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When Intuition Fails: Why We're Often Wrong When we Think We're Right

November 16, 2013

2:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Taught By Professor Christopher Chabris, Union College


Modern life is complex, and to navigate this complexity and make reasonable decisions, we tend to rely on intuition. For most decisions we just "know" what the right choice is, usually without even thinking about it. But psychological research has shown repeatedly that we miss a lot of crucial information -- information that would make a big difference if we had it and knew how to use it. This seminar will review the ways out intuitions deceive us, focusing on how we trust our perception, memory, and confidence much more than we should. Then it will talk about ways we can overcome these faults and see what we are missing.
The talk will weave familiar news stories (Anthony Weiner, Bernie Madoff, the autism epidemic) with less familiar characters (Boston police officer Kenny Conley, statistician Abraham Wald) and with entertaining research studies by myself, my colleagues, and other cognitive and social psychologists. Students will leave with a better appreciation of how and why we miss so much that is important, and some ways to think about what they are missing in their own decision-making processes.