Clever & still stupid

A wonderful article over on Scientific American Mind outlines “dysrationalia,“* a term coined by the author, Keith E. Stanovich, and the differences between being intelligent and acting rationally. In other words, it’s about clever people doing stupid things. IQ is an inadequate measure of our capacity for idiocy.

“It is useful to get a handle on dysrationalia and its causes because we are beset by problems that require increasingly more accurate, rational responses. In the 21st century, shallow processing can lead physicians to choose less effective medical treatments, can cause people to fail to adequately assess risks in their environment, can lead to the misuse of information in legal proceedings, and can make parents resist vaccinating their children. Millions of dollars are spent on unneeded projects by government and private industry when decision makers are dysrationalic, billions are wasted on quack remedies, unnecessary surgery is performed and costly financial misjudgments are made.”

Much of the crux of dysrationality comes down to how we allocate our energy for thinking. Most of us default to being “cognitive misers,” in that we often allocate less resources to fully think through more complex problems and, as a result, get the wrong answer.Thinking rationally also requires the right “tools”: “[R]ules, data, procedures, strategies and other cognitive tools (knowledge of probability, logic and scientific inference) that must be retrieved from memory to think rationally,” Stanovich notes.

Look through the test questions he gives, and wonder at your inability to think deeply. I still can’t get my head around the one about the bat and ball cost.


* I’ll also be using this as the name for my metal band.

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