Ignorance and Overconfidence!


Have you ever come across people who are utterly ignorant about an issue and yet overly confident of their stand on it? Do you feel irritated by it? I do. But reading “Thinking, Fast and Slow” made me realize that it is not always ignorance and confidence. It might as well be ignorance, hence confidence.

The book is content heavy and it is going to take me sometime to write the summary. But I though of sharing some interesting bits and pieces from the book. The author talks about an experiment where participants were exposed to a legal scenario. There were three groups of participants.

  • All three groups read the background material, which provided the facts of the case.
  • Two groups were exposed to the presentation made by the lawyer of one party each (they read only one side’s argument).
  • The third group read the presentation of both the lawyers.

Then they were asked for their judgment.

Here were the outcomes:

  • The participants hearing one side of arguments had all the necessary information (due to explanatory background material) to be able to construct the other side of the argument too. But they did not do that. Their judgment had pronounced effect of the argument of the side they heard.
  • The above may not be surprising, but this one takes the cake. The people who had been exposed to only one side of the argument were more confident of their judgment than those who had heard both the sides.

As they say, ignorance is bliss. Ignorance is confidence as well. So, next time someone irritates you with their ignorance and overconfidence, try not to ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by “ignorance”. 🙂

Why studying irrationality is useful?

Predictably IrrationalIf you are not academically inclined and you start reading a book like “Predictably Irrational” and “Thinking, Fast and Slow” (or worse still books that are not supposedly aimed at normal people, but only at academicians), you will identify with the following status update I had posted on Facebook recently:

Human irrationality surprises nobody other than Economists.

Human behavior surprises nobody other than psychologists.

The psychologists and behavioral economists love to spend time (and pages of writing) in convincing people that the traditional economists‘ idea of humans being rational agents is not right. Apparently traditional economists are also not an extinct species and they are busy in debunking these psychologists. The debate continues. And a layman (from the point of view of academic economists and psychologists) is often left to wonder if there is any point in reading what essentially tells us something we already know very well. That humans are not rational!

Well there is a point! Because thankfully, psychologists don’t just stop at explaining and proving that humans deviate from economists’ idea of rationality, they also study exactly how they are irrational. Not being rational does not mean there is no rhyme or reason to human behavior. While figuring out how people are irrational, psychologists essentially figure out how we behave. Some things they figure out may be obvious and intuitive to us, and many others are not. These findings can help us in understanding our own selves better, making better decisions and generally improving our lives by managing our psychology. As marketers and entrepreneurs these give valuable insights into behavior of our customers, employees and anyone we deal with.

The point of studying human irrationality is best summed up in the following insight from “Predictably Irrational”.

Our irrational behaviors are neither random not senseless – they are systematic and predictable.

And that’s why studying them is useful. It can help us predict human behavior.

So, how about starting by reading the summary of “Predictably Irrational“? Summary of “Thinking, Fast and Slow” is also coming soon.