Thinking fast, associations

We think fast to understand the world. One form of fast thinking is associations.

One association is the person-institution. A Harvard epidemiologists, an Oxford trained economist, a board certified physician. It’s only through the association that we get the meaning. It’s all short hand. And we need it.

If I check to see if Marc Lipsitch knows what he’s talking about (he does) I’d read his journal articles, and study organic chemistry, and well, that’s the point.

These association are asymmetrical. There is the new thing (Marc) which we are associating with the old thing (Harvard). The new thing is relatively not understood and the old thing is relatively understood. People know a lot more about Harvard than about so-and-so epidemiologists.

An interesting version of this idea came up on NPR. It was about this sound:

This sonic logo was created via an association. HBO (new) wanted to associate itself with television (old). It did that through static. But, as times change so do associations. That old static, though totally irrelevant to modern-digital-cord-cutting-viewers, became associated with HBO.

“It’s become this incredible ritual of sitting down and watching something,” explained head of brand marketing for HBO, Jason Mulderig, “and having this powerful emotional trigger that sets you in this emotional space of anticipation and waiting for what’s going to come next.”

I’ve always disliked the term human biases. They feel more like tendencies. Sometimes those tendencies optimize for short term gains, sometimes not.

One example of the long term hacking of our tendencies is the Credit Karma program.

May 2022 update, Dan Carlin on this angle but for historical figures.