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Rational decision making, operant conditioning and the invisible hand

Rational decision making involving weighing out an array of probabilities, to determine which set of consequences is likely to happen. This requires a methodical gathering of the facts process. After facts are gathered they must be checked and weighed for purposes of determining the truth or credence. It is the problem of lack of information integrity, disinformation, misinformation, and lies which cause errors in rational decision making because rational decisions gain correctness or accuracy when there is more situation awareness and when you cannot determine the true situation you cannot make critical decisions and know the consequences.

Decision makers who are not consequentialists make decisions from their gut, from intuition, the heart, superstition or tradition. The ethics of deontology may fit this category. Moral realism where certain acts are right or wrong based on the nature of the act rather than the consequences or end result. The situation does not matter if a deotologist believes lying is always wrong then even to save lives they would still believe it is wrong to lie. This could be because for them lying is a sin or because they were taught not to lie through operant conditioning.

Operant conditioning, reason, morals

Operant conditioning is a type of learning which occurs as a result of reward and punishment. An association is made between a behaviour and a consequence in the brain of the participant/student. Operant conditioning allows for behaviour modifications to be programmed into the participant /student which means the student has learned to adopt new behaviours to avoid unfavourable results.

Operant conditioning and ethics

A consequentialist is an individual who makes a decision by weighing the consequences of the action. Consequentialism is a rational form of morality. Not all individuals are rational, some individuals adopt behaviours which lead to unfavourable results.

Situationism recognizes that personality is shaped by situations. Behaviour is a result of situations which produce a finite set of options from which there may or may not be favourable options. Sometimes the least favourable options must be avoided. The case may be that one of the unfavourable options is the least unfavourable. This means that if there is a scenario where no matter what decision you choose people are going to be hurt then your only remaining option is to choose who and how many, sometimes the only possible solution requires hurting a few people to protect many people and many of these situations are situations we may be placed in involuntarily.

It is important to note that intuition is a result of operant conditioning. That feelings such as guilt are the result of conditioning, which means it's nurture rather than nature. An individual can be conditioned by others to feel guilty about anything, and the individual can condition themselves into feeling guilty about anything. If the goal of the individual is to have more self control then it's important to note the role of operant condition on ethics and in particular deontology and moral realism based ethics.

Santa is the ultimate operant conditioner of children

Santa is a tool invented by adults to teach morality to children. Santa keeps a list of good and bad kids. The good kids or kids who display good behaviour are given gifts which act as reinforcers for that behaviour which parents want to see more of and define as good. Santa uses operant conditioning to teach children right from wrong until the gut feeling of guilt or of intuition is programmed in. As adults many still have these gut reactions and intuition from their childhood experiences.

Religion is the ultimate operant conditioner of adults

As adults the religions may contain lists of stuff never to do, those who breach the contract for any reason will go to hell. Is hell any more real than Santa? It is used in the same was as a tool to condition behaviours into adults. Santa traces back to Dutch folklore and was called De Goede Sint which means The Good Saint. The idea of Santa may go back further than that but Santa serves the same purpose as God the father. Santa rewards the good kids. God on the other rewards the good people with an eternity in heaven and punishes the bad people with an eternity in hell.

Money is the ultimate operant conditioner of rationalists

First to define a rationalist, a rationalist is an individual who seeks to be rational above all else. Being a rationalist does not mean the individual must be an atheist, it does not mean the individual is rational all the time, it just means that the individual makes their decisions based on external evidence over gut feelings. To a rationalist reason is everything.

When tools like invisible men, or invisible places after we die fail, another tool works in it's place and that tool is money. Market behaviours are shaped by the flow of money which determines if an activity of behaviour is profitable or not. The invisible hand is the influence of holiday characters like Santa, superstitions, and religion all which can produce through operant conditioning new sets of behaviours. If we look up where the word consumer originated and why it is popularized we can learn a lot. Memes control trends, trends shape what is cool, and cool becomes good over time. The role of marketing in influencing human behaviour, and the role of the media in shaping purchasing behaviour is understated but because they influence the flow of money it should be of a great concern to rationalists.

The invisible hand is not always rational

People make choices they are taught to make. Most people rarely make decisions for themselves. People make choices they are told they ought to make in accordance with tradition, or what is considered cool at the time. Those who wish to make decisions for themselves are bombarded with fake information, false facts, black propaganda, so that it's very unlikely wise decisions can be found when flooded with garbage information. When most if not all information sources are corrupted or corruptible then even something simple like labels with the list of ingredients become difficult to find.

If labels just weren't cool or trendy anymore due to marketing campaigns then cool people wont perceive labels as good and wouldn't want them. If religious people decide labels are immoral then another group of people would perceive labels as bad. The word label itself may eventually take on such a negative connotation that no one can say the word and forget about trying to discuss it.

That is how the invisible hand works in practice. Even if putting labels on products were more profitable for all, the invisible hand is not always rational.


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