Irrationality by Stuart Sutherland

  1. first impressions
  2. obedience
  3. conformity
  4. in-groups and out-groups
  5. organisational folly
  6. misplaced consistency
  7. misuse of rewards and punishments
  8. drive and emotion
  9. ignoring the evidence
  10. distorting the evidence
  11. misinterpreting the evidence
  12. making the wrong connections
  13. mistaking the cause
  14. inconsistent decisions and bad bets
  15. overconfidence
  16. risks
  17. false inferences
  18. the failure of intuition
  19. First, much irrationality arises through not taking enough time to think things through...
    Second, because we can only hold a small number of ideas in our minds at any one time, in making complex decisions people do not combine all the relevant factors...
    Third, as I shall demonstrate towards the end of this book, taking the best decision whether in a court of law or in everyday life may often involve the use of concepts drawn from elementary statistics...
    Fourth, many organisations fail to achieve their proper goals because they are structured in ways that ecourage selfish behaviour in their members...
    Fifth, people often distor their thoughts about relity in order to make themselves feel more comfortable or happier.
    Chapter 1, Introduction
    Lord Raglan, the aristocratic but doltish British commander, sent a message by aide-de-camp ordering 'the cavalry to advance rapidly to the front... to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns'. In the valley in front of the Light Brigade was a battery of Turkish artillery; in the hills on either side of the valley were more turkish guns and also riflemen. to obey the order as it stood would mean the destruction of the Light Brigade since they would be under fire from the front and both sides...
    Of the 700 who took part, fewer than 200 returned. Lord Raglan subsequently blamed the cavalry commander for failing to ascertain the enemy's disposition and to summon other troops to his aid.
    Chapter 3, Obedience
    In Your Disobedient Servant, Leslie Chapman gave an account of how he tried to cut down waste in one part of the British Civil Service...
    he subsequently recounted his extraordinary experiences in a second book, Waste Away.
    Chapter 6, Organisational folly
    For our present purposes it is enough to note the folly and irrationality of attempting to control behaviour by rewards or punishments unless they can be permanently maintained.
    Chapter 8, Misuse of rewards and punishments
    It is almost certainly true that self-control (and also the lack of it) can become a habit
    Chapter 9, Drive and emotion
    In 1973 a DC10 was flying on autothrottle over New Mexico. The captain and flight engineer had nothing to do. According to the cockpit flight recorder, which was subsequently replayed, the flight engineer said to the captain thta he wondered whether the autothrottle would respond if he pulled the number one manual throttle. The captain did not know, but he warned the engineer that the engines were on full speed. Nevertheless, they agreed to try the experiment. This relieved their boredom in short order, for the starboard engine increased speed to such a point that it broke up. It smashed a window and the resulting decompression sucked the passenger sitting next to it out of the plane to fall 39,000 feet.
    Chapter 9, Drive and emotion