David Brooks has a fascinating column out this morning explaining the ways our assumptions and intuition leads us astray. It is filled with interesting examples of how we often rely on crude beliefs that are not backed up by the data, and how the standard narratives are often wrong (reality has a quantitative bias).

Based on research at Duke, Penn and Princeton, the significance of these findings to public policy is overwhelming.

I suggest you go read the column before you do anything else this morning.



Beware Stubby Glasses
NYT, January 10, 2013

Category: Psychology

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

12 Responses to “Your Intuition Is Deceiving You”

  1. Karl Rove says:

    “Now you tell me…”

  2. wcvarones says:

    It’s frightening that these nanny-staters spend this much time trying to figure out how to manipulate people’s lives.

  3. MidlifeNocrisis says:

    “How are people in different cultures likely to react to drone strikes? How do we structure sanctions against Iran to cause the greatest psychic humiliation?”

    Sorry. Not that impressed with Mr. Brooks. His conservative “intuition” tells him that drone strikes are good and that Iran must be humiliated. A person with screwed up “intuition” based on faulty social and religious contructs.

    Even if we assume his premise is correct… he sure doesn’t do a very good job with “examples”. Or maybe I just misinterpreted his meaning and he is intentionally showing us how his own intuition is being deceived by political and religious ideology.

  4. This is why some technical analysis may be helpful to investors provided they don’t delude themselves when interpreting the charts.

  5. Greg0658 says:

    “go read before” – I’ve been busy try’g to figure out if the screen door has any fly sized slits to skinny thru – the smells aloft seem something is in there .. what to do next – that is the real question

  6. Old Rob says:

    God! Are there still people reading the NYT? More so, Brooks?

  7. Stochos says:

    My intuition does deceive me. I always end up disagreeing with Brooks after reading the comments section of Brooks’ column at NYT’s site. The comments there are of a similar vein as those posted here.

  8. CharlesII says:

    Bobo had me going until I got to this paragraph:

    What about the big problems? How do we get people to restrain government commitments now so that debt down the road won’t be so ruinous? How do we calculate the multiplier effects of tax cuts or spending increases among different subgroups of the population, or under different emotional conditions? How do we rig the context of budget negotiations so participants can actually come to a deal? How are people in different cultures likely to react to drone strikes? How do we structure sanctions against Iran to cause the greatest psychic humiliation?

    There are so many things wrong with these questions, because of the pre-conceptions with which they are so heavily pustulated, that it would take a column to enumerate them. But, for example:

    * are we spending an appropriate amount on government commitments and if, so, how do we get people to accept the taxes necessary to support them?

    It makes a big difference whether one sees government spending on Medicare/Medicaid as “out of control entitlements” or “out of control insurance companies.” It makes a big difference if we see ourselves competing against China in R&D as a % of GDP or as a dollar amount (if we rely on %GDP, we will soon become a backwater in a Chinese ocean). These get at some real pre-conceptions that undo our decision-making process.

    As for the Iran comment, that’s just disgusting. The point of sanctions is not to humiliate a nation. Humiliated, Iranians are more likely to fall in line with their government. The point of sanctions is to ensure that Iran does not go down the dangerous, destabilizing road which Pakistan, India, and Israel have gone.

  9. GeorgeBurnsWasRight says:

    One of the more interesting observations about crime I ever heard came from a judge who remarked that laws were written by people who weren’t criminals (give me a pass here!) and thus contained penalties for breaking laws based on things which honest people wouldn’t want to suffer. However, it turns out that the things which are very undesirable to honest people mostly aren’t that discouraging to criminals. The judge suggested that we find out what criminals dislike the most and make THOSE the penalties criminals will suffer if convicted.

  10. flakester says:

    The hell with intuition, just go with telepathy and foreknowledge… g

  11. Clif Brown says:

    Want expertise in this area? You need look no further than the art of selling, a not insignificant effort in our culture, where every ounce of the latest psychological data is put to use on you and me every day.

  12. DeDude says:


    Exactly my reaction. He tries so hard to be the intellectual and thoughtful guy, giving a very nice argument for letting facts and data destroy our opinions and actions, whenever they are based on myths and emotions. Then at the very end, he fails apart and present a list of questions that are so clearly build on the quicksand of myths and emotions. Classic Brooks, almost made it, but then fell back into his own conservative ideology traps.