Here are my highlights from The Art of Thinking Clearly, a reference guide to cognitive biases and good decision-making.
The ‘It’ll get worse before it gets better’ fallacy
Someone promises that there will be ‘difficult years’ ahead, and that the situation will improve only after. If a problem worsens, the prediction is confirmed. If it gets better, the customer is happy and the expert can attribute it to hid prowess.
There are two types of knowledge:
- Real knowledge we see in people who have committed a large amount of time and effort to understand a topic. They make a serious effort to understand the complexity of a subject and to communicate it.
- Chauffeur knowledge from people who have learned to put on a show
You have to understand what you understand and what you don’t understand. Don’t confuse chauffeur knowledge with real knowledge. True experts recognize the limits of what they know and what they don’t. If they find themselves outside of their circle of competence, they keep quiet or simply say ‘I don’t know.’ They utter unapologetically, even with a certain pride.
Regression to the mean
I was sick, went to the doctor, and got better a few days later.
Less is more
Too many choices leads to poor decision making.
Think carefully about what you want before you inspect existing offers. Write down these criteria and stick to them rigidly. Also, realize that you can never make a perfect decision.
People buy from people they like.
If you are a salesperson, make buyers think you like them, even if this means outright flattery. And if you are a consumer, always judge a product independent of who is selling it. Banish the salespeople from your mind, or rather, pretend you don’t like them.
We tend to stumble when estimating probabilities. If someone says ‘never’, it’s a minuscule probability greater than zero.
Members of a close-knit group cultivate team spirit by (unconsciously) building illusions.
If you ever find yourself in a tight, unanimous group, you must speak your mind, even if your team does not like it. If you lead a group, appoint someone as devil’s advocate.
Establish a higher price at an early stage.
The fear of losing something motivates people more than the prospect of gaining something of equal value.
The power of two horses pulling a coach did not equal twice the power of a single horse.
When individual performance is not directly visible in a group, individual performances decrease. In groups, we tend to hold back not only in terms of participation, but also in terms of accountability.
When more firefighters called out on the scene are thought to cause greater fires.
The Halo effect
We take a simple-to-obtain or remarkable fact or detail, and extrapolate conclusions from there that are harder to nail down. Go beyond face value; judge by something other than easily obtainable quarterly figures.
We work hard, advance, and are able to afford more and nicer things, and yet this doesn’t make us any happier.
- Avoid negative things that you cannot grow accustomed to, such as commuting, noise, or chronic stress.
- Expect only short-term happiness from material things.
- Aim for as much free time and autonomy as possible, since long-lasting positive effects generally come from what you actively do.
Follow your passions even if you must forfeit a portion of your income for them.
We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it - and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lidd again - and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.
We place huge value on immediacy - much than is justified.
Intensive decision-making drains our willpower.
Monetary incentives crowd out other motivations.
When you create a startup, you would be wise to enlist employee enthusiasm to promote the company’s endeavour rather than try to entice employees with juicy bonuses.
The delusion that more information guarantees better decisions.
Forget trying to amass all the data. Do your best to get by with the bare facts. Superfluous knowledge is useless.
Also known as the IKEA effect. When you put a lot of energy into a task, you tend to overvalue the result.
Because we are so confident in our own beliefs, we experience three reactions when someone fails to share our views:
- Assumption of ignorance: the other party clearly lacks the necessary information.
- Assumption of idiocy: his mind is underdeveloped.
- Assumption of malice: he is deliberately confrontational.
Be more critical with yourself. Regard your internal observations with the same skepticism as claims from another person.
We systematically forget to compare an existing offer with the next-best alternative. Remember that choices are broader than ‘Horse A’ or ‘Horse B’.
We are drunk on our own ideas.
We overlook shrewd ideas simply because they come from other cultures.
We frequently believe that everyone things and feels exactly like we do.
The tendency to delay unpleasant but important acts. It’s idiotic because no project completes itself.
Set deadlines and make it a public commitment.
Be careful when you encounter human stories. Ask for the facts and the statistical distribution behind them.
Fallacy of the single causes
Our actions are brought about by the interaction of thousands of factors.
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