A fast-food chain once tried to compete with McDonald’s quarter-pounder by introducing a third-pound hamburger—only for it to flop when consumers thought a third pound was less than a quarter pound because three is less than four. Separately, a rash of suicides by teenagers who played Dungeons and Dragons caused a panic in parents and the media. They thought D&D was causing teenage suicides—when in fact teenage D&D players died by suicide at a much lower rate than the national average. Errors of this type can be found from antiquity to the present, from the Peloponnesian War to the COVID-19 pandemic. How and why do we keep falling into these traps?
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