Hot Ice and Anomalous Behaviors
My memory takes me back to the seventies while studying for my PhD in chemistry in the UK. One of the students had a basket filled with ice to cool a reaction vessel. His initials on the basket read HOT. Students were laughing because hot ice was a funny idea. This memory reminds me of a natural anomaly. The ‘sea smoke’, the steam arising out of the Black Sea is caused due the humidity of the oceanic water counteracting with the coolness of the wind over the water’s surface. Hot ice and smoking sea- these two thoughts spurred the idea of this buzz and the role of anomalies in our lives.
Anomalies are defined as anomaly is defined as a departure from the common order, something that is peculiar, irregular, abnormal, or difficult to classify. Anomalies are the states of disorder and not obeying the order in a system. For this reason, anomalies may tend to be spontaneous and more abundant than we might think of. If they are the natural state, why do we call them anomalous?
Water that fills our bodies is the most anomalous liquid. Not only that even solid water (ice) behaves abnormally than other solids. We are filled with anomaly and could this be the reason why we think irrationally? It is amazing how such a simple molecule water is; yet it shows complex behavior. Our simple actions create complex anomalies without intending them. For example, our need to have open sources to enhance collaboration has opened the door for threats of theft and virus attacks. When we tried to pool our minds together new threats emerged. It is these anomalies that draw our attention for we have the interest and curiosity to understand them and uncover their secrets.
No wonder the anomalous behaviors of humans have attracted the attention of many researchers. One case is left-handedness. More than 70% of people are right-handed. Many studies have focused on the complex differences resulting from such a small difference. For example, do right-handed people have different skills and longer life spans than left-handed people?
As humans interact they create anomalies. One great study I find of great interest is that reported by RJ Shiller titled “Human Behavior and the Efficiency of the Financial System”. This study sheds light on several human and investors anomalous behaviors. One anomaly is Regret and Cognitive Dissonance. There is a human tendency to feel the pain of regret at having made errors, even small errors, not putting such errors into a larger perspective. Regret theory may be interpreted as implying that investors avoid selling stocks that have gone down in order not to finalize the error they make, and not to feel the regret. They sell stocks that have gone up in order that they cannot regret failing to do so before the stock later fell. No wonder many investors lose their money. People prefer to not admit mistakes by making greater mistakes. Mistakes are spontaneous because they are disorderly.
There are many more tendencies of anomalous human behaviors such as their tendency to show overconfidence when interviewed. The disjunction effect is a tendency for people to want to wait to make decisions until information is revealed, even if the information is not important for the decision, and even if they would make the same decision regardless of the information. Why do people behave this way is still subject for further research?
Anomalous human behavior is manifested in many other forms such as The Placebo Effect. This is best defined by Michael Brooks as “somehow, sometimes, a whole lot of nothing can be very powerful”. Give morphine to somebody suffering from pain for few days and then replace the morphine with a saline solution. The effect the patient still feels the pain is reduced even though morphine has been removed. Like we succeed in investing and we tend to believe our repeated successes are due to our decisions here we may believe that our success in reducing the pain is based on our success to reduce the pain. We turn mirages into real running water of success forgetting that water itself has anomalous behavior.
We collaborate to produce successes and then produce anomalous results. The anomalies we see in the smoke of the Black Ocean we may see them in the ocean of big data that we produce, in our collective behaviors and in our seas of knowledge.
Anomalies are everywhere as they represent disorder that attract our eyes. If you see fifty women dressed in black and only one woman dressed in white your attention will focus on the anomalous lady. Is there an escape from anomaly? I doubt there is.
If you have a case on anomalous behaviors, then you are most invited to share it here.