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11 Nov 2013

Objective Value, Experts as Masters of Illusions

Value as IllusionOften, when unsure about value, we defer to experts. Experts are often leaders, so they bring leadership’s dark side with them: followers allowing leaders to do the thinking for them. Thus, experts will often set anchor to the value and price of things in our minds without us even trying to establish them for ourselves.

The problem is that experts, even scientists, are as human as we are. Consider that names of submitters affect the value scientists place on grant applications. Names also affect art assessors who often can’t tell between original art and great fakes (“The Emperor’s New Pictures” [The Economist, September 21, 2013 edition]). Even academic publishers have difficulty distinguishing real scientific papers from fake ones let alone those backed by poor science (“Science’s Sokal Moment” [The Economist, October 5, 2013 edition]).

Experts also fall victim to the same subliminal influences as we do. For example, men’s movements influence women’s assessments of men’s attractiveness. Similarly, musicians’ movements affect judges’ assessments of their performances (“The Sound of Silence” [The Economist, August 24, 2013 edition]).

Yet, before we believe we are the experts of our individual experiences and can consistently set our own objective values, consider “No Check, Please” (Bloomberg Businessweek, October 3, 2013 edition) by Joshua Brustein. Reporting how we pay influences the tip we leave, Brustein illustrates that for the same serving experience, we aren’t likely to have an objective value of that experience that will allow us to tip consistently. In short, objective value neither exists within experts nor within ourselves.

Thus, if we know experts’ value judgments are largely subjective and illusionary, they become doors to innovation when we challenge the judgments’ underlying assumptions. In other words, these judgments are likely forming the sides of the box outside of which we are trying to think.

 

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