walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

book selection heuristics

I have a lot of them. Many of them have been heavily mocked over the years, but honestly, they're really good.

And I have a new one: don't read books about how People Make Bad Decisions: Here's How They Do It, Why They Should Stop, and What They Should Do Instead.

I mean, it's a _great_ topic. Unfortunately, it seems to bring out the worst in people.

p. 19 in _Worst-Case Scenarios_ by Cass Sunstein:

"Many people refuse to go to doctors and ignore incipient medical problems because they fear the worst-case scenario. Indeed, an active debate about how often people should be tested for cancer has been fueled by evidence that such testing produces real anxiety, which itself can lead to health problems. 3"

When you scramble wildly to look at 3, because, like me, you've read Welch's excellent book, _Should I Be Tested for Cancer?_ and recognize that this description is, at the very least, wildly misleading, and you really want to know where the heck Sunstein got this bizarre idea, you find ... Welch's excellent book cited with no additional notes.


There's actually an interpretation here that makes Sunstein Not Wrong: ambiguous test results cause anxiety on the part of health care professionals who then press their customers to undergo more, invasive testing. Further, many tests predict with poor accuracy a bad outcome which is unlikely to really do a person in before they die of some other cause (for example, PSA tests and prostate cancer) leading to treatment with an enormously high probability of some other bad outcome (incontinence, impotence).

Is that what _you_ think of when you read Sunstein's sentence above? A doctor -- an entire medical community -- experiencing anxiety relieved only by invasive and dangerous treatments, as a result of a test?

And honestly, that's not even a worst-case scenario.

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