Numbers are scientific.
Jack Herlocker

I think this flows from a) most people are incredibly uncomfortable with uncertainty, and quantification provides a comfortable illusion of knowledge (the same can be said of religion and many political movements), and b) our psychology makes us believe numbers, even when they are manufactured from thin air. If numbers increase our audience’s credence, of course we’ll favor them, whether they are meaningful or not.

An evolutionary psychologist might posit that our primitive brains adapted to use numbers as gauges of risk and reward — our tribe might be able to take one lone lion or gorilla and get food, but a whole pride or band would be a threat to run from.

We’re not nearly as advanced from lizard brains as we’d like to think, and we get fooled by our “sophisticated” models all the time, whether in economics, finance, biology, or politics…

Like what you read? Give Marc Milgrom a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.