Matt Ridley on Gut Feelings and the Writings of Gerd Gigerenzer

Merry Christmas!  Here’s the gift of a little science for all you “gut” deciders. Matt Ridley posted this yesterday, pointing to research that suggests that…

more detailed analysis does not necessarily improve a decision, but often makes it worse. He believes, in effect, that less is more: Extra information distracts you from focusing on the few simple aspects of a problem that matter most.

Just don’t call it a hunch, call it a heuristic.

Matt Ridley stole my post’s title

Well, sort of… I was going to call my post on his WSJ column “Effect and Cause”.   Then I checked his blog and found he had cross-posted the piece on his blog using my title.  The nerve!

OK, enough mock self-absorption.  The WSJ title is less clever, but more direct: “When Scientists Confuse Cause and Effect.”  Ridley summarizes the problem neatly:

The nature-nurture debate has long been bedeviled by cause-effect confusion, as exemplified by the old joke: I’m not surprised that Johnny comes from a broken home; he would be enough to break any home.

The perils of “effect and cause” thinking are pervasive.  How many of us say “I don’t have time to plan, I’m too busy!”  Of course, that “busy-ness” is likely caused by the lack of planning itself.

Finally, I recommend checking out the blog post because it has a great graph — from a JoNova post — on climate change that illustrates these dangers.  Continue reading

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