Sometimes thinking is a bad idea. Unthinking is the ability to apply years
of learning at a crucial moment by removing your thinking self from the
equation. Thinking too much can kill inspiration. A fundamental paradox of
human psychology is that thinking can be bad for human beings. When we follow
our thoughts too closely, we can lose our bearings, as our inner chatter drowns
out common sense. A study of shopping behavior found that the less information
people were given about a brand of jam, the better the choice they made. When
offered details of ingredients, they got befuddled by their options and ended
up choosing a jam they did not like.
By listening to our instincts, we can tap into a kind of compressed wisdom.
The psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer argues that much of our behavior is based on
sophisticated rules-of-thumb, or “heuristics.” A robot programmed to
chase and catch a ball would need to compute a series of complex differential
equations to track its trajectory. But baseball players do so by instinctively
following simple rules: run in the right general direction, and adjust your
speed to keep a constant angle between eye and ball.
To make good decisions in a complex world, Gigerenzer says, you have to be
skilled at ignoring information. He found that a portfolio of stocks picked by
people he interviewed in the street did better than those chosen by experts,
because the pedestrians were using the “recognition heuristic,” and
they picked companies they’d heard of, which was a better guide to future
Georgios Ardavanis – 11/12/2023