Twenty Four Standard Causes of Human Misjudgement

A great post on Metafilter turned me on to "Twenty Four Standard Causes of Human Misjudgement," a classic 1995 speech by Charlie Munger (much cited, and transcribed here in PDF), in which Munger (a respected investor and partner to Warren Buffet) lays out, in plain language, the cognitive biases and blind-spots that he views as the root of much human misery.

Munger's thinking is greatly influenced by Robert Cialdini's classic popular psychology text Influence, a title that Munger credits with laying out many of the blind spots of both economics and psychology. Munger's thinking is collected in another book: Poor Charlie's Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger.

I converted the talk to MP3 and listened to it twice today. I think I'll return to it again -- this feels like one of those mind-dumps that contains so much to pore over that it might be a work of years.


  1. Is anyone else having problems with BoingBoing loading and then disappearing off the browser to a blank page? This has been happening to me multiple times today. Refresh, ah there it is, nope it’s gone again, refresh, nope gone again, refresh, ah there it is…and…it stuck around, yay!

    This is with Chrome.

    1. Yeah, I just now ran into that again while trying to see the comments for this post. It’s been happening off and on for the past several hours. The code’s still present, but the page is blank white. (Mac OSX/Chrome)

      And while I’m on the subject of broken site things: Disqus frequently crashes Safari on the iPad. The main site crashes it occasionally, but I’m constantly getting booted out of the browser when I view comments.

      1. I have that problem with the ipad, never tracked it down to disqus though.  I tend to visit boingboing in chrome when I’m using the iPad now.

      2.  I thought crashing was just what Safari did?
        (I used to work for Apple helldesking. Safari makes me REALLY cross)

    2. Yes, I am using Safari and having the main page go blank after loading.  I could only get to this page from the feed.

    3. This has been driving me nuts for a while now. It mostly happens to me on iOS, or I should say it happens on my desktop computer but it’s so powerful that the redraws are speedy and minimally invasive on my experience. On iOS though, in Safari especially (but also to a lesser extent in Chrome) the random redraws are completely destructive to readability. The display goes mostly or completely whited out, and whenever it comes back (entire seconds later, often several) the page is in a completely different place than where I left off…and when I try to scroll to where I was? You guessed it, the whole process starts over and loops.

    4.  I’ve just gone back to using Firefox for BB rather than Chrome thanks to the problems I was having.  I seem to have to change between the two every few months.  (This only affects BB, not other blogs.)  You must be on the same schedule but with slightly different timing.

        1.  When one has hearing issues, one misses something by not hearing the audio….yes, this is true.

          Thanks for the link, gibbon1.  My ears can hear, but my brain has auditory processing issues, so I appreciate having access to hearing-impaired solutions.

  2. I’m having a hard time with the feedback that is ever present after every sentence.  Someone take care of that, I can barely hear the man speak.

  3. Cialdini’s Influence has an odd publishing history. The full title of the first edition was Influence: How and why people agree to things, and the book seemed to be aimed at a general readership in need of protection from predatory business/sales/marketing practices. 

    In a perfect world that would have been that, with the book being issued to and studied by every 6th-grader in America. But instead the subsequent edition was retitled Influence: The New Psychology of Modern Persuasion, and festooned with cover quotes from retail management gurus. 

    The publishers evidently decided the best market for this invaluable book was the wolves, not the sheep.

        1. …no, you read the first twenty-four to know what’s already been tried and tested, so you can INVENT the twenty-fifth. Then you’re a marketing genius and you can start selling your own book. ;)

  4. I’m listening to the mp3 while reading the pdf.  For me the style of the delivery is endearing (the guy’s voice and manner remind me of Jimmy Stewart a bit), while the content is frustratingly strewn with jargon (whether from econ or psych, I’m not sure) that I can sort of partially guess the meaning of but which often leaves me grasping. Extrapolating from the parts I do understand, it’s not clear to me that working at comprehending the rest would be illuminating, rather than redundant. Just my 2 cents, ymmv.

    1.  I agree on the “nice delivery, too much jargon” part. I’m assuming the jargon is thanks to a) Munger working in a world that uses that jargon a lot and b) Munger talking to people who rely on that jargon to communicate. For myself, I want to learn the jargon simply so people can’t confuse me with it. :-) And I want to know what Munger is referencing, because whatever he’s referencing is probably important to economists and investors – and therefore, right or wrong, has bearing on the rest of us.

      (Jimmy Stewart? Maybe ’cause he’s gravelly and takes his time. I just like hearing my native accent.)

    2. Yeah, it’s not the easiest read, but I made it through the PDF, and IMHO it was a worthwhile effort. He draws on Robert Cialdini’s classic work “Influence” quite a bit. If you find the topic interesting but can’t handle Charlie’s delivery, I’d highly recommend checking out Cialdini’s book. It’s easy reading and you *will* get a lot out of it.

  5. he left out attention span (1hr + of talking)
    the phrase “i am the president (of the united states)”

  6. I’m confused – this guy is a lawyer and successful investor, who is essentially citing other’s work, particularly the book, Influence. He is not a psychologist, behaviourist or sociologist – but he is a guy who has partnered with big business to make hundreds of millions of dollars.

    What is he doing here ?

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