I just finished the book Thinking fast and slow. It’s a really good book that explains how our minds work and contains some valuable advice for everyone. Here I list down 10 different questions/situations presented in the book and the learnings from them.
- A notebook and pencil together cost $1.10. The notebook costs exactly $1 more than the pencil. What is the price of the pencil?Answer: Most of us will answer that the pencil costs $0.10 whereas the actual answer is that it costs $0.05. This is a classic example of fast vs slow thinking. Our mind relies on intuition instead of taking the slower but surer, thoughtful route. This problem exposes our inner mental laziness.
- Yesterday night I ran 15km and then jumped into a cold shower.
Now, fill in the blank : SO_P
Admittedly this is a lame example but the answer most of us will come up with is SOAP. If I had mentioned what I had for dinner last night, most people would have filled it up as SOUP. This process is called priming and has a lot of impact in our day to day lives. Best part is, most of the time this priming happens unconsciously and we often have little or no control over it.
- You me Ben and Sally at a party last night. Ben was easy going and fun to talk to, Sally not so much. I ask you to nominate one of these two to as our next project manager. Who would you choose?99% people would choose Ben even though we have no idea about his skills as a manager. This process is called the Halo effect because our minds unconsciously put a halo on Ben, attributing to him characteristics he may or may not process based on one good experience (the opposite is true for Sally).
- What are you most likely to die by? Heart Stroke or Accident?
Of course, you will answer stroke right now. Because your secondary mind is in control and you’re treating each statement here as a booby trap. But in real life, most people would answer that accidents are more likely to happen (which obviously is not right). This is an example of the availability heuristic, that is we tend to overestimate the probability of things which we hear frequently about (and underestimate the others).
- Fact: Ola has 80% red cabs and 20% yellow cabs
Observation: You see 4 yellow cabs pass you by on a junction
Question : Which color will the next cab be?Answer: Most people will say a yellow cab. Whereas the probability of the next cab being red is 98.75% !! (calculate it yourself or ask me about it in the comments). This is called the base-rate neglect bias which basically means that we tend to ignore known probabilities and instead focus on what we expect to happen. Another related phenomenon that we often fall prey to is called the regression to the mean (read the book for this one!).
- Which is the best mood to be in for solving mathematical problems and which is the best one for persuasing other people? Are they both the same?
Nope, they are not. As stated earlier, we tend to use either our system 1 (the intuitive happy go lucky system) or system 2 (the methodical, mature, less creative buddy) to solve problems. The best suited system for the problem at hand is again dependent on the problem itself. System 1 is best suited for creative and emotional tasks, system 2 for mathematical ones.
- Mr. Jones experiment: Imagine that you’re a psychologist. If I tell you that a certain patient (Mr. Jones) is 10% likely to kill himself if he’s let loose would you let him loose? What if I tell you that 1 in 10 patients similar to Mr. Jones, kill themselves every year. Would your answer change?Surprisingly, yes. People tend to relate more to the second method of statistical explanation as it forces us to picture the reality. Basically, the way we approach a problem depends a lot on the manner in which it is presented to us. Mere changes of representation can bring out a significant change in results.
This is all the information I will leak from the book 😛 Read it to know more about these cognitive biases and how you might save yourself from falling prey to one.