not at all a reflection of our true preferences or our level of demand

Jian Cho

Banned
Chinese
Hi. I was reading an economics book called Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely. In a chapter named "The Fallacy of Supply and Demand", I came across an em dash clause and I couldn't understand what it referred to in the sentence.
I suspect that the price changes would make a huge impact on demand if people remembered the previous prices and noticed the price increases; but I also suspect that without a memory for past prices, these price changes would have a trivial effect, if any, on demand. If people had no memory of past prices, the consumption of milk and wine would remain essentially the same, as if the prices had not changed. In other words, the sensitivity we show to price changes might in fact be largely a result of our memory for the prices we have paid in the past and our desire for coherence with our past decisions—not at all a reflection of our true preferences or our level of demand.

https://static1.squarespace.com/sta...57414fb5ef046b8df5/1486146391972/PI.51-76.pdf
Does the part in bold mean

a) The sensitivity we show to price changes is not at all a reflection of our true preferences.
b) The sensitivity we show to price changes might be due to this and that ... and this whole causality is not at all a reflection of our true preferences.

...or something else?

Also, second question, about the same part in bold:

Do you think "reflection" refers to "true preferences" only, or does it include "our level of demand" as well?
What I mean is, does that part actually read "a reflection of our true preferences or a reflection of our level of demand", OR is "our level of demand" standalone?

Thanks.
 
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  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    a) The sensitivity we show to price changes is not at all a reflection of our true preferences.
    This interpretation makes sense to me. Ariely speculates that the sensitivity we show to price changes might be largely a result of our memory of prices paid in the past and our desire to act in accordance with decisions we made in the past. I'm not sure why he excludes these reasons from his notion of what our true preferences are or what our level of demand is.

    The "reflection" mentioned should mean "reflection of our true preferences" and also "reflection of our level of demand."
     

    Jian Cho

    Banned
    Chinese
    The "reflection" mentioned should mean "reflection of our true preferences" and also "reflection of our level of demand."
    If the writer had put a comma before the "or" in that sentence, would you still say that "reflection" included "level of demand", or would you change your answer and say "level of demand" was standalone? Like an Oxford comma.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    A comma between "preferences" and "or" would not have changed my interpretation of what the final phrase meant.

    I'm sure such cases exist, but most of the time the presence or absence of a comma isn't enough to change my notion of what a sentence or phrase means.
     
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    Jian Cho

    Banned
    Chinese
    My last question. Forgive me if I'm overstepping my bounds.

    Hypothetically, how would the author have written the em dash sentence if he had wanted to give the meaning in option B? What would one go about changing in that sentence to give the meaning in option B?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    He would have needed to convey more clearly that many things -- not just our memory of past behavior and our desire for coherence with past decisions -- affected our sensitivity to price changes. He would also have needed to state clearly that all these other considerations were irrelevant in his notions about what constituted our true preferences and our true level of demand.

    Of course, it takes a genuinely interested and determined reader to make his way through convoluted language about some technical or academic subject. This sort of thing would put me to sleep within two minutes.:cool:
     
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