The Curse of Knowledge: Price Bubbles and Airline Logos

Lufthansa terminal

 

“Why do they have pictures of knives and forks here, daddy?” My daughter, then six-years old, was gazing out of the window of the airport bus as it brought us from the aircraft to the terminal building of Frankfurt Airport. I looked up briefly from my text messages. “Where do you see knives and forks, sweetheart?” I asked. “Everywhere”, she cried. I peered out of the window more intently this time. I leaned over to align my viewpoint with hers. I looked behind to check the area the bus had just passed. I looked left and right, inside and outside. Nowhere could I see cutlery of any description. “I can’t see any knives or forks”, I said, apologetically. She grew visibly exasperated: “Look! There! And there!” I didn’t want to upset her, so I remained silent as I scrutinized our surroundings. Then I saw them. They were indeed everywhere.

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Explaining behavioural finance to a 14-year-old

Explaining behavioural finance to a 14-year-old“Can you explain behavioural finance to my 14-year-old daughter?”

As the girl’s father was a finance professor, I had the impression that he might already have tried it unsuccessfully himself. Undeterred, though, I turned to the unenthusiastic teen and asked her to imagine a prize draw with a £100 reward for the lucky person whose ticket number is randomly drawn from a basket.

There are only 100 tickets,” I explained, “so, arguably, each entry ticket is ‘worth’ £1.” She nodded in agreement. “Now suppose I offer you the chance to buy one of those tickets for 90p. Would you take it?” She nodded again, smiling. Was this going to be easier than she thought? Continue reading

Straight From the Gut

In the decision sciences, a clear distinction is made between risk and uncertainty. You take a risk when you know in advance all the potential outcomes of your choice, and their respective probabilities. This risk description covers things like coin tosses, lotteries and spins of a slot machine. In such circumstances, only cold logic, statistical thinking, and possibly a pocket calculator, should influence your decision about whether to run the risk or not. As soon as some of the outcomes, and/or some of the probabilities, are not known, we enter the realm of uncertainty. In this less ordered domain, reason and statistics become less useful because there is nothing to calculate. Instead, argue decision scientists, one should rely more on one’s intuition, gut feelings and rules-of-thumb. Examples of such judgements include living to be one hundred years old, falling in love, or being killed by a terrorist. Any decision to bet on them – or insure against them – involves dealing with uncertainty… Read more on TCAM’s website

The Twin Dimensions of Trust

To trust or not to trustYour ageing smartphone has just given up the ghost. Would you chance handing it over to a stranger for repairs?

First you would think about whether its memory holds any sensitive data, and wonder what the stranger might do with it. Once you’re satisfied there are no ill intentions, you would decide whether you believe the stranger has the ability to repair smartphones. Given the success of the entire transaction depends on the latter, it seems counter-intuitive that this judgment be made only as a second step, yet this precisely what we all do. Read more on TCAM’s website

WWWD: What Would the Wealthy Do?

I was recently fortunate enough to have been able to attend a lecture by French economist, Professor Thomas Piketty, at Frankfurt’s Goethe University. So celebrated is the author of ‘Capital in the 21st Century‘, the packed amphitheatre had to wait fully 30 minutes before the professor was allowed to open his mouth. First we had to endure a speech from the university’s chancellor, then the French ambassador (who had been flown in from Berlin, even though France has consular representation in Frankfurt scarcely three kilometers from where we sat). Thereafter came the obligatory word from the sponsors, and an unusually lengthy introduction from the moderator. Everyone wanted a piece of the action – a sprinkling of Piketty Dust.
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