The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes

W. W. Norton & Company
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An eye-opening examination of the stupid things smart people do—and how to cultivate skills to protect ourselves from error.

Smart people are not only just as prone to making mistakes as everyone else, they may be even more susceptible to them. This is the "intelligence trap," the subject of David Robson’s fascinating and provocative book.

The Intelligence Trap explores cutting-edge ideas in our understanding of intelligence and expertise, including "strategic ignorance," "meta-forgetfulness," and "functional stupidity." Robson reveals the surprising ways that even the brightest minds and most talented organizations can go wrong—from some of Thomas Edison’s worst ideas to failures at NASA, Nokia, and the FBI. And he offers practical advice to avoid mistakes based on the timeless lessons of Benjamin Franklin, Richard Feynman, and Daniel Kahneman.

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About the author

David Robson has worked as an editor at New Scientist and BBC Future, and his writing has appeared in the Atlantic, the Observer, and the Washington Post. He lives in London.

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Additional Information

Publisher
W. W. Norton & Company
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Published on
Aug 6, 2019
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9780393651430
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Psychology / Cognitive Psychology & Cognition
Psychology / Neuropsychology
Science / Cognitive Science
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Content protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Decision making cuts across most areas of intellectual enquiry and academic endeavor. The classical view of individual human thinkers choosing among options remains important and instructive, but the contributors to this volume broaden this perspective to characterize the decision making behavior of groups, non-human organisms and even non-living objects and mathematical constructs. A diverse array of methods is brought to bear-mathematical, computational, subjective, neurobiological, evolutionary, and cultural. We can often identify best or optimal decisions and decision making processes, but observed responses may deviate markedly from these, to a large extent because the environment in which decisions must be made is constantly changing. Moreover, decision making can be highly constrained by institutions, natural and social context, and capabilities. Studies of the mechanisms underlying decisions by humans and other organisms are just beginning to gain traction and shape our thinking. Though decision making has fundamental similarities across the diverse array of entities considered to be making them, there are large differences of degree (if not kind) that relate to the question of human uniqueness. From this survey of views and approaches, we converge on a tentative agenda for accelerating development of a new field that includes advancing the dialog between the sciences and the humanities, developing a defensible classification scheme for decision making and decision makers, addressing the role of morality and justice, and moving advances into applications-the rapidly developing field of decision support.
This volume presents a variety of perspectives from within and outside moral psychology. Recently there has been an explosion of research in moral psychology, but it is one of the subfields most in need of bridge-building, both within and across areas. Interests in moral phenomena have spawned several separate lines of research that appear to address similar concerns from a variety of perspectives. The contributions to this volume examine key theoretical and empirical issues these perspectives share that connect these issues with the broader base of theory and research in social and cognitive psychology.

The first two chapters discuss the role of mental representation in moral judgment and reasoning. Sloman, Fernbach, and Ewing argue that causal models are the canonical representational medium underlying moral reasoning, and Mikhail offers an account that makes use of linguistic structures and implicates legal concepts. Bilz and Nadler follow with a discussion of the ways in which laws, which are typically construed in terms of affecting behavior, exert an influence on moral attitudes, cognition, and emotions.

Baron and Ritov follow with a discussion of how people's moral cognition is often driven by law-like rules that forbid actions and suggest that value-driven judgment is relatively less concerned by the consequences of those actions than some normative standards would prescribe. Iliev et al. argue that moral cognition makes use of both rules and consequences, and review a number of laboratory studies that suggest that values influence what captures our attention, and that attention is a powerful determinant of judgment and preference. Ginges follows with a discussion of how these value-related processes influence cognition and behavior outside the laboratory, in high-stakes, real-world conflicts.

Two subsequent chapters discuss further building blocks of moral cognition. Lapsley and Narvaez discuss the development of moral characters in children, and Reyna and Casillas offer a memory-based account of moral reasoning, backed up by developmental evidence. Their theoretical framework is also very relevant to the phenomena discussed in the Sloman et al., Baron and Ritov, and Iliev et al. chapters.

The final three chapters are centrally focused on the interplay of hot and cold cognition. They examine the relationship between recent empirical findings in moral psychology and accounts that rely on concepts and distinctions borrowed from normative ethics and decision theory. Connolly and Hardman focus on bridge-building between contemporary discussions in the judgment and decision making and moral judgment literatures, offering several useful methodological and theoretical critiques. Ditto, Pizarro, and Tannenbaum argue that some forms of moral judgment that appear objective and absolute on the surface are, at bottom, more about motivated reasoning in service of some desired conclusion. Finally, Bauman and Skitka argue that moral relevance is in the eye of the perceiver and emphasize an empirical approach to identifying whether people perceive a given judgment as moral or non-moral. They describe a number of behavioral implications of people's reported perception that a judgment or choice is a moral one, and in doing so, they suggest that the way in which researchers carve out the moral domain a priori might be dubious.

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“One of the most important books I’ve ever read—an indispensable guide to thinking clearly about the world.” – Bill Gates

“Hans Rosling tells the story of ‘the secret silent miracle of human progress’ as only he can. But Factfulness does much more than that. It also explains why progress is so often secret and silent and teaches readers how to see it clearly.” —Melinda Gates

"Factfulness by Hans Rosling, an outstanding international public health expert, is a hopeful book about the potential for human progress when we work off facts rather than our inherent biases." - Former U.S. President Barack Obama

Factfulness: The stress-reducing habit of only carrying opinions for which you have strong supporting facts.

When asked simple questions about global trends—what percentage of the world’s population live in poverty; why the world’s population is increasing; how many girls finish school—we systematically get the answers wrong. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at random will consistently outguess teachers, journalists, Nobel laureates, and investment bankers.

In Factfulness, Professor of International Health and global TED phenomenon Hans Rosling, together with his two long-time collaborators, Anna and Ola, offers a radical new explanation of why this happens. They reveal the ten instincts that distort our perspective—from our tendency to divide the world into two camps (usually some version of us and them) to the way we consume media (where fear rules) to how we perceive progress (believing that most things are getting worse).

Our problem is that we don’t know what we don’t know, and even our guesses are informed by unconscious and predictable biases.

It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. That doesn’t mean there aren’t real concerns. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a worldview based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us most.

Inspiring and revelatory, filled with lively anecdotes and moving stories, Factfulness is an urgent and essential book that will change the way you see the world and empower you to respond to the crises and opportunities of the future.

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“This book is my last battle in my life-long mission to fight devastating ignorance...Previously I armed myself with huge data sets, eye-opening software, an energetic learning style and a Swedish bayonet for sword-swallowing. It wasn’t enough. But I hope this book will be.” Hans Rosling, February 2017.
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