Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday School at the Sherman Foundation: Scarcity & Irrationality

As marvelous and achieving as our higher brain functions are they cave and surrender control with remarkably little applied pressure, particularly when it comes to threats of resource scarcity.

From CNN: Nashville pumps dry after panic about rumor of no gas

Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy: An estimated three-fourths of gas stations in the Nashville, Tennessee, area ran dry Friday, victim of an apparent rumor that the city was running out of gas. Officials said panic regarding a rumor of a lack of gas caused customers to to rush to the pumps.

Officials said panic regarding a rumor of a lack of gas caused customers to to rush to the pumps.

"Everybody has just gone nuts," said Mike Williams, executive director of the Tennessee Petroleum Council.

He said he has no idea about the origin of a rumor that there was going to be no gas in Nashville. One reporter called him, saying she had heard that Nashville would be without gas within the hour, he said.

Hearing the rumor, drivers rushed to fill their cars and trucks.

For an interesting discussion of the psychology of rumors check out the KERA interview with Nicholas DiFonzo, author of "The Watercooler Effect: A Psychologist Explores the Extraordinary Power of Rumors"

On a more personal level, “There are 185,000 more single women than single men in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut urban areas combined.” That’s the largest female plurality in the country.

An area where scarcity isn't an issue, human slavery. There are 27 million human held in slavery worldwide. More now, than any other time in human history.


Kathleen said...

the scariest thing about the response to the rumor of no gas was that people ran out to get some (using more gas), instead of thinking about what to do as an alternative to driving. Why is it so hard to even start thinking about solutions to what will eventually be a problem? Why is it easier to send troops to Iraq and drill, baby, drill than it is to admit it's time to start thinking a new way? (rhetorical questions)

Ben T-S said...

The comments on the gender disparity article are interesting. My favorite one is "[don't] make the mistake, (if you are young, male, single, and heterosexual), of moving to NYC only to find that most of the 'single women' there turn out to have white hair and dentures..." !!!