Archive for the ‘Decision-making’ Category

So, are you left-brained or right-brained?

February 23, 2017

Yesterday’s post prompted some questions re: what exactly is left-brained and right-brained thinking, so … 

For decades cognitive psychologists has characterized folks as being either left brain dominant  – logical – or right brain dominant – creative.

Browse the lists below and pick your dominant brain side – left or right.

image

= = = = = 
So what? What to do?
= = = = =

(more…)

Biases: The “halo effect” … rock on, sister!

September 20, 2016

Since Alicia Keys debuted as a coach on The Voice last night, I have a semi-legitimate excuse for reprising one of my all-time favorite posts … topic is a cognitive bias called the “halo effect”.

=======

I’ll explain the picture later, but first, the back story.

A couple of interesting dots got connected last week.

image

First, I started watching The Voice.

I liked the talent and the bantering among the coaches, but wondered why they used the turning chairs gimmick.  You know, judges can’t see the the performers, they can just hear them.

Became apparent when Usher turned his chair and was surprised to see that the high-pitched soul singer was a big white guy.

Hmmm.

=====

Second, for the course I’m currently teaching, I’ve been reading a book called The Art of Thinking Clearly — a series of short essays on cognitive biases – those sneaky psychological effects that impair our decision-making.

(more…)

Biases: The “halo effect” … rock on, sister!

September 24, 2015

Two coinciding events this week: I’m prepping my fall course in business analytics — with some emphasis on decision biases — and, AGT is over (finally) and The Voice’s new season started.

So, it’s time to dust off one of my favorite posts …

======

I’ll explain the picture later, but first, the back story.

A couple of interesting dots got connected last week.

 

image

First, I started watching The Voice.

I liked the talent and the bantering among the coaches, but wondered why they used the turning chairs gimmick.  You know, judges can’t see the the performers, they can just hear them.

Became apparent when Usher turned his chair and was surprised to see that the high-pitched soul singer was a big white guy.

Hmmm.

=====

Second, for the course I’m currently teaching, I’ve been reading a book called The Art of Thinking Clearly — a series of short essays on cognitive biases – those sneaky psychological effects that impair our decision-making.

(more…)

Why we make mistakes: Winging it, too few constraints, greener grass

June 29, 2015

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, i’ll be excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books

Grass look s greener

Today, we finish the list … ending with an old standby: The Grass Looks Greener …

(more…)

Why we make mistakes: We’re all above average (or at least think we are)

June 26, 2015

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, i’ll be excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books

Im above average

Today, we add reason #10 to the list. we all think we’re above average

(more…)

Why we make mistakes: Men shoot first, then …

June 25, 2015

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, i’ll be excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books

Man shooting gun

Today, we add reason #9 to the list. Men shoot first, then …

(more…)

Why we make mistakes: frame of mind, skimming, tidiness

June 24, 2015

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, I’m  excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books

Man making mistake

Today, we add reasons 6, 7 and 8 to the list.

(more…)

Why we make mistakes: The myth of multi-tasking

June 23, 2015

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, I’m excerpting the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books

Mukti-tasking woman

Today, we add reason #5 to the list: the myth of multi-tasking…

(more…)

Why we make mistakes …

June 22, 2015

In this and a couple of subsequent posts, i’ll be excerpting  the 13 reasons from a summer read:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books

Confused man

Today, the first 4 reasons on the list …

(more…)

Biases: The favorite-long shot bias …

June 5, 2015

In gambling and economics, there’s an observed phenomenon favorite-long shot bias.

image

Here’s how it works …

 

(more…)

Biases: The “halo effect” … rock on, sister!

April 12, 2015

We’ve covering the Halo Effect in class this week, so it’s time to dust off one of my favorite posts …

======

I’ll explain the picture later, but first, the back story.

A couple of interesting dots got connected last week.

 

image

First, I started watching The Voice.

I liked the talent and the bantering among the coaches, but wondered why they used the turning chairs gimmick.  You know, judges can’t see the the performers, they can just hear them.

Became apparent when Usher turned his chair and was surprised to see that the high-pitched soul singer was a big white guy.

Hmmm.

=====

Second, for the course I’m currently teaching, I’ve been reading a book called The Art of Thinking Clearly — a series of short essays on cognitive biases – those sneaky psychological effects that impair our decision-making.

(more…)

It’s those shades of gray that are keeping you from making a decision …

November 18, 2014

Excerpted fro WSJ: Why So Many People Can’t Make Decisions

Some people meet, fall in love and get married right away. Others can spend hours in the sock aisle at the department store, weighing the pros and cons of buying a pair of wool argyles instead of cotton striped.

Indecisive Man

Seeing the world as black and white, in which choices seem clear, or shades of gray can affect people’s path in life, from jobs and relationships to which political candidate they vote for.

Researchers say …

(more…)

HITS: Are you left-brained or right-brained?

November 13, 2014

HITS: HomaFiles’s Ideas To Share

For decades cognitive psychologists has characterized folks as being either left brain dominant  – logical – or right brain dominant – creative.

Browse the lists below and pick your dominant brain side – left or right.

image

= = = = = 
So what? What to do?
= = = = =

(more…)

Biases: The favorite-long shot bias …

November 12, 2014

In gambling and economics, there’s an observed phenomenon favorite-long shot bias.

image

Here’s how it works …

 

(more…)

Are you a maximizer or satisficer?

October 28, 2014

interesting piece from the WSJ

Psychology researchers have studied how people make decisions and concluded there are two basic styles.

“Maximizers” like to take their time and weigh a wide range of options—sometimes every possible one—before choosing.

“Satisficers” would rather be fast than thorough; they prefer to quickly choose the option that fills the minimum criteria (the word “satisfice” blends “satisfy” and “suffice”).

“Maximizers are people who want the very best.

Satisficers are people who want good enough,”

image

Take the quick test below to see if you’re a maximizer or satisficer…. and see what the implications are.. 

(more…)

Why we make mistakes: We’re all above average (or at least think we are)

September 15, 2014

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, i’ll be excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books

Im above average

Today, we add reason #10 to the list. we all think we’re above average

(more…)

Why we make mistakes: Winging it, too few constraints, greener grass

September 10, 2014

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, i’ll be excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books

Grass look s greener

Today, we finish the list … ending with an old standby: The Grass Looks Greener …

(more…)

Why we make mistakes: Men shoot first, then …

September 8, 2014

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, i’ll be excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books

Man shooting gun

Today, we add reason #9 to the list. Men shoot first, then …

(more…)

Why we make mistakes: frame of mind, skimming, tidiness

September 5, 2014

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, I’m  excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books

Man making mistake

Today, we add reasons 6, 7 and 8 to the list.

(more…)

Why We Make Mistakes: The myth of multi-tasking

September 4, 2014

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, I’m excerpting the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books

Mukti-tasking woman

Today, we add reason #5 to the list: the myth of multi-tasking…

(more…)

Why we make mistakes …

September 3, 2014

In this and a couple of subsequent posts, i’ll be excerpting  the 13 reasons from a summer read:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books

Confused man

Today, the first 4 reasons on the list …

(more…)

Biases: The favorite-long shot bias …

July 3, 2014

In gambling and economics, there’s an observed phenomenon favorite-long shot bias.

image

Here’s how it works …

 

(more…)

Decisions: How often do corp execs make the right call?

July 2, 2014

I often confess to my students that I thought about 51% of the business decisions were correct … and that was despite my analytical pre-disposition and the benefit of a highly proficient team of managers and analysts.

Apparently, my record was about on par.

 

clip_image002

 

According to decision scientists Chip & Dan Heath in Decisive: How to Make Better Choices …

(more…)

Biases: The favorite-long shot bias …

March 27, 2014

In gambling and economics, there’s an observed phenomenon favorite-long shot bias.

image

Here’s how it works …

 

(more…)

Biases: The “halo effect” … rock on, sister!

March 25, 2014

I’ll explain the picture later, but first, the back story.

A couple of interesting dots got connected last week.

 

image

First, I started watching The Voice.

I liked the talent and the bantering among the coaches, but wondered why they used the turning chairs gimmick.  You know, judges can’t see the the performers, they can just hear them.

Became apparent when Usher turned his chair and was surprised to see that the high-pitched soul singer was a big white guy.

Hmmm.

=====

Second, for the course I’m currently teaching, I’ve been reading a book called The Art of Thinking Clearly — a series of short essays on cognitive biases – those sneaky psychological effects that impair our decision-making.

(more…)

Why we make mistakes: Winging it, too few constraints, greener grass

January 28, 2014

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, i’ll be excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books 2009

Grass look s greener

Today, we finish the list … ending with an old standby: The Grass Looks Greener …

(more…)

Why we make mistakes: We’re all above average (or at least think we are)

January 24, 2014

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, i’ll be excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books 2009

Im above average

Today, we add reason #10 to the list. we all think we’re above average

(more…)

Why we make mistakes: Men shoot first, then …

January 23, 2014

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, i’ll be excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books 2009

Man shooting gun

Today, we add reason #9 to the list. Men shoot first, then …

(more…)

Why we make mistakes: frame of mind, skimming, tidiness

January 22, 2014

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, I’m  excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books 2009

Man making mistake

Today, we add reasons 6, 7 and 8 to the list.

(more…)

Why We Make Mistakes: The myth of multi-tasking

January 21, 2014

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, I’m excerpting the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books 2009

Mukti-tasking woman

Today, we add reason #5 to the list: the myth of multi-tasking…

(more…)

Why we make mistakes …

January 20, 2014

In this and a couple of subsequent posts, i’ll be excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books 2009

Confused man

Today, the first 4 reasons on the list …

(more…)

HITS: Are you left-brained or right-brained?

September 13, 2013

HITS: HomaFiles’s Ideas To Share

For decades cognitive psychologists has characterized folks as being either left brain dominant  – logical – or right brain dominant – creative.

Browse the lists below and pick your dominant brain side – left or right.

image

= = = = = 
So what? What to do?
= = = = =

(more…)

Problem Solving Skills: Identifying Core Issues

December 18, 2012

In a prior post Effective problem-solving … the five key skills, we isolated 5 key problem solving skills.

image

Let’s drill down on #1 …

* * * * * *
(1) Identify core issues quickly

One of my observations was drawn for the Center for Creative Leadership which has found that : “Managers faced with a complex problem typically end up solving the wrong problem.”

How can that be?  What explains the misses?

Based on my experiences, there are 4 at least 4 frequently encountered stumbling blocks that managers often encounter.

  1. Wandering in a foreign land: Often, managers just don’t have the perspective – drawn from experience or education or whatever – to fully understand the nuances of a problem or recognize the tell-tale patterns.
  2. Trees obscure the forest: The initial observation related to complex problems, which – by definition — come laden with extraneous or equivocal information that sometimes clouds the picture and causes cognitive solution.
  3. Unconscious biases take over: For example. how about cutting the Federal deficit?  If you present the problem to a fiscal conservative, they’ll immediately start probing for spending cuts.  If you ask a liberal, they’ll start figuring how to raise taxes.  Same problem.  Different perspectives drive by in-going biases.
  4. (Preference for simpler problems: In his book “Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow”, Adam Tversky argues that most mortals – when confronted by a hard, complicated problem exhibit a burning urge to to solve a simpler problem … one they’ve seen before, or one that seems simpler and more solvable.

* * * * *
So, how to jump over these stumbling blocks?

Here are some suggestions …

  • Start generic, then get specific: If you’re unfamiliar with a particular industry or situation, take it up a level of abstraction.  That is, conceptualize it with relevant elements that are more familiar.  Then, adjust to the specifics of the situation.
  • Clear clutter, structure problem: Get down to the absolute essentials. Purge the problem of the distracters that aren’t germane or the factors that aren’t  likely to influence the answer.  Don’t be lured to information that may be interesting but not determining.  Once the canvas is cleaner, patterns should be easier to discern.
  • Stay focused and be objective: This hard because many biases are sub-conscious.  Ask yourself if a person with a different slant would come to the same conclusion.
  • Refrain: “What’s the question?” … Keep pushing yourself to test “is this the central problem … or, just a symptom?”

* * * * *
Follow on Twitter @KenHoma           >> Latest Posts

HITS: Pascal’s Wager … perhaps, we should be more righteous.

November 29, 2012

HITS: HomaFile’s Idea To Share

One of the few things I remember from Philosophy 101 is Pascal’s Wager.

In a nutshell, it says that God may or may not exist … and we all have the choice to live righteously or sinfully.

Naturally, that creates a 2 X 2 matrix …

If you choose to live on the wild side and God exists … uh oh.

If you choose to live a clean life, you score big if God exists … and don’t have much downside if she doesn’t.

I often find Pascal’s Wager to be a practical decision-making prop.

image

Follow on Twitter @KenHoma    >> Latest Posts

HITS: Are you left-brained or right-brained?

November 27, 2012

HITS: HomaFiles’s Ideas To Share

For decades cognitive psychologists has characterized folks as being either left brain dominant  – logical – or right brain dominant – creative.

Browse the lists below and pick your dominant brain side – left or right.

image

= = = = = 
So what? What to do?
= = = = =

(more…)

Problem Solving Skills: Identifying Core Issues … the PAR framework

November 16, 2012

One key problem solving skill is identifying core issues quickly.

In a prior post, we explored why “Managers faced with a complex problem typically end up solving the wrong problem” …. and suggested some remedies.

Continuing that discussion …

Recognize that the number of core business problems is not infinite … though variants abound.

More specifically, in my opinion, the defining conceptual structure of most business problems is the same … and is captured in the PAR Framework.

PAR stands for Potential – Action – Results … companies take action against identified market potential to secure results … which, in most cases, are measured as profits.

image

A business problem – or case interview question — usually centers on one of the PAR components … with the other 2 providing a basis for resolution.

For example, if profits (the “R”) are down, the question is whether it’s due to market conditions (the “P”) or the company’s actions (the (“A”).

Or, the question may be how to respond (the “A”) to a change in market or competitive conditions (the “P”) … and what results to expect for alternative responses.

Or, the question may be what markets to enter (the “P”) in what way (the “A”) … to achieve what results.

The takeaway point: the PAR Framework provides a ready structure for getting your arms around common business problems.

> Latest Posts

Election predictions: The favorite-long shot bias …

November 9, 2012

Punch line: For some folks who predicted a Romney win over Obama, it  was simply heart over head.

For others, it may have been the favorite-long shot bias

= = = = =
In gambling and economics, there’s an observed phenomenon favorite-long shot bias.

image

On average, bettors tend to overvalue “long shots” and undervalue favorites.

That is, in a horse race where one horse is given odds of 2-to-1, and another 100-to-1, the true odds might for example be 1.5-to-1 and 300-to-1 respectively.

Betting on the “long shot” is therefore a much worse proposition than betting on the favorite.

Various theories exist to explain why people willingly bet on such losing propositions, such as risk-loving behavior, or simply inaccurate estimation.

Source

>> Latest Posts

Want to sell more? … Then, limit purchase quantities.

October 8, 2012

The effect is called “anchoring” … and it’s a well known cognitive bias.

When somebody is “primed” with a number, they will tend to internalize it and sub-consciously anchor their minds on the number.

Any estimates they then make are more often than not fine tuning adjustments around the anchor point.

“Any number that you are asked to consider as a possible solution to an estimation problem will induce an anchoring effect.”

For example, researchers consistently find that home appraisals and offer bids are invariably influenced by listing prices … even if objective, professional agents are involved … and even if they’re explicitly told to ignore the listing price.

Anchoring effects explain why, for example, arbitrary rationing is an effective marketing ploy.

A few years ago, supermarket shoppers in Sioux City, Iowa, encountered a sales promotion for Campbell’s soup at about 10% off the regular price.

On some days, a sign on the shelf said limit of 12 per person.

On other days, the sign said no limit per person. Shoppers purchased an average of 7 cans when the limit was in force, twice as many as they bought when the limit was removed.

Anchoring is not the sole explanation.

Rationing also implies that the goods are flying off the shelves, and shoppers should feel some urgency about stocking up.

But we also know that the mention of 12 cans as a possible purchase

So, to boost sales, tell customers that there’s a limit on the number of items they can buy.

They’ll get anchored on the limiting number … and often buy up to the limit.

The same effect occurs when products are priced as multiples … say, 3 for $6.

Shoppers will tend to buy 3, even if the retailer is only charging $2 each regrdless of how many are sold.

Excerpted from Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

>> Latest Posts

It’s those shades of gray that are keeping you from making a decision …

October 8, 2010

Excerpted fro WSJ: Why So Many People Can’t Make Decisions, Sept. 27, 2010

Some people meet, fall in love and get married right away. Others can spend hours in the sock aisle at the department store, weighing the pros and cons of buying a pair of wool argyles instead of cotton striped.

Seeing the world as black and white, in which choices seem clear, or shades of gray can affect people’s path in life, from jobs and relationships to which political candidate they vote for, researchers say.

image

People who often have conflicting feelings about situations — the shades-of-gray thinkers — have more of what psychologists call ambivalence, while those who tend toward unequivocal views have less ambivalence.

High ambivalence may be useful in some situations, and low ambivalence in others.

And although people don’t fall neatly into one camp or the other, in general, individuals who tend toward ambivalence do so fairly consistently across different areas of their lives.

Now, researchers have been investigating how ambivalence, or lack of it, affects people’s lives, and how they might be able to make better decisions.

Overall, thinking in shades of gray is a sign of maturity, enabling people to see the world as it really is. It’s a “coming to grips with the complexity of the world.”

If there isn’t an easy answer, ambivalent people, more than black-and-white thinkers, are likely to procrastinate and avoid making a choice. 

People with a strong need to reach a conclusion in a given situation tend to black-and-white thinking, while ambivalent people tend to be more comfortable with uncertainty.

Because of their strongly positive or strongly negative views, black-and-white thinkers tend to be quicker at making decisions than highly ambivalent people.

Ambivalent people, on the other hand, tend to systematically evaluate all sides of an argument before coming to a decision. They scrutinize carefully the evidence that is presented to them, making lists of pros and cons, and rejecting overly simplified information. 

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703694204575518200704692936.html?mod=WSJ_hp_mostpop_read

Why we make mistakes: Winging it, too few constraints, greener grass

March 22, 2010

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, i’ll be excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books 2009

Today, we finish the list.

* * * * * *

The errors we make can be explained through 13 lessons:

1. We look but don’t always see.

2. We all search for meaning.

3. We connect the dots.

4. We wear rose-colored glasses.

5. We can walk and chew gum — but not much else.

6. We’re in the wrong frame of mind.

7. We skim.

8. We like things tidy.

9. Men shoot first.

10. We all think we’re above average.

* * * * *

11. We’d rather wing it.

Over time, winging it just doesn’t work. Knowledge and deliberate practice do.

When performed correctly, prolonged, deliberate practice produces a large body of specialized knowledge in the mind of the person doing the practice.

Having this large body of knowledge allows an expert to quickly recognize patterns that other people don’t.

12. We don’t constrain ourselves.

One way to reduce errors is by introducing constraints. Essentially, these constraints are simple mental aids that keep us on the right track by limiting our alternatives

13. The grass does look greener.

Researchers have found that when it comes to well-being, neither social states, education, income, marital status, nor religious commitment accounts for more than about 3 percent of the variance in people’s reported levels of well-being.

Nonetheless, it’s human nature to overvalue the unknown and, in the process, chase elusive dreams that turn out to be less fulfilling than what we have.

All done …

Why we make mistakes: We’re all above average (or at least think we are)

March 19, 2010

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, i’ll be excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books 2009

Today, we add reason #10 to the list.

* * * * * *

The errors we make can be explained through 13 lessons:

1. We look but don’t always see.

2. We all search for meaning.

3. We connect the dots.

4. We wear rose-colored glasses.

5. We can walk and chew gum — but not much else.

6. We’re in the wrong frame of mind.

7. We skim.

8. We like things tidy.

9. Men shoot first.

* * * * *

10. We all think we’re above average.

Most of us hate to think of ourselves as average. So we walk around with the private conceit that we are above average, and in that conceit lies the seeds of many mistakes.

“Calibration” measures the differences between actual and perceived abilities. If you’re as good as you think you are, then you are said to be well calibrated. If you are not as good as you think you are, then you are said to be poorly calibrated.

Most of us tend to be poorly calibrated when it comes to important skills, like those we need to perform our jobs.

Corrective feedback is a powerful way to shape human behavior. In situations where overconfidence is high.

But, feedback is often low in quantity, in quality, or in both.

* * * * *
Next up: We finish the list …

Why we make mistakes: Men shoot first, then …

March 18, 2010

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, i’ll be excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books 2009

Today, we add reason #9 to the list.

* * * * * *

The errors we make can be explained through 13 lessons:

1. We look but don’t always see.

2. We all search for meaning.

3. We connect the dots.

4. We wear rose-colored glasses.

5. We can walk and chew gum — but not much else.

6. We’re in the wrong frame of mind.

7. We skim.

8. We like things tidy.

* * * * *

9. Men shoot first.

Aspects of our personalities predispose many of us toward certain kinds of errors. Overconfidence is a leading source of human error and, across a wide field of endeavors.

Both men and women have been shown to be overconfident. However, men, as a rule, tend to be more overconfident than women are, and this difference explains much about the kinds of mistakes men and women make.

When men and women are asked to estimate their IQs, men, on average, will give higher estimates than women will. However, men aren’t as smart as they think they are; their IQs turn out to be lower than they had guessed. Women, on the other hand, turn out to be smarter than they think they are; their IQs are, on average, higher than their estimates. In other words, men overestimate their IQs and women underestimate theirs.

Throughout their lives, for example, men report having more confidence about their sense of direction than women do — even though there is little evidence that they actually have a better sense of direction.

When it comes to making mistakes, women appear to be harder on themselves than men are.

* * * * *
Next up: We’re all above average … yeah, right.

Why we make mistakes: frame of mind, skimming, tidiness

March 17, 2010

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, I’m  excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books 2009

Today, we add reasons 6, 7 and 8 to the list.

* * * * * *

The errors we make can be explained through 13 lessons:

1. We look but don’t always see.

2. We all search for meaning.

3. We connect the dots.

4. We wear rose-colored glasses.

5. We can walk and chew gum — but not much else.

* * * * *

6. We’re in the wrong frame of mind.

How we frame an issue can greatly affect our response to it.

In situations where we expect a loss, we are prone to take risks. However, when we are considering gains, we become more conservative; we simply want to hold on to a sure thing. This pattern seems to stem, in part, from the human approach to risk perception.

Many factors can affect the way we frame our decisions. One of the least obvious factors is time. When the consequences of our decisions are far off, we are prone to take bigger gambles. However, when consequences are more immediate, we become more conservative.

7. We skim.

We rely on context to guide our perception of everyday events. The better we are at something, the more likely we are to skim.

However, this ability comes with a trade-off: Accuracy is sacrificed, and details are overlooked. As something becomes familiar, we tend to notice less.

We see things not as they are, but as we assume they ought to be. This ingrained behavior can cause us to overlook not only small things, but some things that are startlingly large.

8. We like things tidy.

The process of retelling a story in our own narrative style places certain constraints on what we recall, and these constraints guide our reconstruction of events.

If we tell a story in a funny way, for example, we’re likely to leave out certain details or maybe even add a few of our own making. In this process, a story doesn’t simply become a vision of the original event, it becomes the event; it is the way we remember it.

* * * * *
Next up: Men shoot first …

Why We Make Mistakes: The myth of multi-tasking

March 16, 2010

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, I’m excerpting the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books 2009

Today, we add reason #5 to the list.

* * * * * *

The errors we make can be explained through 13 lessons:

1. We look but don’t always see.

2. We all search for meaning.

3. We connect the dots.

4. We wear rose-colored glasses.

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5. We can walk and chew gum — but not much else.

Whether we’re on foot or behind the wheel, our attention is continually being divided by the tasks we try to juggle, such as listening to iPods, talking on cell phones, and tapping away on BlackBerrys.

Most of us believe our brains can work in the same way that computers multitask. Although multi-tasking has become a hallmark of the modern workplace, it is also one of the great myths of the modern age. We may think we are focusing on several activities at once, but our attention is actually jumping back and forth between tasks.

Not even a computer, by the way, can multitask; it actually switches back and forth between several tasks several times per second, thus presenting the illusion that all of the tasks are being performed at once.

Our minds provide us with the same illusion.

the gains we think we make by multitasking are often illusory. This is because the brain slows down when it has to juggle tasks.

Switching from task to task also creates other problems. One such problem is that we forget what we are doing — or planned to do. In some cases, the forgetting rate can be as high as 40 percent.

Another cost to multitasking is downtime. When we’re working on one thing and are interrupted, it takes us a while to refocus on what we were originally working on.

Workplace studies have found that it takes up to 15 minutes for us to regain a deep state of concentration after a distraction, such as a phone call.

Divided attention can also produce a dangerous condition known as inattentional blindness. In this condition, it is possible for an individual to look directly at something and still not see it.

One example, driver distraction, is now considered a much more frequent cause of auto accidents than safety officials once believed. When switching from task to task, drivers need downtime to recover.

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Next up: Wrong frame of mind …

Why we make mistakes …

March 15, 2010

In this and a couple of subsequent posts, i’ll be excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books 2009

Today, the first 4 reasons on the list

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When it comes to making mistakes, the cause is overwhelmingly attributed to human error.

Whether it’s airplane crashes (70 percent), car crashes (90 percent), or workplace accidents (90 percent), humans are usually to blame.

However, in many cases, our mistakes are not entirely our fault. All of us are afflicted with certain systemic biases in the way we see, remember, and perceive the world around us, and these biases make us prone to commit certain types of errors.

The errors we make can be explained through 13 lessons:

1. We look but don’t always see.

When it comes to human error, this kind of mistake is so common that researchers have given it its own nickname: “a looked but didn’t see” error. When we look at something — or at someone — we think we see all there is to see. But we don’t. Often times, we miss important details, some small and some larger.

2. We all search for meaning.

A recent poll of 3,000 people found that one-fourth of them couldn’t remember their own phone numbers, and two-thirds couldn’t recall the birthdays of more than three friends or family members.

When it comes to hiding places, people also mistakenly believe that the more unusual a hiding place is, the more memorable it will be. However, the opposite is actually true: Unusualness actually makes a hiding place more forgettable. The key to a good hiding place is making a quick connection between the thing being hidden and the place in which it is hidden.

The same holds for passwords.  While associated meanings may make them easier to hack, they’re certainly more memorable if they have personal meaning.

3. We connect the dots (prematurely).

The moment we experience a flicker of recognition, the brain does something similar to connecting the dots that we didn’t know it was connecting. These types of subtle connections are very powerful — and very common. 

Once we “see” a pattern developing we hurry it to its logical conclusion — sometimes erroneously — regardless of contrary indicators that may surface.

4. We wear rose-colored glasses.

Hindsight isn’t 20/20.

In remembering our own actions, we all tend to wear rose-colored glasses. Without intentionally trying to distort the record, we are prone to recalling our own words and deeds ina light that is more favorable than an objective record would show.

In fact, the tendency to see and remember in self-serving ways is so ingrained in us — and so subtle — that we often have no idea that we’re doing it.

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Next up: The myth of multi-tasking …