Considering all the excitement on Wall Street these days, investors sweating out the storm may look into research on how stress influences pattern recognition in humans. But first, remember what you see in the two images above.
From the New York Times:
The researchers say that their experiments, which also tested people’s tendency to detect conspiracies and see superstitious lessons in stories, help explain why conspiracy theories and superstitions flourish when people are feeling out of control. Previous researchers have reported, for instance, that first-year business-school students are more prone to imagine conspiracies than are second-year students, and that deep-sea fishermen have more elaborate rituals and superstitions than ones who fish in more predictable conditions near shore.
In the experiments by Dr. Whitson and Dr. Galinsky, people were were more likely to see nonexistent patterns after they’d been assigned frustrating tasks with nonsensical rewards and punishments, or after they’d been asked to recall situations in which they’d felt out of control. Dr. Galinsky, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, noted some historical examples of this tendency, like the reactions of Londoners during the bombing of their city in World War II.
“Even though later statistical analysis clearly demonstrated that the bombs fell randomly across the city, people were certain that parts of the city had been targeted and other parts spared,” he told me. “People in those areas of the city seemingly spared came under suspicion as Nazi sympathizers, and their livelihoods and physical safety were threatened. And in those areas seemingly targeted by the bombs, people moved out, attempting to escape systematic bombing that was in fact not systematic.”
Oh, yes, for those still wondering, the image on the right is Saturn with its rings, and the left probably features your mother-in-law wearing a fedora.
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