The conceptual framework for a man's search for meaning

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Debunking the myth: “I am 80% smarter than you”

December 23rd, 2011 by dimpledbrain

As best as science can describe it, there is a short cut system in us, scientifically called System 1 or commonly known as Intuition or Six Sense. The bestseller author Malcolm Gladwell romanticized the term Blink, which basically meant the same thing.

All of us would definitely experience this, but almost vaguely if we don’t stop to ponder upon it. Are women more gifted with intuition since they are more feely type?

There was a famous experiment involving peahens. Peahens recognize their peachicks via the sound they produce. So when a fake peachick which could produce the same voice tone was put together with other peachicks, the peahen mothered the fake peachick like her own baby. But once the voice was put out, the peahen attacked the fake peachick like an enemy from hell. Such is the work and wonder of System 1.

The Müller-Lyer illusion is an optical illusion consisting of a stylized arrow:

Your System 1 will immediately tell you that the first arrow is longer than the second arrow. If your System 2 (the rational, deep thinker) is strong you will doubt what you see and seek to verify the truth. By the way, people who frown when they think tend to engage their System 2 more than people who smile, all other things being equal.

Is System 1 for real? Look at the first arrow. System 1 is automatic like our heartbeats. The truth of the matter is that System 1 can be either right or wrong depending on how we contextualize the situation for it to work. That is to say the statement “Your intuition is right” is both right and wrong.

There are, however, situations where System 1 will be fooled like when we are presented with the first arrow above.  The psychologists call it heuristics i.e. simple, efficient rules, hard-coded by evolutionary processes or learned. Like the peahen, however, under some circumstances, these heuristics will lead to cognitive biases.

Bullshit, I am a graduate with critical thinking. Look at arrow 1 again. Even if you think you know the answer, your System 1 will tell you that it’s longer. This is what I meant by cognitive biases.

You would realize that my previous postings have got a great deal on cognitive biases. And to one we shall now turn to.

Consider the following:

  • 85% of the car is Green and the remaining 15% Blue
  • A witness testified that the cab involved in the accident was Blue
  • The witness was tested for the ability to discriminate Green from Blue and was found to be correct 80% of the time
  • What is the probability that the cab in the accident was Blue as the witness testified?

 (a)    80% (b)   50% (c)    41% (d)   29%

p/s: The correct answer to the question above is (c) 41%. That’s right ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the world of Bayes’ theorem and the problem of base rate neglect. Click here for Part 2.

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