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Why Smart People Are Stupid 337

Posted by Soulskill
from the gotta-be-the-shoes dept.
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.'"
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Why Smart People Are Stupid

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  • Makes sense (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @07:28PM (#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.

    • 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 psycholo

      • Physics Training (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Roger W Moore (538166) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @08:48PM (#40303427) Journal
        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.
        • by mevets (322601)

          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.

          • ...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.
            • by rockout (1039072)
              If they only have to be explained to the stupid people, that's a good indicator that, in fact, they may actually be the funniest. Your sarcasm is ironically misplaced.
      • by ArsenneLupin (766289) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @05:56AM (#40306703)
        And what about your pride about not littering your Slashdot posts with strange bird droppings (â)?
  • Yeah... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fredprado (2569351) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @07:28PM (#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.
  • by Eponymous Hero (2090636) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @07:32PM (#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 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by LordLucless (582312) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @08:50PM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wytcld (179112) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @07:34PM (#40302767) Homepage

    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.

    • 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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Artifakt (700173)

        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

    • Re:Bull (Score:4, Insightful)

      by crdotson (224356) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @07:55PM (#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 (Score:4, Informative)

      by marcosdumay (620877) <marcosdumay.gmail@com> on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @07:58PM (#40303011) Homepage Journal

      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.

    • by Rockoon (1252108)
      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 sce
    • by eulernet (1132389)

      In my experience, it's quite possible to gain a conscious vantage on previously-unconscious biases, and subsequently lessen and/or compensate for them.

      You just locate your own mind patterns, but you don't get a deep understanding on how it works internally.

      In my opinion, it's impossible to understand our unconscious mind with thoughts, because the unconscious mind is much faster than our thoughts, and it takes a lot of time to consciously analyse only a fraction of our decisions.
      The more you analyse your behaviours, and the more you tend to constrain yourself.

      From what I heard, zen masters are able to "observe" their unconscious mind during their actions,

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      Precisely. I've got a bad habit of blurting out (potentially) humorous things at contextually inappropriate times. It's compulsive. Quite often, the things I blurt out are just generally inappropriate, but I do it because I think it's funny. I've managed, over the years, to consciously curtail this trait by telling myself, "self, shut the fuck up". Since I've realized my proclivity, it's saved many an embarrassing, awkward moment from happening.

  • SAT socres? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whoever57 (658626) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @07:38PM (#40302803) Journal

    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? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @07:59PM (#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? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by serviscope_minor (664417) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @08:07PM (#40303091) Journal

        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? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @08:37PM (#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".

          • by CAIMLAS (41445)

            That's because education (field and level of degree) has largely been meaningless for the past 15+ years. You've got a 1600 on your SAT but have a double BA in Humanities studies and foreign affairs? You're still a fucking idiot - but people with a 1600 on their SATs don't go into those fields, normally, because they're too highly logical.

            So you've got people with 'medium' SAT scores going to school and getting advanced degrees in useless fields, but the people with the best scores end up doing something "s

        • a high score implies inelligence. Low score gives no imformation so implies a 50% chance of intelligence

          That logic doesn't work. Since the group of people scoring low on the SAT includes all unintelligent people in the population of those who took the test but only includes the intelligent people who did poorly, the likelihood of being intelligent is lower in that group than in the population as a whole. So it doesn't give no information, it just gives less accurate information.

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

          Two points: you just said you can decide on someone being intelligent based purely on their SAT scores, and nobody in their right min

        • by CAIMLAS (41445)

          I know people who tested close to perfect on both the SAT and their GMAT. They're complete fucking idiots: generally incompetent at life, but also not that mentally quick or capable. Some might describe them as "blond", regardless of gender or hair color.

          I'd argue that a high SAT (or GMAT, or ACT) score doesn't correlate to intelligence any higher than a low one does. It might be more correlative, if only due to a self-selection bias. From what I've seen, at least.

        • I didn't understand this until I learned about my wife. Her ACT score was only ~+1 standard deviation above the norm--nothing special really--but she graduated cum laude in college and then top 15% in medical school (AOA). She has OCD, and it inhibits her on any question presented using the paradox of choice.

          I think a lot of people have analogous problems--they may fully understand the concept being tested but remain unable to demonstrate that in their test score or other metric for whatever reason. I think

      • by Creepy (93888)

        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 m

    • by Fjandr (66656)

      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).

  • My theory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jamu (852752) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @07:42PM (#40302847)
    My theory is that smart people are mostly stupid, and that stupid people are fully stupid.
    • by DaneM (810927)

      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! :-)

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @07:43PM (#40302857) Homepage Journal

    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.

    • by Relayman (1068986)
      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.
  • Case in point. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dmomo (256005) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @07:44PM (#40302863) Homepage

    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...

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

  • by Gordonjcp (186804) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @07:52PM (#40302941) Homepage

    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.

    • by Gordonjcp (186804)

      s/to to/you to/

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

      • by Relayman (1068986)
        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.
    • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @08:10PM (#40303117) Journal

      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.

      • GM Lilies! (Score:4, Funny)

        by DarthVain (724186) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @10:26AM (#40308691)

        Personally as a member of the human race I think that would be a fairly ignominious way to die off.

        Alien Teacher: You see in this example the race of "Humans" actually managed to kill themselves off by creating a common "lily pad" (similar to our Xanopods here on Trellic) that reproduced much too quickly. It quickly choked out all food supplies and eventually the Humans themselves.
        Alien Kid: But teacher, that is stupid why would they do that?
        Alien Teacher: Because class, sometimes even very smart people can be stupid when they take cognitive shortcuts. OK class that is all for today, dismissed!

    • by Georules (655379)
      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 othe
    • by mevets (322601)

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

    • 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.

      I did that (yeah, call me stupid, like I care, it gets me women). Then I stopped and thought there must be something missing. The problem is actually divided into two parts:

      ball + bat = 1.10, and bat + 1.00 = ball. If you're lazy like me (and no, that doesn't get me women. Yes, that's where I put the blame for not getting women), then you only look at the first half, ball + bat = 1.10. Find a solution that fits the first half, and your sick of stupid word problems anyway. Turn in your answer and go home (

  • by DaneM (810927) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @07:53PM (#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.

    • by epine (68316)

      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 d

    • by Nimey (114278)

      Hence the college-educated AGW and evolution denialists.

  • by PPH (736903) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @08:17PM (#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.

  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @08:27PM (#40303253) Journal

    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.

    • by sdguero (1112795)
      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.
  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @08:30PM (#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.

  • by RazorSharp (1418697) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @08:40PM (#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.

  • 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
  • by Bobtree (105901) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @08:50PM (#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.

  • by djhertz (322457) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @08:55PM (#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.

  • by jmerlin (1010641) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @08:56PM (#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 yea

  • 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.

    • 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.

      Not to bash the Arts degree, but a CS degree is BS. Also, IT isn't science. A computer scientist working in IT is akin to an MD striping candy.

  • 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.

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

  • by manwargi (1361031) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @09:25PM (#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.

  • . 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 ... is that the driving forces behind biasesâ"the root causes of our irrationalityâ"are largely unconscious, which means they remain invisible to self-analysis and impermeable to intelligence. ...blinding us to those primal processes responsible for many of our everyday failings.

    Uh, I think a therapist would tell you that's why you need them.

    Just sayin'

  • A smart person can't be smart without interaction with others. Preferably other intelligence. It's called iron sharpening iron.

  • 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.

    I call Bullshit!

  • Old news (Score:4, Informative)

    by BenBoy (615230) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @10:24PM (#40304201)

    And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
    -- Matthew 7:3

It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do. -- Jerome Klapka Jerome

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