Lecturer Ori Brafman and his brother, psychologist Dr. Rom Brafman discussed their new book Sway, which looks at why people make irrational choices. \"The way that we defined it,\" Rom said about irrational thinking, \"is that it\'s about doing something that you know was the wrong decision afterwards.\"
One of the key motivators behind irrational thinking is the concept of \"loss aversion.\" Ori explained, \"we feel the pain of a loss so strongly, that we go to really extreme means to avoid that loss.\" He described this effect in the story of Jacob van Zanten, an airline captain who was concerned about a delay effecting his reputation for punctual flights. His haste to get the plane flying again ended up causing the largest airline disaster in history. According to Rom, this shift to irrational thinking is not automatic, rather a gradual change as fear of loss mounts, \"a lot of times, people are just not aware of where they\'re going.\"
Additionally, perception is another factor that can cause irrational thought. \"Once you attribute a value to something, either good or bad, that diagnosis sticks,\" said Ori. This was conveyed in the story of two anthropologists searching for the proverbial \"missing link.\" The first researcher, a relative unknown in the scientific world, discovered a prehistoric hominid species, but was dismissed by his peers. The second scientist, who was part of the established community, fashioned a hoax and claimed that he\'d found the elusive connection between man and ape. Since he was well known and respected by his peers, no one bothered to check the validity of his purported findings.
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