Saturday, February 5, 2011

Application assignment

Behavioral Perspectives on Management is, so far, my favorite course of this semester, and probably my favorite elective I've taken at SOM, and thus probably my favorite course of any kind at SOM, and therefore potentially my favorite course I've ever taken of any kind. Any class whose assigned readings are often from The New Yorker = a class I'ma lurve.

Today, I've been working on our first "application assignment," which is a brief paper in which we try to apply a class concept to our real life. We spent time last week talking about the Beltway sniper shootings from 2002. Remember those? We discussed it in the context of "expectancy," whereby one sees what one expects. In this case, there were early reports of a suspicious white van speeding away after the first shooting; once that information was released, there were always reports of a white van. This is, of course, because white vans are common. It turned out that the snipers were never in a white van, but when people were looking for one, of course they saw one.

I think this phenomenon has interesting implications for journalists. Generally, from what I observed, the mission of the newspaper was to inform the public quickly and accurately, but not much consideration was given to any type of psychological, decision-making ramifications. I can't imagine in the newsroom a manager saying, "The police have told us people should be on the lookout for a red truck, but I'm not convinced that they received reliable eyewitness accounts, and if we release that information then people will be subject to an expectancy bias whereby they will miss other potentially relevant pieces of evidence because they will be too focused on looking for a red truck. Therefore, we will not include that detail in the story."

Is it the media's responsibility to choose what it thinks the public should know, for the public's own good? Such a role makes me uneasy, because in the wrong hands, this intention could have scary consequences, like propaganda. Then again, media organizations already determine what it thinks the public should know, on some level. But I think the frame of mind usually has to do with what's true and fair, not what will best aid in solid decision-making.

Anyway, that's what I'm working on. I have an entirely open day, since my original plans were to see "Black Swan," which I saw yesterday, and to go to the Dartmouth-Yale hockey game, which sold out. Whoops. Having seen "Black Swan," I've now seen 5 of the 10 Best Picture nominees. My preference for those movies, in order, is:

1. "The Social Network"
2. "The King's Speech"
3. "Black Swan"
4. "127 Hours"
5. "Inception"

I still need (or would like) to see "The Kids Are All Right" (which I've received from Netflix and may watch this weekend), "True Grit," "Toy Story 3," "The Fighter" and "Winter's Bone." I am going to be teaming up with my friend Carolyn, who actually receives television in her home, to throw what I think will be a small Oscar party. Small because her apartment is small, and small because it's the Sunday after our spring break begins, so people who are smarter and richer than us will probably have flown somewhere tropical.

No comments:

Post a Comment