An expert on human blind spots gives advice on how to think

A lot of the issues or problems we get into, we get into because we’re doing it all by ourselves. We’re relying on ourselves. We’re making decisions as our own island, if you will. And if we consult, chat, schmooze with other people, often we learn things or get different perspectives that can be quite helpful.

An active social life, active social bonds, in many different ways tends to be something that’s healthy for people. Social bonds can also be informationally healthy as well. So that’s more on a top, more abstract level, if you will. That is, don’t try to do it yourself. Doing it yourself is when you get into trouble.

David Dunning quoted in Vox 

I Know because the People around me Think they Know

If I think I understand because the people around me think they understand, and the people around me all think they understand because the people around them all think they understand, then it turns out we can all have this strong sense of understanding even though no one really has any idea what they're talking about.

Everyone has a compulsion to be right, meaning that they want the people around them to think they're right, and this is easily achieved by mouthing the things that the people around you say. And people who are more capable tend to be better at finding ways to interpret new facts in line with their community's preconceptions.

I like to live in communities that put a premium on getting things right even when they fly in the face of social norms. This means living with constant tension, but it's worth it.

Steven Sloman quoted in Vox

Why you make terrible life choices

In a classic experiment, Princeton and Dartmouth students were shown a game between the two schools. At the end, Princeton students remembered more fouls committed by Dartmouth, and Dartmouth students remembered more fouls committed by Princeton.

You seek evidence that confirms your beliefs because being wrong sucks. Being wrong means you’re not as smart as you thought. So you end up seeking information that confirms what you already know.

When you walk into every interaction trying to prove yourself right, you’re going to succumb to confirmation bias-the human tendency to seek, interpret and remember information that confirms your own pre-existing beliefs.

Researchers studied two groups of children in school. The first group avoided challenging problems because it came with a high risk of being wrong. The second group actively sought out challenging problems for the learning opportunity, even though they might be wrong. They found that the second group consistently outperformed the first.

Focus less on being right and more on experiencing life with curiosity and wonder. When you’re willing to be wrong, you open yourself up to new insights.

Lakshmi Mani

Winners are more likely to Cheat

"When people succeed in competition against others, it seems to compromise their ethics. It makes them more likely to cheat afterwards," (said Amos Schurr, a professor of psychology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel).

The problem, he says, seems to be a very specific type of success: the kind that involves social comparison, the sort that means doing better than others, instead of just doing well. And he believes it all boils down to a sense of entitlement that beating others in sports, business, politics, or any other form of head-to-head competition seems to foster in victors.

"Dishonesty is a pretty complex phenomenon — there are all sorts of mechanisms behind it," said Schurr. "But people who win competitions feel more entitled, and that feeling of entitlement is what predicts dishonesty."

In other words, when people win against others, they tend to think they're better, or more deserving. And that thinking helps them justify cheating, since, after all, they're the rightful heir to whatever throne is next — "If I'm better than you, I might as well make sure I win, because I deserve to anyway."

Roberto A. Ferdman writing in the Washington Post

Priming People to feel Powerful

You can prime people for power in a number of ways (according to a new book, “Friend and Foe”, by Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer). You can get them to remember a time when they had power over other people. You get them to adopt a power posture—putting their hands on their hips or thrusting out their chests like gorillas (a technique developed by Dana Carney of the University of California, Berkeley). Or you can get them to listen to power anthems such as “In Da Club” by 50 Cent. This is a technique favoured by sports stars such as Serena Williams, a tennis player, who often wears headphones when she walks on court.

Making people more self-confident is good. But power also makes them more self-centered. In one study, researchers asked people to draw a capital “E” on their foreheads. People who had been power-primed were almost three times as likely to draw the E backwards—that is, from their own perspective rather than the perspective of onlookers—than those who had not.

Researchers asked people to roll a set of dice to determine the number of lottery tickets they would receive—a roll of two would earn two tickets—and then report the roll of their dice to the invigilator. People who were primed were more likely to over-report their scores. Finally, power turns people into hypocrites: not only are powerful people more likely to cheat, they are also more likely to condemn cheating or other forms of moral failure in other people.

The most important thing firms can do is to make sure they appoint somebody who can handle power. Messrs Galinsky and Schweitzer recommend a simple test: watch carefully how a prospective boss addresses powerless people such as security guards and waiters.

Bosses themselves need to recognise that power can be a poison as well as an aphrodisiac. They should spend as much of their spare time as possible with their families rather than hobnobbing with other powerful people. They ought to establish a relationship with a mentor who is licensed to speak to them frankly.

The Economist,  Sept. 5, 2015

What know-it-alls don’t know

Know-it-alls can be insufferable, and now there’s new evidence that they know less than they’d have you believe. Researchers from Cornell and Tulane universities found that self-proclaimed experts are more prone to “overclaiming”—essentially, pretending to have extensive knowledge of something they’re clueless about. In the study, 100 volunteers were asked to rate their level of knowledge in various subjects, such as biology, literature, and personal finance. When quizzed on 15 different economic terms, the people who fancied themselves financial gurus were far more likely to claim they were familiar with phenomena such as “pre-rated stocks” and “fixed-rate deduction” that were actually complete fictions. Tests on the other topics revealed similar results—even when participants were warned that some terms would be phony. “Our work suggests that the seemingly straightforward task of judging one’s knowledge may not be so simple,” researcher Stav Atir tells Science Daily, “particularly for individuals who believe they have a relatively high level of knowledge to begin with.”

The Week Magazine, August 7, 2015