Portraits of Wildflowers

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Archive for September 9th, 2021

Amberique bean flowering

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I don’t often come across amberique bean (Strophostyles helvula or helvola) in Austin. I did on August 22nd in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183. You can probably tell that this plant is in the pea family. Harder to determine is the origin of the name amberique. My research failed to turn up anything definitive, but I did come across the hypothesis that the word originated in an indigenous language.

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On August 20th I quoted from the 2021 book Noise, by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Siboney, and Cass R. Sunstein. Here’s another interesting passage, this time about interviewing job applicants.

The power of first impressions is not the only problematic aspect of interviews. Another is that as interviewers, we want the candidate sitting in front of us to make sense (a manifestation of our excessive tendency… to seek and find coherence). In one striking experiment, researchers assigned students to play the role of the interviewer or interviewee and told both that the interview should consist only of closed-ended, yes-or-no questions. They then asked some of the interviewees to answer questions randomly. (The first letter of the questions as formulated determined if they should answer yes or no.) As the researchers wryly note, “Some of the interviewees were initially concerned that the random interview would break down and be revealed to be nonsense. No such problem occurred, and the interviews proceeded.” You read that right: not a single interviewer realized that the candidates were giving random answers. Worse, when asked to estimate whether they were “able to infer a lot about this person given the amount of time we spent together,” interviewers in this “random” condition were as likely to agree as those who had met candidates responding truthfully. Such is our ability to create coherence. As we can often find an imaginary pattern in random data or imagine a shape in the contours of a cloud, we are capable of finding logic in perfectly meaningless answers.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 9, 2021 at 4:31 AM

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