Saturday, May 14, 2011

On the Heart: Absent-Minded Science, Part IX

“Excuse me luv,” the woman said to me as I walked down the street on my way to the train station. As I turned around to see who was speaking, she picked my scarf up from the ground, which I had evidently just dropped, and handed it to me with a smile.

I was visiting Reading, England, and was always pleasantly surprised, amused, and a little perplexed by the familiar “luv” manner of speech in this rainy island where I was born.

The scarf had been given to me about a week earlier, by a very nice woman named Julie who was looking after my grandfather for a few days. The gift was unexpected, as I had never met Julie before then.

The kindness of strangers seems irrational to some people and wouldn’t generally be considered economically rational behavior to an economist focused on pure cost/benefit analysis. Thankfully, humans aren’t entirely rational creatures, despite the assumptions of economists. We follow our hearts as much or probably more than we do our heads.

This latest essay in my series on absent-minded science continues the exploration of reason and logic, begun in my last installment. Part X will conclude the series with a light-hearted examination of why certain explanations are more compelling than others.

Read the rest here.

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