Smart people are stupid.
Well, in so much as they're more prone to make way more mistakes, that is. It's not their fault. It's pretty automatic!
'Although we assume that intelligence is a buffer against bias—that’s why those with higher S.A.T. scores think they are less prone to these universal thinking mistakes—it can actually be a subtle curse.'
Here's an example of that they're talking about:
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?
You probably tried to take a short cut and halve the final result — 48 — and came to the answer 24, right?
Wrong. The answer is 47. That short cut killed you.
They gave a questionnaire like this to four hundred and eighty-two undergraduates.
Taking the results, they then mixed their tests of bias with various cognitive measurements, including the S.A.T. and the Need for Cognition Scale, which measures “the tendency for an individual to engage in and enjoy thinking.”
The scariest thing is that they found that there is a bias blind spot, meaning that we're always automatically thinking that other people are more prone to making mistakes than we are. It's rooted in our ability to spot mistakes that other people are making. The problem is that we have the inability to spot those same mistakes in ourselves.
Intelligence seems to make this worse:
'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.'
Well, that sucks.
Would you rather be smart and flawed like this, or dumb and better at avoiding this all?
[Image via WENN.]