Most people want the easy answer more than they want the right one.
They convince themselves they’re interested in truth, but they’re actually more interested in not having to think too much.
Thinking requires burning calories.
Not thinking saves calories.
Anyway, the truth (whether one is inclined to accept it or not) is we all have cognitive blindspots, most of which are driven by the desire/need to make quick decisions that don’t burn calories.
And herein lies the potential for making bad decisions.
But let’s take a break from such lofty discussions (which requires us to burn a tad too many calories perhaps)…
Instead…let’s do a quick quiz to see what’s going on in the old noggin.
“Linda the Bank Teller”
So here’s the test…
Linda is 31 years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy.
As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice, and also participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations.
Which is more probable?
- Linda is a bank teller.
- Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement.
Think and decide.
Pick 1 or 2.
Which did you pick? Number 1 or Number 2?
And WHY did you pick that answer?
I’ll give you the correct answer in second, but for now…
Here’s some background on the Linda test.
It was formulated by Nobel prize winning scientist Daniel Kahneman and his research partner Amos Tversky.
They discovered that most people get the answer wrong because of something known as the “conjunction fallacy.”
The conjunction fallacy is a kind of “cognitive blindspot.”
Either way, it’s been proven that we are ALL prone to this particular cognitive blindspot.
Kahneman and Tversky found other cognitive blindspots—over a hundred of them in all.
Most of them affect some key decision-making.
That’s concerning, isn’t it?
Which might start you wondering…
Which of your decisions might be affected by these kinds of cognitive glitches (which are basically hard-wired into your brain?)
You might ALSO be wondering if you got the right answer to the Linda The Bank Teller test.
So let’s find out…
The correct answer is #1, which stated that “Linda is a bank teller.”
Not “Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement.”
Of the two choices, the first one is correct because it’s more likely to be true.
It’s LESS likely that Linda would be both a bank teller AND a feminist.
The short fact description that sets up the question is designed to trick your cognitive glitch machinery.
It tricks you into focusing on one characteristic that Linda exhibits: i.e. social activism.
If you stop and think about it (and burn a few calories while doing so)…
Blindspots are all about focusing on the wrong thing.
We like to focus on simple things
People tell themselves the simplest story that makes sense. The simplest story that “makes sense” in many cases is wrong because you focusing on the wrong thing just because it’s simple, or because it comes to mind quickly.
And once your mind has started focusing on the wrong thing…it’s very hard to rewind it and refocus.
That takes energy. And that burns calories.
So what aspects of your life or your law practice are hampered by poor thinking?
Which blindspots are holding you back or tripping you up?
It’s a good idea to do some error-checking whenever you make any kind of important decision.
Error checking is key to avoiding mental miscues, but…
You need to know where to look for the likely errors.
Frankly, it’s hard to detect blindspots without outside help.
So, if you’re trying to improve your thinking or improve your business, it’s a good idea to get outside help.
Just make sure you get help from the right kind of people.
Because one kind of mistake you definitely want to avoid is…foolishly adopting someone else’s blindspots.
You have enough of your own, right?
Oh, and if you enjoy learning about blindspots and want to learn how to think better, then you might enjoy The Great Mental Models, Vol. 1.
P.S. If you want a practice optimized for remote work & virtual collaboration, get this 24-page guide.