Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Why Smart People Are Stupid

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the gotta-be-the-shoes dept.

Science 337

nicholast writes "There's a good piece by Jonah Lehrer at the New Yorker about why smart people are often more likely to make cognitive errors than stupid people. The article examines research about the shortcuts that our brains take while answering questions, and explains why even the smartest people take these shortcuts too. Quoting: 'One provocative hypothesis is that the bias blind spot arises because of a mismatch between how we evaluate others and how we evaluate ourselves. When considering the irrational choices of a stranger, for instance, we are forced to rely on behavioral information; we see their biases from the outside, which allows us to glimpse their systematic thinking errors. However, when assessing our own bad choices, we tend to engage in elaborate introspection. We scrutinize our motivations and search for relevant reasons; we lament our mistakes to therapists and ruminate on the beliefs that led us astray. The problem with this introspective approach is that the driving forces behind biases—the root causes of our irrationality—are largely unconscious, which means they remain invisible to self-analysis and impermeable to intelligence. In fact, introspection can actually compound the error, blinding us to those primal processes responsible for many of our everyday failings.'"

cancel ×

337 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Makes sense (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40302703)

The article examines research about the shortcuts that our brains take while answering questions, and explains why even the smartest people take these shortcuts too.

Because without taking shortcuts those very smart people wouldn't be able to achieve their goal of getting first post.

Re:Makes sense (-1, Troll)

I'llRapeAsIPlease (2660707) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303017)

Nearly four months ago, I noticed that my internet connection was very sluggish. Eventually getting fed up with it, I began to seek out software that would speed up the gigabits in my router. After an hour of searching, I found what at first appeared to be a very promising piece of software. Not only did it claim it would speed up my internet connection, but that it would overclock my power supply, speed up my gigabits, and remove any viruses from my computer! "This is a fantastic opportunity that I simply can't pass up," I thought. I immediately downloaded the software and began the installation, all the while laughing like a small child. I was highly anticipating a future where the speed of my internet connection would leave everyone else's in the dust.

I was horribly, horribly naive. Immediately upon the completion of the software's installation, various messages popped up on my screen about how I needed to buy software to remove a virus that I wasn't aware I had from a software company I'd never once heard of. The strange software also blocked me from doing anything except buying the software it was advertising. Being that I was a computer whiz (I had taken a computer essentials class in high school that taught me how to use Microsoft Office, and was quite adept at accessing my Facebook account), I was immediately able to conclude that the software I'd downloaded was, in fact, a virus, and that it was slowing down my gigabits at an exponential rate. "I can't let this insanity proceed any further," I thought.

As I was often called a computer genius, I was confident at the time that I could get rid of the virus with my own two hands. I tried numerous things: restarting the computer, pressing random keys on the keyboard, throwing the mouse across the room, and even flipping an orange switch on the back of the tower and turning the computer back on. My efforts were all in vain; the virus persisted, and my gigabits were running slower than ever! "This cannot be! What is this!? I've never once seen such a vicious virus in my entire life!" I was dumbfounded that I, a computer genius, was unable to remove the virus using the methods I described. Upon coming to terms with my failure, I decided to take my computer to a PC repair shop for repair.

I drove to a nearby computer repair shop and entered the building with my computer in hand. The inside of the building was quite large, neat, and organized, and the employees all seemed very kind and knowledgeable. They laughed upon hearing my embarrassing story, and told me that they saw this kind of thing on a daily basis. They then accepted the job, and told me that in the worst case, it'd be fixed in three days from now. I left with a smile, and felt confident in my decision to leave the computer repairs to the experts.

A week later, they still hadn't called back. Visibly angry, I tried calling them countless times, but not a single time did they answer the phone. Their negligence and irresponsibility infuriated me, and sent me into a state of insanity that caused me to punch a gigantic hole in the wall. Being that I would require my computer for work soon, I decided to head over to the computer repair shop to find out exactly what the problem was.

Upon entering the building, I was shocked by the state of its interior; it looked as if a tornado had tore through the entire building! Countless broken computers were scattered all about the floor, desks were flipped over, the walls had holes in them, there was a puddle of blood on the floor, and worst of all, I saw that my computer was sitting in the middle of the room laying on its side! Absolutely unforgivable! I soon noticed one of the employees sitting behind one of the tipped over desks (the one that had previously had the cash register on top of it); he was shaking uncontrollably and sobbing. Despite being furious about my computer being tipped over, seeing him in that state still managed to make me less unforgiving. I decided to ask him what happened.

A few moments passed where the entire room was silent and nothing was said. Eventually, he pointed at my computer and said to me, "The virus... it cannot be stopped! Cannot be stopped! Cannot be stopped!" Realizing that he was trying to tell me that they were unable to repair my computer (the task I'd given them), I flew into a blind fury and beat him senseless. Not caring about what would happen to him any longer, I collected my computer, ignored the bodies of the two other employees that had committed suicide, and left the building. After a few moments of pondering about what to do and clearing my head, I theorized that their failure to repair my computer probably simply meant that they were unqualified to do the job, and decided to take my computer to another computer repair shop.

I repeated that same process about four times before finally giving up. Each time I took it to a PC repair shop, the result was the same: all the employees either went completely insane, or they committed suicide. Not a single person was able to even do so much as damage the virus. I was able to talk some sense into one of the employees that had gone mad and got them to tell me how they were attempting to fix the problem. They told me that they tried everything from reinstalling the operating system to installing another operating system and trying to get rid of the virus on the other one, but absolutely all of it was to no avail. Having seen numerous attempts by professionals to remove the virus end in failure, I managed to delude myself into believing that my first failure was simply a fluke and that I was the only one on the planet qualified to fix the computer. With renewed vigor, I once again took up the frighteningly dangerous task of defeating the evil, nightmarish virus once and for all with my own two hands.

In my attempts to fix the problem, I'd even resorted to buying another computer. However, the virus used its WiFi capabilities to hack into the gigabits of my new computer and infect it. Following each failed attempt, I grew more and more depressed. I had already beaten my wife and children five times in order to relieve some of my stress, but even that (which had become my only pleasure after failing to remove the virus the first time), did nothing for me any longer. That's right: my last remaining pleasure in life had stopped being able to improve my mood, and I had not a single thing left that I cared about. I sank into a bottomless ocean of depression, barricaded myself in my room, and cried myself to sleep for days on end. Overcome with insanity, vengefulness, and despair, there is not a single doubt that if this had continued for much longer, I would have committed suicide.

One day, it suddenly happened: while I was right in the middle of habitually crying myself to sleep in the middle of the day, I heard a thunderous roar outside, followed by the sound of a large number of people screaming. When I peered outside my window to find out what all the commotion was about, the scene before me closely resembled that of a God descending from the heavens themselves! I gazed in awe at the godlike figure that was descending from the heavens, and so did the dozens of individuals that had gathered in my backyard. For a few moments, everyone was speechless. Then, they started shouting predictions about what they thought the figure was. "Is it a bird!?" "Is it a plane!?" But, despite not ever having seen it before, I knew just how inaccurate their predictions were, and began to speak the name of the heroic figure.

However, my sentence was cut off when, like a superhero coming to save the unfortunate victim from the evil villain, MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] flew into my house and began the eradication of the virus. MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] was able to completely eliminate in minutes the exact same virus that over ten PC repair professionals were unable to remove after weeks of strenuous attempts! Wow! Such a thing! I simply couldn't believe that MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] was so miraculously efficient that it was able to destroy the virus in less than 500 milliseconds! MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] totally, completely, and utterly saved me from a lifetime of despair!

My wife's response? "MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] is outstanding! My husband's computer is running faster than ever! MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] came through with flying colours where no one else could! MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] totally cleaned up my husband's system, and increased his speed! I highly, highly recommend that you use MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] !"

After witnessing just how wonderful MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] is, I insist that you use MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] when you need to fix all the gigabits on your computer! MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] will completely eradicate any viruses on your computer, speed up your internet connection, overclock your gigabits and speed, and give you some peace of mind! MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] is simply outstanding!

But even if you're not having any visible problems with your computer, it's highly likely that you're still in a situation where MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] could help you. MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] will get rid of any viruses or wireless interfaces that are hidden deep within your computer's bootloader. MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] will also speed up your computer to such a degree that it'll be even faster than when you first bought it! You must try MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] for yourself so that you can be overclocking your speed with the rest of us!

MyCleanPC: For a Cleaner, Safer PC. [mycleanpc.com]

Very smart people ... (-1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303063)

First thing first,

Very very smart people do not post stupid "foist post" comments

Plus, very very smart people do not hide behind "AC", posting garbage trying to stink up Slashdot
 

Re:Very smart people ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40303295)

Anything you post "nonymously" could be used against you in a court of law. Even the most well-intentioned and intelligent posts could be taken out of context, misunderstood, or simply include mistakes. Therefore, very smart people cover their assets by always posting anonymously.

Deal with it.

Funny or Insightful? (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303197)

I find myself primed by statements like âoeHere is a simple arithmetic questionâ to answer quickly. Its probably pride, in that I think of myself as able to answer difficult questions, to attempt to answer the question as quickly as possible.

I hope I wouldnâ(TM)t employ such a cavalier approach to anything important, like a questionnaire for an important research paper. Sadly, unless I am analyzed by a thick outsider (perhaps a psychologist?), I will never know.

I know, dumping on psychologists for questionable experimental processes is like baiting clergy - way too easy, yet never gets old. They really have their work cut out for them. Unless you can create a sense of consequence for mistakes - maybe a quick electric shock, to steal a clever idea from the history of psychology experiments - you arenâ(TM)t observing abilities.

Physics Training (4, Insightful)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303427)

Not sure it is pride so much as incorrect training. I immediately leapt to the wrong answer to the bat and ball but then I subtracted the two, got 90 cents, realised I had messed up and corrected myself. What I was always taught as an undergrad in physics - and what I now try to teach to undergrads myself - is that no matter how smart you are you will always make mistakes. The trick is to cross check your answer to see whether it makes sense. You won't catch everything (at least I don't!) but every error caught is one less mistake.

Re:Physics Training (2)

mevets (322601) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303559)

Did you ever take training in recognizing sarcasm, or other comic devices? The trick is to consider what you are reading from multiple perspectives simultaneously. If it tickles your funny bone, it was likely meant to.

Its a bit like lyrics in the jazz and blues roots. If you vaguely think it might be about sex, it is.

Re:Physics Training (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303693)

...and if it doesn't then I clearly need more training, right? Ah well time to start studying again then I suppose. Jokes that have to be explained are always the funniest.

Yeah... (5, Insightful)

fredprado (2569351) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302707)

Yes you commit more mistakes when you think more about things. Guess what, you also reach a lot more correct conclusions. The best way to avoid making mistakes is not doing anything at all. Same principle.

Re:Yeah... (5, Insightful)

Hope Thelps (322083) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302771)

The best way to avoid making mistakes is not doing anything at all.

Unfortunately it's not that easy. My biggest mistakes have consisted of not doing things.

Re:Yeah... (2)

fredprado (2569351) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302855)

Certainly not the kind of mistakes referred in the article...

Re:Yeah... (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303359)

The best way to avoid making mistakes is not doing anything at all.

Unfortunately it's not that easy. My biggest mistakes have consisted of not doing things.

Even someone as smart as "the Bard" was deeply troubled by that. He left us "... to be, or not to be ...", didn't he ?

Re:Yeah... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40302811)

Coincidentally, I just started reading the referenced book today. I don't believe the thesis is that 'smart people make an increased number of systemic errors' than others rather it's simply about the systematic errors that people make. That said, your assumption that any study on the matter of systematic errors and biases is in some context where the number of observations is not controlled, appears more than wrong. You seem to have automatically assumed much...

Re:Yeah... (1)

fredprado (2569351) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302851)

Considering how impractical it is to know what people are thinking with any reasonable degree of certainty, especially along a large enough timespan to do any remotely scientific study on the subject I consider my assumption very reasonable. If you can prove me wrong I am all ears though.

Re:Yeah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40302963)

Cognition doesn't aim to study what people are thinking but rather how the machine performs (often on well defined tasks). Not all will generalize to the real world...however, a consistent picture or model will emerge. What you're thinking is of little consequence. It's about the machine, its capabilities, and limitations.

Assuming many here code, one could ask the question 'if there is something systematic about the types of bugs committed or even weaknesses in visually inspecting code (seeking out bugs in short snippets). Where do we fail and do experts learn heuristics to avoid such failures?

Re:Yeah... (1)

fredprado (2569351) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303141)

The problem is: nobody really understands the machine yet. Which makes most of the "studies" in this area, including this one, just wild assumptions over statistics.

Re:Yeah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40303317)

Much is known about the machine and performance. Certainly more than we knew last year and a tonne more than we knew a decade ago.

Now, consider that the study of cognition is comprised of controlled lab studies, pretty much all core domains/tasks reproducible, and this is complemented by imaging (e.g., PET, fMRI, EEG/ERP, MEG, ....), post-mortems, animal behaviour/cognition complemented by in vivo electrophysiology, histology, optogenetics, neurology, simulations, .... converging evidence can be found in any number of related disciplines. Interesting, though very high level (social cognition) I've noticed that posters here like to spring the Dunning-Kruger Effect when it serves their purpose. Can't have it both ways. There is a wealth of information about the core elements of cognition, associated disciplines, and anatomy & physiology. - Can we build a brain, "no". Can people talk reasonably about the machine and it's performance, "yes".

So, there is much consistent information available derived from all of the above... and more.

Domains like this one when presented in isolation as if someone just wrote an opinion piece. The popular press does a disservice to many good ideas.

Generally speaking, discussing cognitive performance shouldn't be treated as if you're being personally attacked.

Re:Yeah... (5, Funny)

pitchpipe (708843) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303121)

The best way to avoid making mistakes is not doing anything at all.

A guy at my work has a good safety slogan: Nobody moves, nobody gets hurt.

Re:Yeah... (5, Funny)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303271)

A guy at my work has a good safety slogan: Nobody moves, nobody gets hurt.

You work in a bank or post office?

Re:Yeah... (1)

toadlife (301863) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303591)

You work in a bank or post office?

I would guess banks. [youtube.com] .

hmmmm..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40302719)

I don't get it.

Liberals = More Educated = More Cognitive Errors? (-1, Troll)

mveloso (325617) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302721)

Let the trolling begin! Muahahaha!

Re:Liberals = More Educated = More Cognitive Error (0)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303097)

Except that liberals are not more educated. Conservatives are.

People generally don't vote for what they think is "right". Instead they vote for what they think is in their own interest. As people become more educated, their income goes up, and they benefit more from low taxes than they do from high government spending. So they tend to become more fiscally conservative. Poorly educated people tend to have low incomes and vote for liberal policies, because that is in their self-interest.

Somewhat counter-intuitively, states with higher levels of college graduates tend to be more liberal, but still, within those states the more educated people tend to be more fiscally conservative.

So liberals are not stupid because they are better educated, conservatives are!

Re:Liberals = More Educated = More Cognitive Error (2)

ANonyMouser (2641869) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303237)

Really? My observation has been the opposite, that you can't go to university without absorbing some degree of liberal (re. left wing) thought. That said, I think if you scratch below the surface one will find that universities are filled with those who are left supporters and those who are two scared to disagree.

Re:Liberals = More Educated = More Cognitive Error (2)

ANonyMouser (2641869) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303265)

@#$%@#$% *too not two. Brain work well not daytwo

Re:Liberals = More Educated = More Cognitive Error (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303745)

Most people really start forming rational political preferences out of college. College is such a protected environment, shelter food education gym huge amounts actives going on, all paid for by student loans that you don't need to worry about yet. Any money you make will first go to books and after that it is all recreational spending. This is good for education because you can focus on your studies without the worries of real life problems. However your political opinion at the time isn't complete.
After you leave college and money becomes a serious issue in your life you may find the conservative (rugged indivualism) more appealing as those taxes that out of your paycheck are as much as your rent.

Re:Liberals = More Educated = More Cognitive Error (4, Funny)

mevets (322601) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303333)

Its not that conservatives are generally stupid, it is that the stupid people are generally conservative. It is the base of support they lean upon.

Apologies to JSMill for the poor paraphrase.

Re:Liberals = More Educated = More Cognitive Error (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40303493)

Mississippi [venturamojo.com] is the most conservative state and last in education. Education in general is decried as liberal by the right. While there may be plenty of degrees on both sides of the aisle conservatives have done nothing to associate themselves on the side of education and often treat education in a very adversarial manner.

Re:Liberals = More Educated = More Cognitive Error (3, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303619)

Well there are more factors.
Blue states tend to have more colleges, because blue states have more/bigger cities.
Cities in order to operate work best with liberal principals. Bigger government to offer services because in the city you don't have resources to be fully self reliant. You need city water and sewer because there isn't room for well and septic systems. Too many cars you need a good public transit system to move around faster. When you live in a city the government is the good guy.

Red states are In rural areas you have land and you are more self reliant. Your house your own infrastructure, you will wait public transit just won't work so you need your own car. The government is seen as a force that taxes your income for services you don't use and maker of rules that restrict your freedom. So you are more apt to favor conservatives.

In college the more conservative students are more apt to hit the books and study, while the liberal ones will party more. However the liberal students are less career minded and will more likely go directly into higher education.

So are liberal or conservatives smarter? Probably not much of a difference, in terms of smarts. But more into life choices.

Re:Liberals = More Educated = More Cognitive Error (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40303127)

“A grand collection of logical fallacies.” I can think of no better words to characterize the body of “liberal” political thought.

What Constitutes an "Education?" Or "Smart?" (1)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303223)

I'd argue that the guy who went into debt to finance his MFA in Byzantine Art History is several times stupider, on multiple levels, than the High School graduate who apprenticed himself to a plumber at age 18.

Re:What Constitutes an "Education?" Or "Smart?" (2)

WillDraven (760005) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303689)

Just because you do not understand someones motivation, does not mean that that motivation is stupid. Not everybody picks their major with dollar signs in their eyes.

oh the irony (4, Funny)

Eponymous Hero (2090636) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302753)

yo dawg

i heard you like to overthink shit
so i overthought the shit you're overthinking
so you can overthink shit
while i overthink you overthinking the shit you're overthinking

i must be stupid (as in smart, not smart as in stupid) because i got those little word problems correct. the lily pad example was really easy.

Re:oh the irony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40302883)

The lily pad example just determines is you have a good understanding of exponential growth, which most people really don't. You'd be surprised how many people you can get to tell you that 10% annual population growth is reasonable.

Re:oh the irony (1)

Creepy (93888) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303227)

The lily pad one didn't even take a second thought for me - it was the first answer to pop into my head. Bat and ball I had to think about a second (I knew immediately 10 cents was wrong, and quickly figured it out, but it was the first thing to pop into my head, so my brain did jump to the shortcut first). I would agree that if you have a feel for exponential growth you won't think the "24 day" answer though - I didn't even consider it - I just thought "it was half yesterday then, so 47."

Re:oh the irony (1)

Xaduurv (1685700) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303131)

yo dawg i heard you like to overthink shit so i overthought the shit you're overthinking so you can overthink shit while i overthink you overthinking the shit you're overthinking i must be stupid (as in smart, not smart as in stupid) because i got those little word problems correct. the lily pad example was really easy.

You can't be that smart, because you just made that meme wrong

Re:oh the irony (3, Insightful)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303453)

The other answer to the lily pad question could also be "1 day", depending on which half of the lake you were looking at.

Bull (4, Insightful)

wytcld (179112) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302767)

The problem with this introspective approach is that the driving forces behind biases—the root causes of our irrationality—are largely unconscious, which means they remain invisible to self-analysis and impermeable to intelligence.

The premise here is that "introspection" (a vague name for a wide range of practices) cannot reveal unconscious biases, bring them into consciousness, and enable self-analysis and intelligent adjustment of them. We are to accept this premise why? In my experience, it's quite possible to gain a conscious vantage on previously-unconscious biases, and subsequently lessen and/or compensate for them. If Lehrer can't do the same, maybe he isn't very good at introspection. No reason to condemn an activity others do well and productively just because you suck at it, Jonah.

Re:Bull (1)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302967)

Yeah, I believe it's possible as well, but it takes some work and also requires you to first realise that you do have unconscious biases. I'm not sure how that leads to the conclusion "which means they remain invisible to self-analysis and impermeable to intelligence" though.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johari_window [wikipedia.org]

Re:Bull (2, Interesting)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303507)

The whole concept of the unconsious as an inaccessable region of thought that drives behavior without any chance for the consious to understand or correct it is basic Freudian psychology, and largely discredited. Minsky's 'Society of Mind" is probably a lot closer, and there's literally generations of psychologists, cognitive scientists, and people who do whatever that thing Daniel Dennett does that have had some impact post Minsky's book. There are lots of things the brain normally does subconsiously. They aren't one monolithic mass, some of them can be done quite well with consious introspective awareness, and some people have trained the skill of consious oversight far beyond others. If some people have learned to control the thermal regulation centers in the limbic system consiously, it's a safe bet a lot more can look at a normally subconsious bias and ask themselves penetrating questions about whether it is really accurate and whether it helps them reach objective conclusions. As you put it, it takes work, and you could say that what you phrased as "realise that you do have unconsious biases" is just a particular case of a person recognising that they need to do that work.

Re:Bull (4, Insightful)

crdotson (224356) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302975)

I agree completely. I have caught myself a number of times acting in a way that I couldn't completely explain, and after thinking for a while -- sometimes a long while -- I have figured out what I was subconsciously doing. I think this is one of the primary benefits of therapy; a trained professional may be able to spot what's really bothering you when you don't know.

Re:Bull (3, Informative)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303011)

That's not a premisse, that's the conclusion. We are to accept it because of the study.

Now, all the disclaimers of a statistical study apply, so you'd better keep doing that introspection you are so good at.

Re:Bull (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40303429)

"In my experience, it's quite possible to gain a conscious vantage on previously-unconscious biases,"

I imagine this requires skill developed over decades or is something more innate (i.e. not everyone is equally gifted/capable of self analysis). Just look at all the stupidity in the world and I think you'd agree.

Re:Bull (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303491)

In poker, it is very important to be able to ask of yourself and honestly answer the question "am I playing great today?" yet the downfall of the issue is the "honestly" requirement. The greatest players, when things arent going well on a particular day, well they go home. The cost of failed introspection is too great.

Humans are not rational beings, they are rationalizing beings. Just because a line of thinking is rationalized, that doesnt make that line of thought necessarily rational.

A good common scenario for discussing this amongst friends is the effects of marijuana (as most people have smoked it and understand its effects to some degree) on game players, particularly board games like chess. Marijuana allows a greater focus ("depth") of thought, at the expense of completeness ("breadth".) The pot smoker when playing chess is thinking quite a few moves farther head than they normally would, but will more easily miss the painfully obvious.

The effects of chemicals aside, it is quite clear that our brains make unconscious assumptions (often "learned" through simple repetition) that are not necessarily true. Given limited resources, it is evolutionarily advantageous to be design this way. We stop giving consideration to things that often, but not always, arent worth considering.

I feel stupider just reading the summary (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40302769)

I'd trust a teenage bimbo to get hair, makeup and social pecking order right, but not with advance math.

I trust a physics professor to get the math and science right but few of them have any idea of the bimbo's areas of expertise.

It's just a question of different skill sets. Smart does not mean smart at everything.

Re:I feel stupider just reading the summary (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303001)

Indeed. One of the things that I find is a problem with really bright people is overconfidence, a belief that because they are brilliant in one area, they therefore are brilliant in all areas. You find this sort of thing with engineers who think they are scientists, doctors who think they are scientists, or scientists who make fools of themselves by making elaborate and tragically awful claims in areas where they have no expertise.

True polymaths are probably so rare that even the most seasoned and well-connected academic won't meet one.

Re:I feel stupider just reading the summary (2)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303235)

engineers who think they are scientists.

Computer engineers who think they're engineers, for that matter...

SAT socres? (5, Insightful)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302803)

Although we assume that intelligence is a buffer against biasâ"thatâ(TM)s why those with higher S.A.T. scores think they are less prone to these universal thinking mistakesâ"it can actually be a subtle curse.

Or perhaps high SAT scores do not correlate well with intelligence, but rather correlate with being able to answer questions quickly through the use of mental shortcuts or the ability to recall what was learned through rote learning?

Re:SAT socres? (5, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303021)

Or perhaps high SAT scores do not correlate well with intelligence,

SAT scores strongly correlate with life time earnings, probability of going to prison, life expectancy, divorce rate, and many, many other things. Out of political correctness, you may not want to call it "intelligence", but you cannot deny it is measuring something much more significant than an ability to take tests.

Re:SAT socres? (4, Insightful)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303091)

SAT scores strongly correlate with...

That's become a self-fulfiling prophecy in the US. Hig SAT scores are required (often) to get to the next stages of education, and education correlates with success, so it makes high SAT scores correlate with success.

That said, people will make the same mistake with SAT scores and IQ scores. If you do very well at either then you are intelligent. Failing to do well at either doesn't imply a lack of intelligence.

The end result is that of course IQ ans SAT scores correlate with intelligence. Simplifying a great deal, a high score implies inelligence. Low score gives no imformation so implies a 50% chance of intelligence. Given two people and no other information except SAT scores, the one with the higher SAT score is more likely to be intelligent.

But if you're making decisions based purely on SAT scores, then you're not being intelligent :)

Re:SAT socres? (5, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303351)

SAT scores strongly correlate with...

That's become a self-fulfiling prophecy in the US. Hig SAT scores are required (often) to get to the next stages of education, and education correlates with success, so it makes high SAT scores correlate with success.

But even if you account for that, by only comparing people of similar education levels, people with high SAT scores do better on a wide variety of metrics. In fact, someone's SAT score is a better predictor of their success than their educational level. That is not what you would expect if a high SAT score was just a "door-opener".

Re:SAT socres? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40303715)

Doubt it. Not only are you missing citations, but it is easily possible to get through much of the SAT with rote memorization alone.

That is what our education system is about. Teaching to the test.

Re:SAT socres? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40303129)

[citation required]

Re:SAT socres? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40303323)

So what you're saying is that tests which ultimately determine your ability to get a job strongly correlate with your ability to get a job.

Intelligence testing is so absurdly flawed that I wonder whether it's popular only because it's known to select a particularly pliable sort of person rather than a smart one. Oddly enough, in high school I did really well on IQ and aptitude tests, but since doing a couple of mathematics degrees I score lower - I think because I always used to see one obvious answer but now I see lots of complex ones.

Re:SAT socres? (1)

Creepy (93888) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303509)

When I took SAT, roughly 70% of the test was reading comprehension, something I do poorly on when timed, so my SAT score were really bad - I don't think I even finished half the test and I felt like a moron when I got my scores back, especially when my best friend aced it. My ACT score, on the other hand, which had less time pressure and less reading comprehension was 28/33 (and again I stumbled on fast reading comprehension, but that was 10% of the test) and that was the same score my friend got (keep in mind neither of us studied for either one like many people do today). When I got my IQ tested (untimed) later that year due to ADHD type of symptoms (which ended up being caused by asthma medication theophylline [wikipedia.org] , where I needed the equivalent of 80 pots of tea a day), I got a 138 - top 1% of the population. I didn't even bother retaking my SAT, as my ACT score and GPA (3.8 average taking all enriched/accelerated learning classes) got me in everywhere I applied. Sure I probably would have failed where another friend got in (MIT with his perfect SAT and ACT score and 4.0/4.0 GPA), but nobody I've ever met was as smart as that guy, except maybe one of my college roommates, and he had an eidetic memory [wikipedia.org] (and whatever your belief on that, I certainly believe it - I asked him to read my textbook in a class he wasn't in and he repeated it back to me verbatim studying each page no more than 2 seconds).

Re:SAT socres? (1)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303083)

The above, coupled with the ability to consciously recognize and avoid the bias traps created by those who write the tests (or unconsciously avoiding them by coming from a culture without the bias those traps are designed to exploit in the first place).

This has to be the dumbest headline ever on /. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40302807)

Certainly the most attention-grabbing.

1. Some dumb person makes up retarded hypothesis about how being more self-aware would actually mean being less self-aware which obviously is wrong, since being less self-aware does *not* mean the unconscious things become *more* visible, now do they?
2. Some other dumb person misunderstands things with a lot of wishful thinking to be able to accept himself, and forms a typical statement-in-question-form title of what he wishes to be true.
3. ...
4. HEADLINE!
5. *fapfapfap* We are actually better than those fucking smart people! *fapfapfap* We can finally love ourselves again! *fapfapfap* ... aand now, cue the dumb people defending what they wish to be true and hating me for making them aware that they consider themselves to be dumb people. ^^

My theory (5, Insightful)

Jamu (852752) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302847)

My theory is that smart people are mostly stupid, and that stupid people are fully stupid.

Re:My theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40302931)

Pretty much. There are two types of people in the world: those of us who realize how stupid we are (aka smart people) and take it into account, and those who don't.

Re:My theory (1)

DaneM (810927) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302973)

My theory is that smart people are mostly stupid, and that stupid people are fully stupid.

LOL...quite true, and I wish more of us "smart people" (as well as the stupid ones, of course) would realize it!

Someone mod-up parent, please! :-)

Best example: Scott Adams (3, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302857)

Scott had trouble with a pager, it wouldn't work and wouldn't work. He took out the battery, put it back in, tried a different one and still no success. Finally took the pager to a service center where the tech looked at it for about 10 seconds, took out the battery, flipped it around and put it back in - so the pager worked.

It's a question of competency at some things does not translate into a competency at all things.

Re:Best example: Scott Adams (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40302933)

ring, ring... "my laptop isnt working! it won't start!"

walks down to PhD's office

me - flips it over to press the button to check battery level.

battery = dead

plug it in to the wall = fixed

Re:Best example: Scott Adams (1)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303245)

Reminds me of a time many years ago when I had a run of people come to me with amazingly dumb problems. "I can't log into my computer" translated to "Press the power button." "My printer isn't working" = "Turn it on." "My printer isn't working" = "Plug it in then turn it on." "My printer isn't working" = "Put paper in it." (Lots of printer problems.)

This went on for a couple weeks, word got around, and good laughs were had all around. One day a guy came to me with, "I swear it should be working. It's plugged in and it's turned on but it's totally dead. I've got an actual, genuine problem for ya." "Okay, I'll be over in a couple minutes." He met me in the hall saying, "Nevermind. It's working now. Nothing to see here. No need to look at it." Eventually, he told me the power strip wasn't plugged in.

Re:Best example: Scott Adams (1)

Relayman (1068986) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303059)

And some people are more competent at taking the SAT test than others are. Just because you have higher SAT scores doesn't make you more intelligent to me.

Re:Best example: Scott Adams (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40303259)

You must have gotten a low SAT score.

Joking aside, you are totally correct. Take a look at school in general. You can get good grades just by showing up. Intelligence has almost nothing to do with it.

Case in point. (5, Insightful)

dmomo (256005) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302863)

Try reading that article. It's full of smart sounding long-winded sentences, which all basically translate to: "Dude, you're overthinking it".

Then, the article ronically ends with: "We spin eloquent stories, but these stories miss the point. The more we attempt to know ourselves, the less we actually understand."

Dude...

Re:Case in point. (1)

dmomo (256005) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302879)

Ronically, I missed an eye.

so... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40302911)

So, average people have inherent cognitive faults.

But smart people merely make cognitive errors as a result of their short-cutting brilliance.

IOW, the difference between an average and a smart person is that the latter bullshits more.

Smartest dumb people I know (2)

bobjr94 (1120555) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302937)

My wife works at a school and she says many of the teachers have masters degrees and some can not fill out a simple time sheet. Things like travel requests or purchase orders are even more likely to be completely wrong. She calls them the smartest dumb people I know.

I only know that I know nothing (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302939)

Excellence in anything, including smarts can easily boost one's ego to the point where it cloudstheir judgement.

The article is written by a fucktard. (5, Funny)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302941)

Hereâ(TM)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.)

Why on earth would you ever think that it was 10 cents for the ball and a dollar for the bat? You'd have to be stupid, or something.

In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake?

Your first response is probably to take a shortcut, and to divide the final answer by half. That leads you to twenty-four days. But thatâ(TM)s wrong. The correct solution is forty-seven days.

What the fuck? Do I need to to take a dope test or something? Why the hell would you think I'd "take a shortcut" and divide the answer by two? Fuck's sake, the clue is right there! IT DOUBLES IN SIZE EVERY DAY! So it's twice as big today as it was yesterday, so if it fills the lake in 48 days it half-fills it in 47 days. Jeez, how the hell can you even think people would say 24 days? Is there something wrong with your brain?

Also, what the hell kind of lilies grow in your lake, that they crowd the whole damn thing out in a month and a half? Don't you ever rake them back and dredge it? Your fish are going to suffer from lack of light and oxygen with all that crap in there.

Ghod pop-psychologists make my piss boil.

Re:The article is written by a fucktard. (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302961)

s/to to/you to/

This article made me so irritable I started mistyping things and didn't even preview.

Re:The article is written by a fucktard. (1)

Relayman (1068986) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303147)

Relax. You're just saying the emperor has no clothes and I agree with you. I got both examples right and I did it quickly, too. But I'm especially good at trick questions (If a fence is 102 feet long and has a post every six feet, how many posts are in the fence?). This serves me well when programming.

Re:The article is written by a fucktard. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40303055)

The studies indicate that a significant number of participants will in fact score well, suggesting that they are actively engaged in the problem solving. What's interesting is that a large percentage of seeming bright individuals fail on any number of these questions. This is interesting because these people permeate society. With such a large percentage failing it allowed those study to problem to ask whether the failures were systematic (likely revealing something about how we solve problems).

That said, why are you're so angry? Why didn't you ask whether the article reflected the point of the original research? Despite thousands of similar summaries posted on Slashdot over the years I marvel at how often heated and dismissive respondents are when it serves a pre-existing bias. Here's a hint, no matter the topic by and large, the popular press will get it wrong. The appropriate response is to not respond until you've read something of the source material.

Re:The article is written by a fucktard. (5, Funny)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303117)

Also, what the hell kind of lilies grow in your lake, that they crowd the whole damn thing out in a month and a half? Don't you ever rake them back and dredge it?

If they grow that fast, dredging is the least of your worries. In another 48 days, they'll have covered the entire earth. Oh, and if you leave even a single lily cell behind, they'll have covered the earth AGAIN in another 90 days or so. You're basically doomed.

Re:The article is written by a fucktard. (1)

Georules (655379) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303309)

Came here to post similar. The lake question I imagined a curve doubling every point (y=2^x), so when asked for half, I knew it must be very close to the last day. Then I realized, as you say, the answer was right there, the previous day. I turned to my wife, wondering if this was a hard question or if I did it wrong, and she instinctively answered 47. Sure, I may have "over-thought the problem" but I didn't get it wrong.

I understand why many people might divide by half, but really don't believe other intelligent people I would ask would say 24. The article doesn't actually quote any statistics it found from any study, just makes the implied assertion that smart people get it wrong more often than you'd think. Really solid reporting.

Re:The article is written by a fucktard. (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303395)

Apparently, you are stupid. Sorry, research doesnâ(TM)t lie.

Re:The article is written by a fucktard. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40303571)

Why on earth would you ever think that it was 10 cents for the ball and a dollar for the bat? You'd have to be stupid, or something.

What the fuck? Do I need to to take a dope test or something? Why the hell would you think I'd "take a shortcut" and divide the answer by two? Fuck's sake, the clue is right there! IT DOUBLES IN SIZE EVERY DAY! So it's twice as big today as it was yesterday, so if it fills the lake in 48 days it half-fills it in 47 days. Jeez, how the hell can you even think people would say 24 days? Is there something wrong with your brain?

Also, what the hell kind of lilies grow in your lake, that they crowd the whole damn thing out in a month and a half? Don't you ever rake them back and dredge it? Your fish are going to suffer from lack of light and oxygen with all that crap in there.

Ghod pop-psychologists make my piss boil.

Because people do that all the time?
"Dollar" -> First instinct says "Oh, the bat costs a dollar, so the rest is the ball" -> "Ten cents for the ball, my good sir." *monocle*
"Half" -> First instinct says "Divide by two!" -> "A fortnight and ten days, if you would."

Those answers are wrong, but if you didn't know that, you'd have made the mistakes as well.

My posts keep vanishing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40302947)

Therefore I automatically jump to thinking that something I said has incurred the wrath of botters who insta - down-vote me.

Perhaps its simply the mods don't like me.

Actually, learning about fallacies is very much a good exercise. Especially for pointing out all the errors in everything everyone *else* says. My personal favorite is understanding how people find their conclusion, then find the reasons.

Re:My posts keep vanishing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40302999)

*it's, not its. Perhaps my faulty brain was trying to say something.

I can vouch for that. (4, Interesting)

DaneM (810927) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302957)

In my own experience--both by observing smart people and by being one (if I may be so bold), I've noticed that the more "smart" a person is (by several definitions; see below), the more easily he/she can convince him/herself--and others--of incorrect things. Furthermore (as these findings suggest), a person who possesses unusually great capacity for self-analysis often becomes quite accustomed to analyzing things on a much "higher level" than what actually motivates one to (erroneous) thought and action.

For example, a "stupid" person might see another person as a threat to getting into a relationship with someone he/she, him/herself, likes, and will therefore treat that person poorly--while probably having few illusions about why he/she is doing so. A "smart" person, on the other hand, will have that same "root" motivation cause him/her to come up with "rational" reasons (which aren't nearly so rational as assumed, of course) for why that rival is actually bad at his/her job, "annoying," unethical, unreliable, unintelligent, etc., and will then treat that person badly without realizing just how "base" or "primal" the root cause of the behavior is.

Notably, I've seen/experienced this with people who are "smart" by way of IQ, and "smart" by way of education (and, of course by way of the two, combined; though--as we all know here--the two aren't always the same thing). Apparently, simply engaging the analytical portion of one's brain habitually--whether by training or nature--almost invariably creates this effect--and can often lead to some truly irritating "smart" people (myself at the forefront, at times, I'll admit).

I'm glad that someone with "license to wear a lab coat" has also determined as much in a somewhat more scientific/official fashion.

Re:I can vouch for that. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40303073)

I've met (one in particular) top level professors who seem to believe something like, "because I am an expert at one thing, then I am an expert in all things."

Also 90% (of statistics are made up on the spot) of debates about politics/religion/*pick your favorite highly subjective topic* come across to me as:
          "A "smart" person, on the other hand, will have that same "root" motivation cause him/her to come up with "rational" reasons (which aren't nearly so rational as assumed, of course)"

Drives me bat $#17 crazy.

The art is to not do what you hate in other people I guess.

Re:I can vouch for that. (2)

epine (68316) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303601)

I personally think this article is destructive in claiming that there is no mental facility for getting underneath bias. Clearly if it exists it's something other than rationality alone, and it's rare enough that it barely moves the needle in group norms.

Kahneman is doing us a service to point out that universal tendency toward bias is the best first approximation, and that intelligence on its own is no antidote.

Kahneman is doing us a disservice to presume that there's no human capacity which does make a difference.

It's like the old blunder about race. Individual differences dominate group differences, but that doesn't mean there are no group differences at all. Furthermore, only the pig-headed latch onto the fact that group differences actually exist. They aren't large enough to support any broad conclusion. But still, there are group differences, and group differences can potentially be large, or evolution couldn't work.

Kahneman is falling prey to the mistake of thinking that since there's hardly any upside to presuming any select group of people is less biased than another, that we might as well conclude that no such mechanism exists.

In most people, the rational and the emotional ends are deeply conflated. I think both systems generate proposals and the brain then sifts for overlap. The rational cover story for our motives is as essential in many social contexts as wearing clothes. Don't leave home without it.

I think the people with skill at penetrating bias tend not to live highly acceptable lives. I'm thinking mainly about writers. Did Nabokov not know something about his nature that other people would not wish to know? Another that comes to mind was Somerset Maugham's The Summing Up. George Orwell considered Maugham "The modern writer who has influenced me the most." I might also include George Orwell. I'm also reminded of My Happy Days in Hell by Gy(slashcode fuckup)rgy Faludy. He recounts a scene where he was peering down the blouse of an attractive young woman who finally noticed and demurred. He describes himself as immediately barking "Back as you were!" and relates that she complied. There's a lot of that tone, not especially flattering by the usual norms. I'm also thinking Kahneman should have tested Henry Miller.

Those who excel at perceiving their own bias are likely to have two traits: a strong tendency to double-check or triangulate social hypotheses, and the ability to embrace contradiction. People don't operate in a system of singular motives. Motive swirls around and intersects like smoke rings in a toxic pub.

I think it's the reductive tendency of the over-thinker that's most inimical to harvesting the tender shoots.

AI vs People (2)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303175)

An interesting extension of this issue of introspection is that: In some cases, AI systems perform much better than humans.

To a machine, there is no such thing as subconscious. Given the limitations of hooks built in to a system, one can always ask a machine to 'explain itself' when it makes a decision. This could take the form of a cor dump, list of fired rules, or scores of each alternative path at every decision node.

In addition, humans can build knowledge bases from various sources. And at the time knowledge is acquired, it can be weighted by the credibility of its origin. But, once committed to memory, the origins of these 'training sets' is often forgotten. And should some reason arise to downgrade the credibility of a knowledge source, machines can much more easily recalculate the rule weights leading from it.

Got both problems right the first try... (3, Interesting)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303253)

Both problems given in the article were word math problems.

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?

and

In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake?

I got them both right almost immediately, but I think I understand why people would frequently make the errors the article mentioned.

Ultimately, I think that the reason people make those mistakes is not because they are naturally irrational, but because they simply have not had enough practice at those types of math problems.

The former took me back to grade 7 math... where I was always solving for x. How I would have done it on paper is as follows:

Let x = the cost of the ball.
Let x+1=cost of bat.
x+(x+1)=1.10
2x+1=1.10
2x=0.10
x=0.05.

I happened to solve this particular one in my head, but the mental steps I took still reflected the above process. And I think it's the sheer amount of practice that I got solving those types of problems in grade 7 and 8 that I didn't get hung up on anything.

The latter problem was so obvious, I didn't even have to arrange a formula to solve it... saying it doubles every day, and filling after 48 days means it *MUST* be half full after 47 days. There's probably a formula for it, but I didn't happen to notice it.

Re:Got both problems right the first try... (1)

sdguero (1112795) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303595)

Yeah... I think that if they walked around Google/Apple/Microsoft/etc and asked random engineers those questions 90% would get them right. Freshmen undergrads don't have as much experience answering stupid problems as corporate engineering drones.

Fortunately, the solution is obvious. (5, Interesting)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303283)

Perhaps our most dangerous bias is that we naturally assume that everyone else is more susceptible to thinking errors, a tendency known as the “bias blind spot.” This “meta-bias” is rooted in our ability to spot systematic mistakes in the decisions of others—we excel at noticing the flaws of friends—and inability to spot those same mistakes in ourselves.

So other people, even stupid people, will have a relatively easy time spotting my mistakes? Meaning that all I have to do is listen to them when they try to point them out to me. Problem solved.

This is how I lose at chess (3, Insightful)

RazorSharp (1418697) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303375)

When I'm playing a weaker opponent in chess I tend to be extremely careless with my queen and I put her in dangerous places that are quite threatening. The strategy relies on the fact that weaker chess players get squeamish when an opponent's queen hangs out on their side of the board and they start investing too many of their moves into defense, thus ceding board control.

The downside is that a strong opponent knows to relentlessly attack the queen until she's either dead or in a position that isn't advantageous. Another downside is that, even against weaker opponents, she's still in a vulnerable position and I tend to lose her that way.

A computer would never do what I do with my queen (and I would never use the strategy vs. a computer . . . again). What makes people intelligent is their ability to make estimates, predictions, and generalizations that compensate for the limitations of memory. I may not be able to beat my computer in chess, but my computer works harder than an entire nation of brains to kick my ass at it.

I don't like the article confusing this way of thinking with irrationality, concluding that, "we're not nearly as rational as we believe." One's thinking can be rational and imprecise. It can also be rational and wrong. These little tests these researchers are doling out catch people on common fallacies. The more intelligent you are the less likely you are to second guess your answer, the more likely you are to rely on a logical shortcut. Like playing a weak chess opponent. And then, when you've lost, your weak chess opponent can point and laugh and say something stupid that he somehow thinks is clever, like, "hah! Smart people are stupid!"

That's why, in the rematch after losing to a weaker opponent, I dot all my i's and cross all my t's. I don't experiment and I double (triple, quadruple, etc.) check my moves before committing to them. Then, after my pride has been returned, I go back to poking and prodding with attempts to scholar's mate my opponent in some variation because no other victory is more satisfying.

Too smart for easy money (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303417)

Another good example is in real-estate. Smart people don't generally get in on these flip-this-house and other property bubble schemes as it is obvious that it is going to blow up in your face. It always seems to be morons who are driving their $100,000 cars with 9 rental properties and their shirts unbuttoned down to their navel (1 button for every million in assets). It is not that these people are lazy but that they are completely blind to the certainty of what goes up soon comes down; thus smart people leave all that money on the table.

In this last bubble the wall street people tried joining in on the fun; don' know how to explain that one.

please read this book (3, Insightful)

Bobtree (105901) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303451)

The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us

If you care at all about understanding how your brain works, this is important. The book is very well researched and explained and full of real examples in many areas and backed up with serious science. Our brains lie to us about what they do and how well they do it in nearly every respect. I almost want to force feed it to everyone I know, because it's just that significant. Please read it.

Poker hands (2)

djhertz (322457) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303497)

It sounds a lot like when a you watch a friend play a hand in poker and you can see all the mistakes, but when you are in the hand you are blind to them.

Re:Poker hands (1)

wirefall (309232) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303631)

It sounds a lot like when a you watch a friend play a hand in poker and you can see all the mistakes, but when you are in the hand you are blind to them.

You can see the mistakes that your friend is currently making and perhaps you would have made the same mistake had you been the player, or perhaps you're a better player and would have made a different choice.

It's similar to something I've always wondered about. Why, when showing somebody something on a computer does it take me forever to find the file I'm looking for in a directory, but when somebody else is driving the mouse I can instantaneously pick out the file and they are now the ones bouncing back and forth looking for it...

Why are supposedly "smart" researchers so stupid? (4, Interesting)

jmerlin (1010641) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303513)

I am not a psychiatrist nor a psychologist. I do, however, have an explanation I find logical for why both of these questions would get wrong answers.

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 reason this "problem" will yield a common answer of 1 dollar is because so many of us have seen the same thing over and over in school. It has been over the course of 5+ years engraved into our thought process to separate pieces of the sentence into logical portions and stop as soon as we have enough information (ie: to assume most of it is useless information). So as soon as the reader sees the intentionally deceptively worded sentence, it's effectively an expected response from this programmed behavior: most people stop where I'm about to show you:

A bat and a ball cost a dollar and ten cents. The bat costs a dollar --

Immediately, we have a situation: a + b = 110, a = 100. We immediately deduce that b = 10, and have a solution instantaneously without completing the thought. This is what standardized testing and predictable word problems with extraneous information teaches people. This isn't a result of their intelligence, this is a result of cognitive process sculpted by years of stupid, pointless exercises. You'd have to be outrageously stupid to think this is somehow unexpected. The people who we classify as "smart" are people who perform well at these tasks (high score on standardized test, breezed through courses with similar problems). This is causation -- people who make this mental leap are considered "smart." So you ask "why are all these smart people making this stupid mistake!?" The answer is clear -- your fundamental measure of intelligence is wrong. The solution is that these so-called "smart" people aren't very smart at all. They're just good at solving tricky word problems as quickly as possible, primarily by ignoring information. In my experience, this methodology is often the inverse of an intelligent process.

Now for the second problem:

In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake?

What most people will do, because this is how they've been taught, is to read sentence one. Note it as an interesting fact, then proceed. Upon finishing the second sentence, we realize we didn't come up with an answer yet, so we refer to only the information in the latter part of the question. What most people just read is:

If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake?

We aren't used to thinking in terms of exponentiation, so it's natural to assume a linear growth rate when you completely discard the first sentence.

While I agree, these are both absurd questions, they have something in common: people tend to ignore part of the question and answer the question with incomplete information. This is not something I do very often, intentionally. This is something, though, that I recall being the fundamental "trick" to answering 99.99999999999% of questions on standardized tests. They gave you extraneous information. When literally every problem exposed to you has extraneous information, of 2 forms: A, B or B, A, where B = worthless information, it becomes habitual to process information in this manner, especially when the problem is worded like a problem you'd find on a high-school level standardized test (you know, you never really forget how to ride a bike, like you never forget how to solve very badly designed problems that don't test intelligence in any way).

I don't know, maybe I'm too smart for this researcher. But the answer seems obvious: years and years of terrible mental practices are taught to people. People are then determined to be "smart or not" based on how well they can follow those terrible mental practices. Then when problems with those mental practices are pointed out and it is noted that people who are good at them often have the same flaw, we make a generalization that "smart people make more mental mistakes." The entire premise that following a certain mental procedure == intelligence is false, therefore the deductions you're making as a result are meaningless. Smart people don't make more mental mistakes. People who take shortcuts do. Sometimes smart people take shortcuts, sometimes they don't. Let's try not to generalize so much, mkay?

sound like people with BAs in CS doing IT (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303517)

sound like people with BAs in CS doing IT

They may have book smarts but there IT smarts are mostly theory with out the hands on parts.

It might also be ego driven (1)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303567)

Tying your self worth to being smart might also mean you question potential mistakes less often.

You're right and everyone else is wrong because a stupid person couldn't possibly have a better answer.

Psychologists are ego maniacs... (0)

sdguero (1112795) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303617)

"Kahneman, who admits in “Thinking, Fast and Slow” that his decades of groundbreaking research have failed to significantly improve his own mental performance."

So this guy was unable to find a way to make himself more intelligent and is now trying to explain why. Douchenozzle.

The unconscious is far from completely opaque (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40303645)

You need to get accustomed to the reality that you are in part unconsciously driven and with the help of introspection and external feedback you can develop an appreciation of your own unconsciously processes allowing for a deeper sense of agency and the ability to meet reality as it is.

Pathetic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40303655)

This whole article is BS about trying to rationalize his therapy. I imagine it went something like this.
- The therapist finally convinces the patient he made a stupid choice (whatever it is)
- The patient then says in a Sheldonian way "but I'm smart. I can't make stupid choices!"
- The doctor, not wanting to alienate his patient by the cold hard truth says "even smart people make stupid choices sometimes" (which is strictly speaking true - what differs is the frequency)
- And the next thing we see is this drivel posted to slashdot.

Might I be bold enough to suggest that if you are routinely making enough choices that you require the aid of a therapist, then perhaps you're not as smart as you think you are (at least in that particular area)?

Not buying it (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303705)

This is just an article designed to make stupid people feel better about themselves.

Everyone is smart and dumb (4, Insightful)

manwargi (1361031) | more than 2 years ago | (#40303747)

I don't really agree with the conventional idea of people being "smart" and "dumb", the concepts are used in shallow ways. Most people I've met are "smart" in some form, even as so many have proven themselves dumb in another form. I believe that it's a matter of how it manifests.

Some people are good at memorizing things. Some people have a keen perception of patterns which gives them insight into what might logically come next. Some people just put a lot of effort into studying and work their way into understanding a subject through sheer diligence. Some are fast learners. And that thug loitering on the street corner that barely knows how to speak properly? He picks up on body language in a way nobody else can.

Meanwhile those people all have their flaws. The memorization guy might have horrible social skills. Perhaps insightful pattern guy gets sentimental about the things he believes in, and thus becomes stubborn and irrational about things that don't match his views. The diligent one is really just a stubborn person faking it-- they are terrible and it takes them a long time to learn, but they invest the time beating it into their head. The fast learner picks up on something quickly, but then becomes bored of it right away and moves on with only a superficial understanding of the subject. Or, the fast learner never learned to study, so when the time comes he is in a fix. I think you can fill in the blanks as you wish for the thug on the street corner.

This is the reason why society manages to function while we witness so many stupid people.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>