Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The drunkard’s search

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Just like the drunk who looked for his keys not where he dropped them, but under the lamppost, where the light was better, people often seek inadequate information that is readily available, use misleading measures because they are simple, and employ methods of calculation whose main value is ease…The propensity to conserve cognitive resources in seeking and processing information manifests itself in several forms. First, people prefer simple decision rules and unitary causal accounts to ones that posit a multiplicity of factors and causal paths. In areas in which they are expert, people may reject an explanation as too simple, but even here there may be more lip service than actual avoidance of simplicity…The preference for simple calculations also is revealed by people’s tendency to think in terms of certainties and, when they must employ probabilities, to use round numbers, especially fifty percent. Cognitive resources are conserved by declaring that many alternatives are simply impossible.

Robert Jervis, How Statesmen Think

Written by nevalalee

September 3, 2017 at 7:30 am

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