June 13, 2012

Smarter people are more vulnerable to thinking errors...

... that come in the form of taking mental shortcuts in place of getting the facts and doing the math.

28 comments:

traditionalguy said...

Without feedback from actual experiences, we all are stuck in a partial fantasy world. The smarter the person is the easier they claim a right to impose their fantasy and refuse feedback loops from dummies with actual experiences.

This never stops. We can fight it with free discussions/free speech, but the Phds seldom listen. Listening to others make their points is always worth the time it takes, but few do it out of fear of losing control and the income from control.

pduggie said...

I thought there was no way to actually study and identify high intelligence? Cultural bias, testing test taking ability, etc

Bob Ellison said...

Here’s a simple arithmetic question: A bat and ball cost a dollar and ten cents. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

The vast majority of people respond quickly and confidently, insisting the ball costs ten cents. This answer is both obvious and wrong. (The correct answer is five cents for the ball and a dollar and five cents for the bat.)


An intelligent person does not waste time on such puffery. He/she says "it's about a buck". Only an idiot like a New Yorker writer would find it useful.

edutcher said...

Well, that explains a lot.

Maybe I can have my 5th grade arithmetic final re-graded.

LordSomber said...

"What explains this result? One provocative hypothesis is that the bias blind spot arises because of a mismatch between how we evaluate others and how we evaluate ourselves."

So it's not a smart or dumb thing, but the old Dunning–Kruger effect. This is news?

jimspice said...

That's like saying people who fish are more prone to fishing related errors.

X said...

this totally explains Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and George W Bush.

Matthew Sablan said...

This is why I just don't think.

Wait, that's not helping either, is it?

elkh1 said...

"taking mental shortcuts in place of getting the facts and doing the math"

Sounds like lazy ignorant smart-asses who are so full of themselves. A lot like the One in the White House, yes?

Is this a way to explain why the most Brilliant One is so ignorant of facts and lack of common sense? Alas, common sense is for commoners who are not smart enough to make mental shortcuts and are on earth to toil for the Smart One.

MadisonMan said...

The kinds of questions they ask in that article are easy to get right if you think beforehand that they are trying to trick you.

ndspinelli said...

Most folks know there are different kinds of "smart." When I would walk up to a person trying to get information using a pretext, it was much more difficult to con an inner city person than say a college professor.

bagoh20 said...

This is the theme of a lot of my commenting here, since this forum has really smart people. It's like going to Rwanda to help the starving, or to a bank to steal money, and this is why con men do so well with smart people. Obama is con man.

"The kinds of questions they ask in that article are easy to get right if you think beforehand that they are trying to trick you."

Which is the only way you should evaluate politics, or public policy for the same reason. And politics is one place where this intelligent stupidity runs rampant.

Henry said...

Madison Man wrote this: The kinds of questions they ask in that article are easy to get right if you think beforehand that they are trying to trick you.

Which dovetailed with something I was thinking. I'm not so interested in the bias and laziness of the average smart (or dumb) person. I'd like to know more about the outliers. What makes a skeptic? A Montaigne? A Nassim Taleb?

If you think the world is trying to trick you, are you less inclined to bias?

Being a skeptic I like jimspice's reaction: That's like saying people who fish are more prone to fishing related errors.

Matthew Sablan said...

Con men prefer smart people because they are easy marks. But, also for another reason. A dumb person, who thinks he is being conned, bugs out ASAP. A smart person, a smart person is allured by the thought: "Hah, since I'm on to him, I can out fox him."

I wonder how many people have lost, even though they knew they were being swindled, because they thought: "I can win this exchange."

DKWalser said...

This is why CPAs use "work programs" and check lists -- to ensure against these types of mental errors that come from short-cutting the process. My insistence on going through the process sometimes frustrates my clients. They often suspect I can answer their question without the expense of cross footing my calculations and re-reading code sections, but I cannot afford the error rate that accompanies off-the-top-of-my-head advice.

I'm about to help a client implement a multi-million dollar transaction. While I've worked on similar transactions for other clients dozens of times and might be able to do the thing justice in my sleep, taking the extra hour or two to do it right is cheap insurance. A foot fault would cost my client (and my malpractice carrier) millions.

I'm sure other professions insist on following proper procedures for similar reasons.

Dan in Philly said...

Can I tell my boss this is the reason I screw up so much? I'm just too freaking smart?

Crunchy Frog said...

And the truly intelligent know how to read word problems carefully in order to get the correct answer.

William said...

My first response was, well, this explains so much about liberals. My second response was that my first response was an example of a blind bias spot.....I didn't fall for the questions either, but that's because I was somewhat anchored by knowing it was a trick question....I suppose you can get tripped up by mental shortcuts, but sometimes you can save a lot of time. Maybe, on balance, mental shortcuts get you to your destination sooner, albeit with a skinned knee..... The best and the brightest have an impressive list of failures to their record, but the worst and the dumbest have done their share in making the world a hideous place.

Chip S. said...

This can really civilize internet comment threads. For example, when I say that jimspice's comment incorrectly characterizes the findings of the study (AFAICT from the abstract), I'm really just saying that he's got above-average intelligence.

Of course, this may lead to people making intentional cognitive errors in order to look smart. But then, they'd have to be kind of smart to figure out that strategy, so would that make them likelier to screw it up?

Paradox!

furious_a said...

...the bias blind spot arises because of a mismatch between how we evaluate others and how we evaluate ourselves."

Or "smarter" persons, because of their presumed smarter-ness and self awareness thereof, can rationalize even the worst decision-making.

...the expense of cross footing my calculations and re-reading code sections...

My spelling and calc errors are usually id'd immediately by hitting SEND or SUBMIT. Amazing how quickly, too, after all that proof-reading.

The kinds of questions they ask in that article are easy to get right if you think beforehand that they are trying to trick you.

Try to teach my kid, when helping with math homework, to determine first what it is they are being asked to solve? They can then organize (or ignore) details as needed.

n.n said...

It's the arrogance factor. The smart people remain wary of its intrusion.

n.n said...

Here's another possibility to explain this observation. Smarter people may be predisposed to taking greater risks and therefore experience an increased likelihood to commit errors.

I'll stop here. After reading only the summary, I may be committing a redundancy error by "recreating the wheel."

EDH said...

"Why Is Everyone So Fucking Stupid?"

Blue@9 said...

This sounds like something Socrates would have demolished with glee. What is intelligence? Is it simply something that a person is? Or is it something demonstrable in what a person does or says? If you say that an intelligent person is more prone to make dumb mistakes, why did you start with the premise that the person is intelligent?

Christy said...

My mental shortcut in evaluating the article was a simple "BS!"

I, too, took the mental shortcut to the wrong answer in the first question, but immediately recognized the error and corrected. Guess I'm not intelligent enough.

What was the IQ (or IQ proxy) range of the subjects? In what fields were they trained? Would a 140 IQ who majored in literature respond the same way a biology major would?

Following up on DKWasler's comment, protocols are important. Protocols are boring, however. They are not sexy. They don't make us interesting and fulfill no short term goals. Only those in fields with consequences learn about them.

Wouldn't most mental shortcut mistakes have no serious consequences?

'Sides, if you're really smart, your guesses are usually right, or right enough for government work. Why bother to do the hard work?

Amartel said...

Thinking is for the little people.

The Crack Emcee said...

Three little quotes say it all - Quote Number One:

The attack - and the news that the cult had attracted students from Japan's elite universities - at first caused nationwide hand-wringing about the country's narrow, education-driven path to success, which demands extreme conformity while offering few outlets for individual expression.

Quote Number Two:

Christopher in MA said…

If Crack were awake, he would blame New Age and then the rest of us for not listening to him.



And then he'd tell us it's really all part of Romney's secret plan to impose Mormonism on America.

And Quote Number Three:

But what happens to people who do stand up and say something here?

Oh, you're just angry, bigoted, a closet righty/lefty trying to demoralize/troll/stir up trouble.

That's what happens here.

Extra credit - just to show Christopher in MA is an idiot:

I do wonder how rare these cults are, though.

Hard to say. If you lived through the Satanic cult / ritual child abuse cult hysteria of the 1980s, you could be forgiven for thinking every third person you saw was either a devil worshipper or a pederast.

Bullshit - witnessing hysteria, based on false information, is no way judge anything. If you want to know the answer to something, use common sense and either ask or look it up. ("Duh! That Crack Emcee,…") Here's the take-away I care about:

One of the sidelights of the current study that occurred to me while I was designing the questionnaire resulted from my happening to read an article by a constitutional law scholar. That article was in the context of the well publicized kidnapping and subsequent brainwashing of 14-year old Elizabeth Smart in Utah. The article suggested that the kidnapper should be prosecuted for brainwashing as well as aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, and aggravated burglary. As a result of that article, it occurred to me to ask survey participants whether they would support or oppose a law against brainwashing in their own state, Pennsylvania. No discussion of the details of a possible brainwashing law was presented. There were 5 choices of answers: strongly support, support, can't say, oppose, or strongly oppose. Over 50% checked "strongly support," or "support," about a quarter checked "can't say," while only 13.5% checked "oppose," or "strongly oppose." These results suggest that more attention be given to this area.

But we can't do that, because there's so many of "smart" folks (like Christopher in MA) suggesting cultism's nothing to worry about - even as we prepare to hand the country over to one - because it's just my dumb obsession.

Funny how that "works"...

Nora said...

These are dumb conclusions from "smart people" inability to solve the simplest math problems. The conclussion should be that the education system fails, if even "smart people" are unable to solve a simple math problem. Too many people do not know the difference between verbal reasoning and elementary logic that proper teaching of maths helps to develop, i.e. facts based reasoning.

As a result we have prolifiration of speculation based "sciences" that lead to dumb analyses, missing logical conclusions.