I chose to focus on the ‘anchoring’ section (part 2) of the Priceless book. This concept is something that I find very interesting. The basic concept is that people always ‘anchor’ their decision to something. That something can be a variety of things. It can include price, prestige, mental precursors, or even functionality. An example the book uses is a standard rating system known as “category scales.” This concept involves the ranking of items such as a “How would you rate your Whirlpool dishwasher?” following by a scale of 1-5, with one being poor and five being excellent. If that modulus (absolute value indicator) did not exist for your decision to be anchored too, you may not have used the numbers 1-5 and you may not have even used numbers at all. Poundstone plays off the idea that we are so caught up in relativity of things to other things that we don’t really know any absolute values. Without the relativity we wouldn’t know what is heaviest or lightest, tallest or shortest. All of these items are placed against something else extremely subjectively. There are very few things (if any) that can be objectively noted absolute by themselves.
I loved this concept because it was one that I didn’t fully believe until I got to the end of the section. I spent most of the section thinking this was just some crackpot psychology guy messing with peoples’ minds to make them think things that are not really there. Finally I grasped that these are cues we pick up only because the rest of society is already doing so and because it is human nature. If we started a new society on the moon without having ever seen earth or the people on it, we would do things differently at first then most likely fall back into the same fallacy we are currently in. I now firmly believe Poundstone’s argument that everything is really anchored to something and that is why we cannot assess a situation objectively at this point in time.
I wonder if we were to start from scratch, caveman scratch, how long and if we would go back to the way things currently are. Is there hope for an absolute objective society?