Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Psychology Of Human Misjudgement: Twaddling

Charlie Munger is Warren Buffett's right hand man at Berkshire Hathaway. Over the next few weekends, we'll be summarizing the text he authored titled "The Psychology Of Human Misjudgement", where he describes some of man's tendencies. By understanding and learning from these tendencies, we better equip ourselves to avoid psychological biases when investing.

To twaddle: to talk in a trivial, feeble, silly, or tedious manner; prate.
To prattle: to talk in a foolish or simple-minded way; chatter; babble.

Munger clearly does not have much time for twaddlers and prattlers. As a social animal, however, man is prone to twaddle even when serious work is being attempted. But some humans are more prone than others to twaddle, and those are the ones Munger believes should be kept far away.

To make himself appear more tactful, Munger quotes a very blunt Caltech professor who said "The principal job of an academic adminstration is to keep the people who don't matter from interfering with the work of the people that do."

Munger says he has suffered backlash due to the fact that he has expressed his view on this subject. Munger tells the story of a honeybee in an experiment who tried to convey the location of nectar to the other bees. Typically, the honeybee's dance serves as a map for the other bees to find the nectar. In the case of the experiment, however, the nectar had been placed straight up in the air, so that there was no existing communicative gesture in the honeybee language. The honeybee in the experiment proceeded to perform a completely incoherent dance. Munger says he has been dealing with the human equivalent of that honeybee all his life.

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