Laura’s talk was about using and improving our judgment in transition. Transitions are marked by the need for making decisions. In transitions as in all else “everywhere you go you are there”. As a rule, we are not confident in our own judgments: we look to experts, we allow ourselves to be guided, and we don’t empower ourselves. So how do we improve our self-confidence? In some areas, you need improvement; and in some areas, you’re not trusting yourselves enough. The purpose of the talk was to help think about ways you might improve your judgment and your own confidence in your judgment.
Models of “economic man” — individuals supposedly making choices rationally based in their own economic best interest — have been debunked by scientists. We now know that decision-making is not rational. Decisions are primarily emotional not rational. People who have damage to the emotion center of the brain can’t even make decisions.
Kahnemann and other decision and judgment scholars discuss two sytems of the brain: the intuitive “System I” – the primitive brain that saves you from so many things, that reacts to danger. It provides intuitive immediate reactions. Intuition is important and also take less energy…the brain develops patterns to make quick calorie- free decisions.
System II – is all about thinking slow. Heavy cognition takes a lot of calories. It’s the deliberate system.
In Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow,” he discusses the biases that we use for quick decision making, mental algorithms. If you see something in a flash, and you think it’s danger, then you run. You don’t start thinking about it and then decide.
System II is involved in deliberative monitoring, you postpone the conclusion, slow things down, examine multiple possibilities and see different perspectives.
The Cognitive Reflection Test reflected in the notes establishes that for certain types of question, we need to slow ourselves down and reflect rather than being governed by intuition.
Often, when we make a bad decision it is because unconscious biases and mental shortcuts have an inordinate impact on our thinking.
Group decision-making can also be tainted. Irving Janus studied catastrophic decision making during the Bay of Pigs, in which very brilliant people made horrible decisions. The disaster was a product of how they made the decisions, the hierarchy in the room, the suppression of competing views, the belief (without polling) that everyone shared the same opinion and the demonization of the other side.
Kahneman and Tversky discovered prospect theory. Use of different words to frame a problem can lead to different outcomes. We are conservative in the face of gain and risk-taking when the prospect is a loss.
“Nudge”, the book by Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein is about decision-making in the context of investments and economics, and it explains a lot about why we hang onto money in a falling market, refuse to sell investments and recognize the loss but maybe follow it all the way to the bottom.
Sunk Cost bias is the belief that I’ve put too much intoa project or goal to change course. But the course forward should be determined without regard to the existing investment in time or money.
Judgment includes fact-finding, imposing meaning, evaluation,and prediction. These elements are interative and interrelated. We think we look at information and we see it, as if our minds are like little cameras…but that’s not how our minds work… Oncewe assign meaning it changes the way we perceive and organize information.
Inattention blindness can result – we actually see what we believe not the other way around. Check out “The Monkey Business Illusion” on Youtube
How can you improve your judgment? When the question is not one that is more properly instinctual, take your time to decide. Don’t give up the exercise of your judgment for the judgment of experts. The experts suffer from unconscious bias as well., they’re no better than you, so be careful about giving over your decision making to other people.
What can you do? See things from a different perspective… Have a devils’ advocate – make sure someone argues the other side, and try to listen to that information without justifying it or censoring it off the bat.
Put yourself in someone elses’s shoes… to change your perspective. That’s really one of the only ways to pull yourself out of your own mental framework…
One way to change perspective is to engage in a pre-mortem-You assume your project has failed and then you analyze the reasons for the failure.
We can decide how to judge – establish and follow a method for collecting and evaluating information, considering assigning roles, play devil’s advocate. Use methods for countering cognitive biases. Or a process for discussing the evidence on both sides of the case before the final decision – recognizing that the intuitive conclusion may feel right and still be wrong.
Laura also recommended that we all take the Implicit Bias test to understand that we are not aware of our unconscious selves. https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/
Another book recommended by the audience: “Mindset”, by Harold Weck.
And another way of improving your decision-making is better understanding statistics and base rates. Take the health literacy test at https://www.harding-center.mpg.de/en