Misbehaving: How Our Brains Lead Us Astray

Central Oregon–We humans seem to have a powerful need to believe that we are essentially rational beings. There is strong support for this natural inclination. Philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, Max Weber, Ayn Rand, as well as economists such as Milton Friedman have promoted it. Despite all this, in the last four decades, several Nobel Prizes have been awarded for persuasive bodies of quantitative research proving just the opposite [Herbert Simon 1978, Daniel Kahneman, 2002].

Join John Rhetts, OLLI-UO member, for this five-session short course. Enrollment is limited to facilitate the seminar format. We will examine frequent and predictable patterns of thinking and behaving that can, in real-life situations, be significantly counterproductive and substantially irrational. We will explore some of the frequent ways in which humans have a tendency to “shoot ourselves in the foot.”

Over five weeks, we will examine how individuals devise and apply “rules of thumb” to quickly solve problems and make decisions facing us in everyday life. The newly named field of behavioral economics has named these rules or patterns “heuristics.” Financial decisions—specifically those related to investing—are used as a source of many of our examples. Finance has great societal importance, and it provides us the opportunity to readily quantify the effects of anomalous thinking—the extent to which we accomplish suboptimal results. Participants are expected to explore and share how such maladaptive applications play out in other areas of life, such as politics, public policy, marketing and advertising, sex and attraction, religion, and others. We will also explore ways to moderate or correct some misbehaviors.

While there is no “required” reading, a syllabus of highly recommended readings is available at the bottom of this page. Participants should consider reading some of these to enhance their experience and contributions to the seminar.

Rhetts’ earned bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees from Dartmouth, Harvard, and Cornell universities, respectively. For nearly 30 years, he practiced psychology as a professor, a clinician, and as a consultant to organizations ranging from schools, to family businesses, to Fortune 500 and 100 companies.

Per the instructor’s request, this seminar will be limited to 12 participants to facilitate extensive discussion. Preregistration is required and will be announced via e-mail.