Mistakes are normal, responsibility critical

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Mistakes are normal, responsibility critical


Those who know that I’ve lived in France assume that I know something about wine and expect me to help them select one. I pretend I am studying the wine list, but in fact, I am looking at the price. If I am the one paying for the meal, I generally choose a bottle priced in the 40,000 won ($35) range. If someone else is picking up the check, I choose something in the 50,000 won range. I know it is an unreasonable method; an informed consumer would consider not just the price, but also the quality and taste.

I’m not the only one who does this. According to sommeliers, the best-selling wines are about 20 percent less expensive than the one with the highest price or the ones that cost about 20 percent more than the cheapest wine. The well-heeled patrons think that they have chosen the best wine without being ripped off. Less affluent customers are satisfied that they did not get the worst one but still enjoyed a bottle at a low price. If groundless self-satisfaction is the standard of choice, it is also unreasonable.

Recently, I enjoyed reading Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” The author is professor emeritus of psychology at Princeton University and a Nobel laureate. He rejected the basic premise of mainstream economics that says people make reasonable choices and argued that people have a strong tendency to make unreasonable decisions. He proved this and systematically theorized the behavior to become the founder of behavioral economics.

According to Kahneman, emotional and intuitive “fast thinking” overrides logical “slow thinking,” and most people end up making unreasonable decisions. Because of fast thinking, people get stuck in the fallacy of “what you see is all there is” and become slaves to optimism.

The illegal surveillance on civilians is the most controversial issue nowadays, and it is likely to have been a result of the unfounded optimism of fast thinking. They may have thought that the political situation could be stabilized with the power of loyal detached forces. If they had referred to the law and acted more prudently, the disturbance could have been prevented. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. So the important thing is how we respond to mistakes. Some people acknowledge their mistakes and take responsibility, while others avoid them and try to hide. Some blame others in an effort to save their necks. The person who has to take responsibility needs to determine what the most reasonable response will be for him or her.

* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok
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