Thinking, Fast and Slow Chapters 6 and 7


Kahnemann reports that infants even younger than one year old will infer causation from video of shapes interacting.  People are programmed to make connections.  In fact people default to this so easily that people need training to overcome the look for simple patterns.  I could conclude that maybe even more of math class each day should be spent on whne to use strategies and theorems and how to avoid common traps.  Of course the risk is always that you introduce some students to false patterns and traps they would not have thought about otherwise.

In fact the brain jumps to conclusions very easily if a person does not consciously act to intervene.  One good experience or attribute can give someone or something a halo effect that later bad evidence may not overcome.  Also, people who talk first and talk more in meetings tend to get others to agree with them.  This can be used in two ways.  If I think others at a meeting will agree with my idea, but it will have an outspoken critic I could ask everyone to write their ideas down for a minute before we begin discussion.  On the other hand I could suggest an idea or bring a written product to share with people before discussion starts if I think I need to win people over.

People also give anecdotal evidence much more weight than statistical evidence.  I knew this.  I did not know the effect had a name:  What-You-See-Is-All-There-Is., or WYSIATI.  I have seen interviews at the College that moved a committee away from a person with a much stronger background and towards the more charismatic person.  I think this also leads us to overestimate the impact of tutoring and office hours and underestimate the impact of other interventions.  We can see the improvement in the students who visit us frequently.  Of course they may have succeeded anyway and most students do not frequently visit office hours.

This book may be a collection of well known results for a psychologist who reads it.  I’ve noticed some of the effects just working in an academic setting.  I’m glad I chose to read the book, however.  It is causing me to think more deeply about the judgments and decisions I make.  It has also given me a few techniques I can use to persuade others.  I promise to only use this for good.  Probably.

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