He can screen or train, but not both. Ie, he can screen for smarts, bias avoidance, probabilistic thinking, open-mindedness, etc. Or he can include a training module prior to the task -- understanding base rates, common biases, basic probability, etc. Which would lead to better outcomes?

Tyler, below is a possible comment and set of questions to professor Kahneman that I would wish you have addressed:

"You've been known to have disagreements with German psychologist and academic Gerd Gigerenzer concerning the place heuristics have in helping us make assessments of reality and determining courses of action. Gerd, of course, is an advocate of heuristics."

"Are there points of agreement that you (Daniel Kahneman) & Gerd have concerning heuristics?"

"Might you have any insights that provide a synthesis of your points of disagreement?"

What biases are most dangerous for doctors?

Where has your work had the most influence on academic economics and finance? Where has it been unduly ignored?

Nassim Taleb - underrated or overrated?

In what areas of your work does Nassim Taleb's critique - the idea that individual rationality doesn't matter too much if there is systemic rationality - matter most and where is it not relevant?

I often find knowledge of cog biases can be "weaponised" in dissagreements. Rather than responding with substance, it is tempting to point out the bias someone is suffering from. Have you noticed that? Should that be off limits for civil discourse?

I've got one of his books: Thinking Fast and Slow. It's dull writing, to be sure. Ask him why.

Example of why dearieme is a douchebag: he either expects Cowen to ask a douchebag question like that, or he just wants to signal he's a douchebag to the rest of us.

If he had to pick one, which error (type) in thinking is the most widespread? Which most persistent?

Do you think that Behavioral Economics (BE) had lost the opportunity to be a strong epistemological competence to neo-clasical school and it has becoming an inoffensive tool of box for very specific interventions?

In short, why BE left aside BIG questions for small answers?

Economists generally agree that visible taxes on sales or externalities such as carbon are more efficient. But the public seems to prefer more damaging hidden taxes such as those on income, or more heavy-handed regulation. Is there a way to reconcile these?

I have boiled it down to the essentials:
1. To nap or not to nap?
2. Scones: cream first or jam?
3. Can he lend me twenty bucks? I promise I am good for it.

I'd be curious to hear his take on whether the behavioral revolution is a just a different form of (economics) motivated reasoning. I happen to think it is, but feel badly about that feeling.

Is Donald Trump a fast or slow thinker?

Here are my favs, in break the ice, get to know you and get serious order:

1. Who’s your favorite muppet/Henson character?
2. If you gave him three tickets over the next month (for nights when he’s free) to see a live event - concert, theatre, play, etc.; who would he see? (Has to be alive groups; shows playing now)
3. What current issue worries him most (keeps him up late or on his mind often) and what does he think should be done about it?
4. Favorite disco song?

The Peter Thiel question:

"What do you think is true that no one agrees with you on?"

Ask if he knows where the 21 trillion missing went - as reported by Catherine Austin Fitts, then ask him if he reads and understands the points made by Gail Tverberg about the economy - thanks.

What is the best approach to dealing with a tyrant? Force or pacifism?

1. I move in circles in which most people can speak at length about cognitive bias and how it affects their own judgments and the judgments of others. I sometimes think this in itself leads to a kind of overconfidence. Is a little knowledge about bias a dangerous thing?

2. Let's say I am trying to make a decision to change something about my life. I want to know whether status quo bias or action bias is most strongly affecting my intuitions. Is there a way to know? Or am I being overconfident in thinking I could know at all?

I'm skeptical about experiments involving paid participants (usually college students, I think) in a psychology lab, like many of the experiments described in Thinking Fast and Slow. Why should anybody believe that results obtained from such an artificial, unrealistic environment have any bearing on how people behave in the real world? I seems the psychological effect of knowingly participating in an experiment might overwhelm any other factors being tested, if the goal is to learn how people likely behave outside of a lab setting.

Priming, ¿overrated or underrated?

Ask him about the paper on the Loss of Loss Aversion.

Both systematic bias and noise (i.e., random error) negatively impact decision making. Which of the two should we (as managers, policymakers, etc) be more concerned about?

Most important updates to "Thinking Fast and Slow".

Do you think that your theories and character would be different if your childhood ,social situations , and life experiences had been profoundly different than what they were

1) You claim in Thinking Fast and Slow that investment is entirely luck based, not skill based (or does that overstate your view?). Is your opinion that Warren Buffett is akin to a repeat lottery winner?
2) How much has the replication crisis undermined your work? For example, Thinking Fast and Slow contains a number of references to studies that have failed to replicate, such as the study of 'priming' people with words associated with old age, leading them to walk slower down a hallway, or the study where people make evaluations while holding a pencil in their mouth pointing straight out versus held across their lips. What are your responsibilities as a public educator on psychology when so many results you report on (might) turn out not to hold up?

What does he believe should be the definitive measure by which it is claimed system 1 or system 2 is being used (some measure of pre-frontal cortex activity, reaction time, response accuracy, etc.)? Which sorts of correlated measures to his preferred measure are best for certain situations and under which circumstances? Are there certain commonly used measures by which it is often argued that system 1/2 is being used where he feels it is inappropriate to make a claim as to which system is being used?

How might some of the behavioral biases that Kahneman describes be incorporated into political campaigns; specifically voter outreach messaging, voter registration efforts and political ads.

In 2018, do you see value in understanding the works of Carl Jung and philosophers such as Krishnamurti arguing for a better understanding and silencing of the Self?

You’ve shown that people are prone to certain cognitive errors. What do we do with that info? Do we let the smart and informed people exploit that insight in the market? Should schools train students to avoid these errors? Do we nudge people towards good decisions? Do we transfer certain decisions from individuals to the government?

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