Nobody Is Normal

Yale Research Confirms What You’ve Always Suspected: Nobody Is Normal
We’re all weirdos, science has confirmed, and that’s something to celebrate.
March 19, 2018.
By Jessica Stillman

Every day, millions of people around the world ask Google some variation of the question, “Am I normal?” Burdened by shame, we turn to the internet to figure out if our behavior, our bodies, and our deepest emotions mark us as outside the mainstream.

original article:
The Myth of Optimality in Clinical Neuroscience
Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 22, Issue 3, p241–257, March 2018
Avram J. Holmes, Lauren M. Patrick



Do you plan to have children in the next 10 years?

The Pitfalls Of Adopting A Rescue Pet
February 28, 2012

“There are incredibly intrusive questions,” Yoffe told Here & Now’s Robin Young. “‘Do you plan to have children in the next 10 years?’ Now, the rescuers will say, well, some dogs don’t do well with children, but normally one doesn’t ask strangers about their reproductive choices over the next decade.”

“The woman who ran the rescue at the last minute said, ‘You know, I can’t give you this dog… Because you have an Irish accent.. [and] the dog has never heard anything but American accents.'”

Chemical trust: Oxytocin oxymoron?

Chemical trust: Oxytocin oxymoron?
The American Journal of Bioethics, 5(3): 1–2, 2005

Writing in the journal Nature, Michael Kosfeld and colleagues reported that intranasal administration of oxytocin, a human neuropeptide involved in maternal bonding, “causes a substantial increase in trusting behavior, thereby greatly increasing the benefits from social interactions.”

The double-blind study involved a trust game with real monetary stakes, in which the subjects played the role of either an investor or a trustee. Investors could choose whether and how much money to invest with an anonymous trustee, and the trustees could choose whether to honor or violate the investors’ trust. The investors who had inhaled the oxytocin invested 17% more money than those who received the placebo.

… Trust is a complex human phenomenon, involving social behavior, emotions, and values—the potential medicalization of trust is cause for concern. While the researchers focused primarily on what they viewed as the positive aspects of trust as the glue that holds families, economies and societies together, a high level of trust is not necessarily an unmitigated good. The researchers reported that the drug inhibited defensive behaviors and betrayal aversion; this necessarily leaves affected individuals more vulnerable. Essentially, a person or institution with the capability of artificially manipulating trust levels would be in a position to increase people’s level of gullibility. Artificially manipulated trust levels could compromise people’s ability to make sound judgments and put them in risky situations.

papers cited:

Kosfeld, M., Heinrichs, M., Zak, P., Fischbacher, U., & Fehr, E. Oxytocin increases trust in humans. Nature, 435: 673–676 (2 June 2005).

Damasio, A. Human behavior: Brain trust. Nature, 435: 571–6572 (2 June 2005).

Willingness to work as a function of payment

Willingness_to_workWillingness to work as a function of payment

2.7 Market and Social Norms
A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior
Duke University

is the following another instance of a complex relationship?

Would you help Dan change his tire?

tire_Would_you_helpWould you help Dan change his tire?


Once a financial motivation comes in, the social motivation (feeling good about yourself, good about your actions), actually goes away.

2.7 Market and Social Norms
A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior
Duke University


a related example in Switzerland

Once ownership is established …

ownership_is_establishedOnce ownership is established, people favor the object that they own, even though ownership is randomly selected.

Can this assertion be reconciled with:
“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”?

initial assertion from:
2.6 Loss Aversion and the Endowment effect
A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior
Duke University

Why We Care More About Losses Than Gains

Loss_aversion_2.5_timesWhy We Care More About Losses Than Gains
by Shankar Vedantam
October 25, 2013

JEFFREY BEREJIKIAN: You can do nothing and walk away and absorb that certain loss or you can gamble. And you know that the gamble is biased in the favor of the house. But there’s some chance that you might win and get back to where you were before. When you frame choices in that way, human beings exhibit real consistent risk acceptance.

VEDANTAM: So the interesting thing, David, is that people seem much more willing to place the second bet than to place the first bet. And that’s because with the first bet you’re hoping to win something. With the second bet what you’re really trying to do is you’re trying to head off the loss and loss aversion theory suggests that the desire to avoid losses is wired more strongly into the brain than the desire to achieve gains.

this is exactly what happens at the national level.
When a dispute is framed as jobs being lost, exactly like the guy in the casino, U.S. policymakers pull out all the stops and fight.

It’s much harder to pay an expert

conspicuous_effortFairness and reciprocity

It’s easy for us to pay for something that requires conspicuous effort, but much harder to pay an expert who performs the job effortessly

There’s an interesting point:
We might want to express to people the amount of hard work. If you are the locksmith, you might want to show your hard work. If you are the mechanic, you might want to show people your hard work.

Because determining value is so difficult, we use shortcuts–like assessing the level of effort required to produce something.

2.5 Fairness and reciprocity
A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior
Duke University

cf. effort in: