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Being Aware of Cognitive Bias

The New Yorker, “Why Smart People Are Stupid”:

Self-awareness was not particularly useful: as the scientists note, “people who were aware of their own biases were not better able to overcome them.” This finding wouldn’t surprise Kahneman, who admits in “Thinking, Fast and Slow” that his decades of groundbreaking research have failed to significantly improve his own mental performance. “My intuitive thinking is just as prone to overconfidence, extreme predictions, and the planning fallacy”—a tendency to underestimate how long it will take to complete a task—“as it was before I made a study of these issues,” he writes.

Ahh, that’s unnerving. I would like to think that being aware of my own cognitive bias makes me able to recognize it in different but similar situations.

The classic example:  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? Apparently, most people say 10 cents automatically.

I would like to think that because I have practiced conceptualizing it as 2x+ 1.00 = 1.10, x=0.05, it will make me more self-aware when encountering different but similar math word problems. Does this study suggest that would not be the case?

I dunno. I’m not sure what they mean by more “cognitively sophisticated” or how exactly they determine bias. I want to continue my “reading and criticizing primary sources” kick today, but I am very poor and the study .pdf costs $12.

The fine denizens of the Internet who have read the study, however, are criticizing The New Yorker article for overstating things. They’re saying that the smarter people only overestimated their own ability to overcome bias. This is a different kind of bias than performing poorly on the tests, and the association was weak anyway. With such a grandiose title like “Why Smart People are Stupid,” this accusation of blowing things out of proportion isn’t surprising.

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