Difficulty: 5/10 (Moderate)
Genre: Behavioral Psychology (Non-Fiction)
Main Idea: Explores the physiological and psychological reasons that cause humans to make mistakes.
Recommended For: Anyone looking for a fun read while learning valuable info at the same time.
I don’t know how this book found it’s way onto my recommendations list, but it did. So when I saw it at the library, I happily checked it out. This is an exploration into the psychological and physiological reasons that humans make mistakes. It is an interesting study of human behavior and has some interesting insight if approached from a self improvement perspective. This is the approach that I took and here is what I found:
Calibration is a measure of the difference between perceived and actual abilities. Humans tend to be overconfident, and thus poorly calibrated. This is a huge detriment to our development. How can we improve when we think we are better than we really are? The book tells of a study of US Army soldiers who were asked about their shooting skills. 75% of the soldiers predicted that they would hit more targets than they did. Interestingly, the most accurate predictions came from the group that expected to fail. Only 5 predicted they would fail, but they were all dead on. At first, I thought, “Of course they failed, they didn’t think positively about the situation.” While positive thinking is an immensely valuable practice, I quickly realized that positive thinking must be backed by something definite. You must have a reason to think positively about an event, or else all you’re doing is lying to yourself, scamming yourself of the lessons that reality has in store for you. This is evidenced by the overconfident soldiers who believed positively but with nothing to back this on, they underperformed.
The Calibration Cure
The book studies weathermen to understand how to be calibrated. Weathermen are a topic of interest because when weathermen predict a 30% chance of rain, it rains pretty much exactly 30% of the time. Their calibration secret: quick, corrective feedback. They put their predictions up daily on record, and everyone sees the weather. If they got something wrong, they instantly know something needs to be fixed. This relates to the confidence issue because “where confidence is high, feedback is low.” This information is awesomely important in understanding human behavior, and how you can use it to improve yourself. Gym goers overpay for gym memberships because they pay by the year, and not per visit, and they never learn from their mistakes because feedback is low. When feedback says “you didnt go to the gym today” it is drownd out by excuses and ignored. Fad diets pick up steam because they make huge promises, but people never accurately digest the feedback because they are overconfident in their willpower and dedication. Always be looking for feedback, be brutally honest with yourself, write your lessons down so you cannot forget them, quit making excuses, etc. The book even tells a story of Warren Buffet’s worst investment, and he handled his mistake by being very accountable and not overconfident. He is a great model with the results to back it up.
Quit Wasting Time
“The more we read, the more we think we know. Often what happens is that we don’t grow more informed; we just grow more confident”. This is powerful knowledge backed by numerous studies that book book explores. A study of horse bookies showed that their handicapping accuracy did not change wether given 5 pieces of information on the horses, or 40 pieces of information. All that changed was their confidence in their handicapping. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon tested students after giving them 5,000 word chapters on an array of subjects versus some students who got a 1,000 word summary of the material. In all subjects, the people that read the 1,000 word summary did better. “But deep down we don’t want to believe this. We seem to have an innate desire to overload ourselves with information – whether it helps us or not.” Wow! I am so guilty of this. This information is very liberating. Armed with this knowledge, we can be confident sooner, after less effort in the area that we are studying. This leads to an increase in productivity.
How You Practice Matters
“simply repeating the same task over and over is no guarantee you will get better”. Master chess players and very good chess players were studied. Master chess players tended to recall boards better than the very good players, but only when the pieces’ location on the board made sense. Master’s memory was no better than the very good chess players. It was that the masters recognized patterns faster which allowed them to ainticapte events, and respond quickly.
“The currency of life isn’t money, it’s time.”
“Happy people tend to be more creative and less prone to the errors induced by habit. In ways that are not fully understod, good feelings increase the tendency to combine material in new ways and see relatedness between things”
“the tiniest little change in curcumstance can have big impacts on people’s behavior”
“when you’re trying to make judgements about a complex subject, you tend to zero in on things that are easily observed and give too much attention to those”