We often make assumptions that are reasonable in one context, abstract it into a guideline and apply that guideline to a new situation. Often, it is difficult to assess whether these situations are close enough to apply what we know to what we don’t.
At base, this is the problem of induction. There is no rational basis to argue from circumstances we have experienced to another situation we have not.
But, we’ve all done it. Life presents us with situations where we have to make an intuitive leap that is good enough to get us to a good outcome, better than if we made assumptions based on the probabilities of random chance. However, the post from today on How Not to be Stupid suggests elements that undermine our ability to make these intuitive leaps, such as:
- We are applying it to something new. Hard to assess something that you have no experience with.
- It is a high stress situation. When the stakes are high, it is easier to make mistakes.
- We need to make a decision quickly. It’s just a form of stress.
- We are invested in a particular outcome, i.e., it is hard to get someone to see something that their livelihood depends on them not seeing.
- There is too much information to consider. When it is all noise and/or all signal it is difficult to figure out what to use to inform our intuitions and pare it down to what is essential.
- There is social suasion in the form of individual and group dynamics that influence us in particular directions
When the whole enterprise is compromised, it is hard to realize when you have moved from a place to engage in reasonable guesswork and when you have come completely unmoored. The first indication that this is the case is when you are wrong more often than average, which means you need to track how well your decisions do and get feedback into your system. Otherwise, you might never realize the extent that you are cognitively compromised.