Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Charlie Munger's favorite human misjudgment

Via 2005-2013 collection of Munger notes:
What is your favorite human misjudgment?

My favorite human misjudgment is self-serving bias: how the brain subconsciously will decide that what’s good for the holder of the brain is good for everyone else. If the little me wants it, why shouldn’t the little me have it? People go through life like this. I’ve underestimated this phenomenon all my life. People go bonkers taking care of their own self-interest. It’s a sea of miscognition. People who write the laws, people who treat patients, who experiment with rats, all suffer horribly from this bias.

Hardly anything could be more important to the study of law than the study of psychology, but there’s a taboo against it. You see many people who’ve gotten straight A’s at law school, but they screw up in dealing with self-serving bias.

I would say that the current head of the World Bank [Paul Wolfowitz] had an elementary question: as head of the Bank, a lot of people hate you, so how bright do you have to be to distance yourself from a question of a large raise from your live-in girlfriend? He sent it to the lawyers, they hemmed and hawed, and he lost his moorings. Even a child shouldn’t make his obvious mistake. Similarly, I’d guess President Clinton would have had a better record if he’d had better insight on certain subjects. Note that I carefully picked one from each party. [Laughter]