In 2016, our 11 year old was building 2000+ piece complex Lego sets and taking a Lego robot building class with kids twice his age. Today, he loves designing airplanes in “Scrap Mechanic” (a program for building machines and playing online) and is intrigued with taking things apart.
What are the chances he will grow up to be an engineer?
Based on family and friends, it seems a foregone conclusion.
In a family of six children, which do you think is the more likely birth order between the following?
1) B G B B B B
2) B G B G G B
In studies, No. 2 is the overwhelming favorite.
Of course, statistically they are equivalent however option 2 “LOOKS” the most random.
When we make judgements, we compare whatever we are judging to some model in our mind.
If most of us get a simple 50/50 probability wrong, think about what else you could be deciding on, concluding, or trying to explain based on uncertain events!
Our minds do not naturally calculate the proper odds.
We replace the true probability with “rules of thumb” and overestimate based on what we think it should be.
I am not suggesting you can avoid this mental short cut however it can lead to poor choices, stereotypes and errors.
Just because an event or object represents what it should look like to you, does not mean its occurrence is more probable.
Here’s another example:
Sarah loves to listen to New Age music and faithfully reads her horoscope each day. In her spare time, she enjoys aromatherapy and attending a local spirituality group.
Based on the description above, is Sarah more likely to be a schoolteacher or a holistic healer?
Most people choose the latter because it FITS our idea of how a healer behaves. In reality, it is far more likely that Sarah is actually a schoolteacher because schoolteachers are far more common than holistic healers.
This mental short cut or bias permeates our lives in many areas.
When I (used to) go out for coffee, I often ascertained the barista’s skills based on how they looked: Tattoos was equated to better coffee.
We constantly make decisions about how people in certain roles should behave.
This rule of thumb approach can clearly lead to serious miscalculations.
If judgements are distorted when odds are knowable (like odds of having a boy or a girl), how valid do you think your judgements might be when the odds are completely unknown?
The next time you make a guess about a person or likelihood of an event taking place, ask yourself if you are taking a mental shortcut and basing your judgement on what they should look like or how the event should unfold.
Just because that person you are interviewing was a librarian, doesn’t mean they are neat and tidy!
Have a great weekend, Karl
The brain is a machine for jumping to conclusions. Daniel Kahneman