Tag: The Guardian (page 2 of 25)

Dark patterns and gambling

Given that most gambling these days happens via smartphone apps, and that the psychological tricks used by gambling firms are also used by, for example, for-profit centralised social media sites, I found this fascinating (and worrying!)

Person climbing up a stack of dice

Kim Lund, founder of poker game firm Aftermath Interactive, has made a career out of game design and has seen at first-hand how cold, hard probability defeats the illogical human mind every time – and allows the gambling companies to cash in. “All gambling games are based on psychological triggers that mean they work,” he tells me. “The human brain is incapable of dealing with randomness. We’re obsessed with finding patterns in things because that prevents us from going insane. We want to make sense of things.”


In her 1975 paper The Illusion of Control, Ellen J Langer conducted a series of experiments that showed that our expectations of success in a game of chance vary, depending on factors that do not actually affect the outcome. One of the variables that makes a big difference to how gamblers behave is the introduction of an element of choice. In one of Langer’s experiments, subjects were given lottery tickets with an American football player on them. Some subjects got to choose which player they wanted, others were allocated a ticket at random. On the morning of the draw, everyone was asked how much they would be prepared to sell their ticket for. Those who had chosen their ticket demanded an average of $8.67, while those who had been allocated one at random were prepared to give it up for $1.96.

Source: What gambling firms don’t want you to know – and how they keep you hooked | Thee Guardian

The burnout epidemic

I work an average of about 25 hours per week and I’m tired at the end of it. I can’t even imagine how I coped in my twenties while teaching.

Escalator with man in suit asleep on it

Textile mill workers in Manchester, England, or Lowell, Massachusetts, two centuries ago worked for longer hours than the typical British or American worker today, and they did so in dangerous conditions. They were exhausted, but they did not have the 21st-century psychological condition we call burnout, because they did not believe their work was the path to self-actualization. The ideal that motivates us to work to the point of burnout is the promise that if you work hard, you will live a good life: not just a life of material comfort, but a life of social dignity, moral character and spiritual purpose.


This promise, however, is mostly false. It’s what the philosopher Plato called a “noble lie”, a myth that justifies the fundamental arrangement of society. Plato taught that if people didn’t believe the lie, then society would fall into chaos. And one particular noble lie gets us to believe in the value of hard work. We labor for our bosses’ profit, but convince ourselves we’re attaining the highest good. We hope the job will deliver on its promise, and hope gets us to put in the extra hours, take on the extra project and live with the lack of a raise or the recognition we need.

Source: Your work is not your god: welcome to the age of the burnout epidemic | The Guardian

Private schools having charitable status is an absolute scam

I’ve always been against private schooling. I’m glad that others, even those who went to them themselves, are also seeing how bad they are for society.

I hate the new trend of British private schools opening branches abroad because the reason, it seems to me, is naked and unreflecting expansionism. It’s not spreading the original institution’s educational values because, as the Times investigation shows, they’re all too ready to drop those values in order to continue to trade. The desire for revenue obviously plays a part but, as the institutions don’t make profits, I don’t think personal financial rewards for the various executive headteachers or boards of governors are a huge factor. It’s less intelligent than that. It comes from an ill-considered capitalistic urge for growth, nothing more thought through than bigger is better.

This is the same reason McDonald’s opened a branch in Soviet Moscow, but that was fine because, as far as I know, McDonald’s has never applied for charitable status. What is astonishing is how, by conducting themselves in this way, private schools seem to have given up on making a meaningful argument to retain that status themselves. They’ve just stopped caring about the views of the likes of me. Is the right wing of the Conservative party now so completely dominant that the idea of keeping the sympathy of anyone on the left or in the centre feels like a waste of time?

Source: Expansionist private schools need a lesson in morality | David Mitchell | The Guardian