Prestige Bias

Why do things like Wall Street Journal or New York Times become trusted sources? How come graduating from Harvard or Yale impresses people? Why are there luxury band cars, hotels, foods, and on and on…?


We have prestige bias. Well maybe you don’t. And I hope not to. I am not sure where I am going with this other than the origin of things shouldn’t have such an impact on our view of their truthfulness. Of course a company’s advertising will tell you they are the best. What do independent researchers say?

Consumer Reports gives what they call unbiased reviews. But we all have biases. Just maybe not towards what we are reviewing. But honest opinions won’t always change a persons mind. People behave irrationally. I know I’ve studied them. Met people who are irrational. And am irrational myself sometimes.

For example I am trying to eat healthier as part of my workout plan. But the other day I ate an entire package of Nabisco Chewy Chips Ahoy! Brownie Filled Soft Cookies.



They tasted good, but not great. I probably would have enjoyed some regular brownies better. But it was irrational. And then I took a nap. For 2 hours! Basically my body shut down to process what the hell just happened.

Taxes season is upon us. Several people turn to tax prepares and other tax services. The thing is most people don’t have a complicated tax situation. They could do it themselves. One year I did mine by phone in a matter of about 10 minutes. Of course it was because I was single at the time and only have one W-2.The point being people have fear so they seek prestige.

Most online tax prep services will allow you to get started for free. And depending on your needs you can file for free too.

But enough about taxes. The only thing more thrilling to talk about now would be death.

As I lay dying…

Death sparks a ton of questions. And I love asking questions. Just ask my wife.

As part of Day 27 of Claudia’s book Become An Idea Machine, the assignment is to go on Quora and find ten questions that pull you in and why. And I’ll probably have questions for the question. If questioning made money I’d be rich!

1. How are managers at Google promoted?

Why this interests me:

I have a friend who use to work for Microsoft for a long while. He has told some crazy stories on the promotional process there. None good. So the idea of someone being interested in how it is done at Google would for me be a fascinating comparison.

Also I wonder why someone would ask this? Are they trying to get promoted? Who really wants to work in management anyways? Don’t all people at Google just goof off all day? I have seen footage of their set up. Kinda cult culture. Blurred lines. But hey I use their stuff and like it so something good is going on.

2. What are the best ways to increase traffic to a Personal Blog?

Why this interests me:

This is interesting to me for obvious reasons. I have found 101 Ways to Promote Your Next Blog Post by Kim Roach to be quite helpful also.

3. I could not solve an easy problem. Should I quit programming?

Why this interests me:

This one is very fascinating to be. In part because I quit so easily when I am not good at things right away. This question almost admits defeat already. It is written by someone looking for an excuse to quit. It is as if they are too afraid to do it on their own and what someone else to tell them what to do. They don’t want to take the responsibility and want a way to shift blame later.

Plus quitting is the easy way out. Sometimes. This question spawns: Why did you start programming to begin with? Did you think it would be easy? Did you have superior self-image and think you would be fantastic at it without putting in the work? Did you learn from your mistake? Don’t you think making mistakes is a valuable part of the learning process?

4. Why would anyone want to be an employee and not an entrepreneur?

Why this interests me:

This question (like most) starts from a bias. The bias being that being an entrepreneur is somehow better than being an employee. This is simple some people don’t have to have all the responsibility of being an entrepreneur. Some people are afraid. Some people don’t like being in charge. Or don’t know how. Or have never tried.

The question also seems to presuppose being an entrepreneur is just a choice that people could make on a whim. To be an entrepreneur you have to work hard. Have ideas. Have a plan. Or not. Be convincing. Raise money. Or have money. Have a purpose. Have a goal. A dream. Stuff like that. Some people are into that. Others not so much. Plus where would entrepreneurs be without employees? Sometimes someone has to do some work right? Or should we all just be the Leisure Class?

5. How can I be the one whose opinion is always valued?

Why this interests me:

This question invokes emotions. It makes me sad or incredulous depending on how you read it. Which brings up a good point at this point. The way text is read and interpreted by the individual reader may evoke a variety of responses. Some unintended. But back to the question. It makes me sad it the person asking it does not feel that their opinion is valuable. The might have low or no self-worth which invokes pity. I think everyone is valuable and that they have something to contribute to society.

If the person means by their question how to always be seen as valuable, then I am incredulous. Where is the humility? What makes you think that your opinion should always be valued? Isn’t it possible your opinion is wrong? And when it is does it have value? Yes and No. Yes because it shows what is not correct. And No because people only want to know what is right.

6. Is it good to allow a user to upload a profile image even if it is not useful?

Why this interests me:

This invokes a deeper question: Does something have to be useful to be good? The need for something to be useful to be good is a worldview of utilitarianism. Reductio ad Absurdum: We don’t need old people or babies because they don’t contribute usefully to the economic society. Without babies you have no adults. Without adults you have no old people.
Should everything have to be useful? Is art useful? Is ascetics important? Have I read too many philosophy books in my life?

7. What are the factors that I should consider when choosing SEO packages for my business website?

Why this interests me:

This assumes you should do SEO. James say “Do not worry about SEO for your blog”. But this guy is asking for a business website. So maybe he should? I still think no. I think that if you understand SEO enough you can do it yourself. If you don’t understand SEO then you should look into it. If you pay someone to do it for you you will probably end up with a bunch of crap. Or if you are in the SEO business and can prove me wrong, by all means go ahead. But I would just save the money and offer better services or products. Have good quality products or services and people will pay you. Promote other ways. Don’t try to trick people into finding you because search results change constantly and being at the top of a google search will never last. Plus you might pay to get to the top and only be at the top of some crazy specific search for deer antler spray.

8. What is the most important data we should consider before investing in the stock market?

Why this interests me:

This is funny to me. Everything I’ve read and learned about the stock market can be summed up with the following: No one know why it goes up and down and you can’t beat the market. So with those premises you can study any data you want and it won’t make a hill of beans of a difference. No one can know the future and people who have studied the past of the stock market are not much better off. If you like to geek out on wall street data, have fun. As for me? Not so much.

9. Why wasn’t Mike Piazza inducted into the Hall of Fame?

Why this interests me:

I am a baseball fan! I love baseball and should tell about it in a future blog. I’ve mentioned it briefly in the past. This question I also find funny. He didn’t get in because they didn’t vote for him. Next. But seriously there is much that goes into the process and I am not brushed up enough to tell you anything about it. Click the question link to find out more. I notice many questions catch my interest and pull me in. Probably because of my love of questions.

10. How high should one set their target?

Why this interests me:

What should one dream? Can someone else workout for you? Why should you seek someone else to set your limit? Why limit yourself? Tony Robbins suggest moving the target closer to build confidence. It makes sense to set and hit smaller goals first to build up momentum and prove to yourself you can do it.


You don’t have to have prestige to know things. But it might help to get you heard.

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