Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Go Along to Get Along (with cruelty)

One of the cruelest and most shocking things ever done to me was by someone who wanted to avoid disagreeing with one of his teammates**. This was followed by extensive rationalizations ("explain away," below). 

, the latest book by Daniel Kahneman (with Oliver Sibony and Casss Sunstein) explains how this happens. Excerpt (see also Chapter 8):

Most organizations prefer consensus and harmony over dissent and conflict. The procedures in place often seem expressly designed to minimize the frequency of exposure to actual disagreements and, when such disagreements happen, to explain them away. 

Nathan Kuncel, a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota and a leading researcher on the prediction of performance, shared with us a story that illustrates this problem. Kuncel was helping a school's admission's office review its decision process. First a person read an application file, rated it, and then handed it off with ratings to a second reader, who then also rated it. Kuncel suggested - for reasons that will become obvious throughout this book - that it would be preferable to mask the first reader's ratings so as to not influence the second reader. The schools reply, "We used to do that, but it resulted in so many disagreements that we switched to the current system." This school is not the only organization that considers conflict avoidance at least as important as making the right decision.

**The other event in contention for cruelest was done by one person who wanted a lot more money and one person who wanted a lot more fame. 

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