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And there was a visit by the German neurosurgeon Kurt Goldstein, who claimed that large wounds to the brain eliminated the capacity for abstraction and turned people into concrete thinkers. Furthermore, and most exciting, as Goldstein described them, the boundaries that separated abstract from concrete were not the ones that philosophers would have set. The Chief of Neurosurgery at the Hadassah Hospital, who was a neighbor, wisely talked me out of that plan by pointing out that the study of medicine was too demanding to be undertaken as a means to any goal other than practice.
The military experience In , I was drafted as a second lieutenant, and after an eventful year as a platoon leader I was transferred to the Psychology branch of the Israel Defense Forces. There, one of my occasional duties was to participate in the assessment of candidates for officer training. One test involved a leaderless group challenge, in which eight candidates, with all insignia of rank removed and only numbers to identify them, were asked to lift a telephone pole from the ground and were then led to an obstacle, such as a 2. If one of these things happened, they had to declare it and start again. Two of us would watch the exercise, which often took half an hour or more.
But the trouble was that, in fact, we could not tell. The story was always the same: our ability to predict performance at the school was negligible. But the next day, there would be another batch of candidates to be taken to the obstacle field, where we would face them with the wall and see their true natures revealed. It was the first cognitive illusion I discovered. Closely related to the illusion of validity was another feature of our discussions about the candidates we observed: our willingness to make extreme predictions about their future performance on the basis of a small sample of behavior. In fact, the issue of willingness did not arise, because we did not really distinguish predictions from observations. The soldier who took over when the group was in trouble and led the team over the wall was a leader at that moment, and if we asked ourselves how he would perform in officer-training, or on the battlefield, the best bet was simply that he would be as good a leader then as he was now.
Any other prediction seemed inconsistent with the evidence. As I understood clearly only when I taught statistics some years later, the idea that predictions should be less extreme than the information on which they are based is deeply counterintuitive. The theme of intuitive prediction came up again, when I was given the major assignment for my service in the Unit: to develop a method for interviewing all combat-unit recruits, in order to screen the unfit and help allocate soldiers to specific duties. An interviewing system was already in place, administered by a small cadre of interviewers, mostly young women, themselves recent graduates from good high schools, who had been selected for their outstanding performance in psychometric tests and for their interest in psychology.
The interviewers were instructed to form a general impression of a recruit and then to provide some global ratings of how well the recruit was expected to perform in a combat unit. Here again, the statistics of validity were dismal. My assignment involved two tasks: first, to figure out whether there were personality dimensions that mattered more in some combat jobs than in others, and then to develop interviewing guidelines that would identify those dimensions.
To perform the first task, I visited units of infantry, artillery, armor, and others, and collected global evaluations of the performance of the soldiers in each unit, as well as ratings on several personality dimensions. Instead, spending weeks and months on complex analyses using a manual Monroe calculator with a rather iffy handle, I invented a statistical technique for the analysis of multi-attribute heteroscedastic data, which I used to produce a complex description of the psychological requirements of the various units.
I was capitalizing on chance, but the technique had enough charm for one of my graduate-school teachers, the eminent personnel psychologist Edwin Ghiselli, to write it up in what became my first published article. This was the beginning of a lifelong interest in the statistics of prediction and description. I had devised personality profiles for a criterion measure, and now I needed to propose a predictive interview.
Someone must have given me the book to read, and it certainly had a big effect on me. Soon I had a near-mutiny on my hands. So I gave in. Validity was much higher than it had been. My recollection is that we achieved correlations of close to. Trying to be reliable had made them valid. The puzzles with which I struggled at that time were the seed of the paper on the psychology of intuitive prediction that Amos Tversky and I published much later.
The interview system has remained in use, with little modification, for many decades. And if it appears odd that a twenty-one-year-old lieutenant would be asked to set up an interviewing system for an army, one should remember that the state of Israel and its institutions were only seven years old at the time, that improvisation was the norm, and that professionalism did not exist. My immediate supervisor was a man with brilliant analytical skills, who had trained in chemistry but was entirely self-taught in statistics and psychology. And with a B. Graduate school years I came out of the Army in The academic planners at the Hebrew University had decided to grant me a fellowship to obtain a PhD abroad, so that I would be able to return and teach in the psychology department.
But they wanted me to acquire some additional polish before facing the bigger world. Because the psychology department had temporarily closed, I took some courses in philosophy, did some research, and read psychology on my own for a year. In January of , my wife, Irah, and I landed at the San Francisco airport, where the now famous sociologist Amitai Etzioni was waiting to take us to Berkeley, to the Flamingo Motel on University Avenue, and to the beginning of our graduate careers. My experience of graduate school was quite different from that of students today. The main landmarks were examinations, including an enormous multiple-choice test that covered all of psychology.
There was less emphasis on formal apprenticeship, and virtually no pressure to publish while in school. We took quite a few courses and read broadly. I should enjoy my current state, he advised, because I would never again know as much psychology. He was right. I was an eclectic student. I took a course on subliminal perception from Richard Lazarus, and wrote with him a speculative article on the temporal development of percepts, which was soundly and correctly rejected. From that subject I came to an interest in the more technical aspects of vision and I spent some time learning about optical benches from Tom Cornsweet.
I audited the clinical sequence, and learned about personality tests from Jack Block and from Harrison Gough. I took classes on Wittgenstein in the philosophy department. I dabbled in the philosophy of science. There was no particular rhyme or reason to what I was doing, but I was having fun. My most significant intellectual experience during those years did not occur in graduate school.
In the summer of , my wife and I drove across the United States to spend a few months at the Austen Riggs Clinic in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where I studied with the well-known psychoanalytic theorist David Rapaport, who had befriended me on a visit to Jerusalem a few years earlier. Rapaport believed that psychoanalysis contained the elements of a valid theory of memory and thought. This was a wonderful experience, and I would have gone back if Rapaport had not died suddenly later that year. I had enormous respect for his fierce mind. I realized only while writing the acknowledgments for the book that I had revisited the terrain to which Rapaport had first led me. Austen Riggs was a major intellectual center for psychoanalysis, dedicated primarily to the treatment of dysfunctional descendants of wealthy families.
I was allowed into the case conferences, which were normally scheduled on Fridays, usually to evaluate a patient who had spent a month of live-in observation at the clinic. Those attending would have received and read, the night before, a folder with detailed notes from every department about the person in question. There would be a lively exchange of impressions among the staff, which included the fabled Erik Erikson. Then the patient would come in for a group interview, which was followed by a brilliant discussion. On one of those Fridays, the meeting took place and was conducted as usual, despite the fact that the patient had committed suicide during the night.
It was a remarkably honest and open discussion, marked by the contradiction between the powerful retrospective sense of the inevitability of the event and the obvious fact that the event had not been foreseen. This was another cognitive illusion to be understood. In the spring of , I wrote my dissertation on a statistical and experimental analysis of the relations between adjectives in the semantic differential.
One of the programs I wrote would take twenty minutes to run on the university mainframe, and I could tell whether it was working properly by the sequence of movement on the seven tape units that it used. That was probably the last time I wrote anything without pain. And then it was time to go home to Jerusalem, and start teaching in the psychology department at the Hebrew University. Training to become a professional I loved teaching undergraduates and I was good at it. The experience was consistently gratifying because the students were so good: they were selected on the basis of a highly competitive entrance exam, and most were easily PhD material.
I took charge of the basic first-year statistics class and, for some years, taught both that course and the second-year course in research methods, which also included a large dose of statistics. To teach effectively I did a lot of serious thinking about valid intuitions on which I could draw and erroneous intuitions that I should teach students to overcome. I had no idea, of course, but I was laying the foundation for a program of research on judgment under uncertainty. Another course I was teaching concerned the psychology of perception, which also contributed quite directly to the same program. I had learned a lot in Berkeley, but I felt that I had not been adequately trained to do research. I therefore decided that in order to acquire the basic skills I would need to have a proper laboratory and do regular science — I needed to be a solid short-order cook before I could aspire to become a chef.
So I set up a vision lab, and over the next few years I turned out competent work on energy integration in visual acuity. I found this inspiring: Mischel had succeeded in creating a link between an important psychological concept and a simple operation to measure it. There was and still is almost nothing like it in psychology, where concepts are commonly associated with procedures that can be described only by long lists or by convoluted paragraphs of prose.
I got quite nice results in my one-question studies, but never wrote up any of the work, because I had set myself impossible standards: in order not to pollute the literature, I wanted to report only findings that I had replicated in detail at least once, and the replications were never quite perfect. I realized only gradually that my aspirations demanded more statistical power and therefore much larger samples than I was intuitively inclined to run. This observation also came in handy some time later. My achievements in research in these early years were quite humdrum, but I was excited by several opportunities to bring psychology to bear on the real world.
For these tasks, I teamed up with a colleague and friend, Ozer Schild. Together, we designed a training program for functionaries who were to introduce new immigrants from underdeveloped countries, such as Yemen, to modern farming practices Kahneman and Schild, We also developed a training course for instructors in the flight school of the Air Force. Our faith in the usefulness of psychology was great, but we were also well aware of the difficulties of changing behavior without changing institutions and incentives. We may have done some good, and we certainly learned a lot. I had the most satisfying Eureka experience of my career while attempting to teach flight instructors that praise is more effective than punishment for promoting skill-learning.
When I had finished my enthusiastic speech, one of the most seasoned instructors in the audience raised his hand and made his own short speech, which began by conceding that positive reinforcement might be good for the birds, but went on to deny that it was optimal for flight cadets. On the other hand, I have often screamed at cadets for bad execution, and in general they do better the next time. I immediately arranged a demonstration in which each participant tossed two coins at a target behind his back, without any feedback.
We measured the distances from the target and could see that those who had done best the first time had mostly deteriorated on their second try, and vice versa. But I knew that this demonstration would not undo the effects of lifelong exposure to a perverse contingency. My first experience of truly successful research came in , when I was on sabbatical leave at the University of Michigan, where I had been invited by Jerry Blum, who had a lab in which volunteer participants performed various cognitive tasks while in the grip of powerful emotional states induced by hypnosis.
Dilation of the pupil is one of the manifestations of emotional arousal, and I therefore became interested in the causes and consequences of changes of pupil size. Blum had a graduate student called Jackson Beatty. Using primitive equipment, Beatty and I made a real discovery: when people were exposed to a series of digits they had to remember, their pupils dilated steadily as they listened to the digits, and contracted steadily when they recited the series. A more difficult transformation task adding 1 to each of a series of four digits caused a much larger dilation of the pupil.
We quickly published these results, and within a year had completed four articles, two of which appeared in Science. Mental effort remained the focus of my research during the subsequent year, which I spent at Harvard. During that year, I also heard a brilliant talk on experimental studies of attention by a star English psychologist named Anne Treisman, who would become my wife twelve years later.
I was so impressed that I committed myself to write a chapter on attention for a Handbook in Cognitive Psychology. The Handbook was never published, and my chapter eventually became a rather ambitious book. The work on vision that I did that year was also more interesting than the work I had been doing in Jerusalem. When I returned home in , I was, finally, a well-trained research psychologist. The collaboration with Amos Tversky From to , I taught a graduate seminar on the applications of psychology to real-world problems.
In what turned out to be a life-changing event, I asked my younger colleague Amos Tversky to tell the class about what was going on in his field of judgment and decision-making. Amos told us about the work of his former mentor, Ward Edwards, whose lab was using a research paradigm in which the subject is shown two bookbags filled with poker chips. The bags are said to differ in their composition e. One of them is randomly chosen, and the participant is given an opportunity to sample successively from it, and required to indicate after each trial the probability that it came from the predominantly red bag.
The idea that people were conservative Bayesian did not seem to fit with the everyday observation of people commonly jumping to conclusions. It also appeared unlikely that the results obtained in the sequential sampling paradigm would extend to the situation, arguably more typical, in which sample evidence is delivered all at once. There we exchanged personal accounts of our own recurrent errors of judgment in this domain, and decided to study the statistical intuitions of experts.
Amos stopped there for a few days on his way to the United States. I had drafted a questionnaire on intuitions about sampling variability and statistical power, which was based largely on my personal experiences of incorrect research planning and unsuccessful replications. The questionnaire consisted of a set of questions, each of which could stand on its own — this was to be another attempt to do psychology with single questions. Amos went off and administered the questionnaire to participants at a meeting of the Mathematical Psychology Association, and a few weeks later we met in Jerusalem to look at the results and write a paper.
The experience was magical. I had enjoyed collaborative work before, but this was something different. Amos was often described by people who knew him as the smartest person they knew. He was also very funny, with an endless supply of jokes appropriate to every nuance of a situation. In his presence, I became funny as well, and the result was that we could spend hours of solid work in continuous mirth.
Although we never wrote another humorous paper, we continued to find amusement in our work — I have probably shared more than half of the laughs of my life with Amos. And we were not just having fun. I quickly discovered that Amos had a remedy for everything I found difficult about writing. No wet-mush problem for him: he had an uncanny sense of direction. With him, movement was always forward. Progress might be slow, but each of the myriad of successive drafts that we produced was an improvement — this was not something I could take for granted when working on my own. As we were writing our first paper, I was conscious of how much better it was than the more hesitant piece I would have written by myself.
We were a team, and we remained in that mode for well over a decade. The Nobel Prize was awarded for work that we produced during that period of intense collaboration. At the beginning of our collaboration, we quickly established a rhythm that we maintained during all our years together. Amos was a night person, and I was a morning person. This made it natural for us to meet for lunch and a long afternoon together, and still have time to do our separate things. We spent hours each day, just talking. We did almost all the work on our joint projects while physically together, including the drafting of questionnaires and papers. And we avoided any explicit division of labor. Our principle was to discuss every disagreement until it had been resolved to mutual satisfaction, and we had tie-breaking rules for only two topics: whether or not an item should be included in the list of references Amos had the casting vote , and who should resolve any issue of English grammar my dominion.
We did not initially have a concept of a senior author. We tossed a coin to determine the order of authorship of our first paper, and alternated from then on until the pattern of our collaboration changed in the s. One consequence of this mode of work was that all our ideas were jointly owned. Our interactions were so frequent and so intense that there was never much point in distinguishing between the discussions that primed an idea, the act of uttering it, and the subsequent elaboration of it.
I believe that many scholars have had the experience of discovering that they had expressed sometimes even published an idea long before they really understood its significance. It takes time to appreciate and develop a new thought. Like most people, I am somewhat cautious about exposing tentative thoughts to others — I must first make sure that they are not idiotic. In the best years of the collaboration, this caution was completely absent. The mutual trust and the complete lack of defensiveness that we achieved were particularly remarkable because both of us — Amos even more than I — were known to be severe critics.
Our magic worked only when we were by ourselves. We soon learned that joint collaboration with any third party should be avoided, because we became competitive in a threesome. Amos and I shared the wonder of together owning a goose that could lay golden eggs — a joint mind that was better than our separate minds. The statistical record confirms that our joint work was superior, or at least more influential, than the work we did individually Laibson and Zeckhauser, Amos and I published eight journal articles during our peak years , of which five had been cited more than a thousand times by the end of The special style of our collaborative work was recognized early by a referee of our first theoretical paper on representativeness , who caused it to be rejected by Psychological Review.
The eminent psychologist who wrote that review — his anonymity was betrayed years later — pointed out that he was familiar with the separate lines of work that Amos and I had been pursuing, and considered both quite respectable. However, he added the unusual remark that we seemed to bring out the worst in each other, and certainly should not collaborate. He found most objectionable our method of using multiple single questions as evidence — and he was quite wrong there as well. Working evenings and nights, I also completely rewrote my book on Attention and Effort , which went to the publisher that year, and remains my most significant independent contribution to psychology.
ORI was one of the major centers of judgment research, and I had the occasion to meet quite a few of the significant figures of the field when they came visiting, Ken Hammond among them. Some time after our return from Eugene, Amos and I settled down to review what we had learned about three heuristics of judgment representativeness, availability, and anchoring and about a list of a dozen biases associated with these heuristics. We spent a delightful year in which we did little but work on a single article. On our usual schedule of spending afternoons together, a day in which we advanced by a sentence or two was considered quite productive.
Our enjoyment of the process gave us unlimited patience, and we wrote as if the precise choice of every word were a matter of great moment. We published the article in Science because we thought that the prevalence of systematic biases in intuitive assessments and predictions could possibly be of interest to scholars outside psychology. This interest, however, could not be taken for granted, as I learned in an encounter with a well-known American philosopher at a party in Jerusalem. The Science article turned out to be a rarity: an empirical psychological article that some philosophers and a few economists could and did take seriously. What was it that made readers of the article more willing to listen than the philosopher at the party?
I attribute the unusual attention at least as much to the medium as to the message. Amos and I had continued to practice the psychology of single questions, and the Science article — like others we wrote — incorporated questions that were cited verbatim in the text. These questions, I believe, personally engaged the readers and convinced them that we were concerned not with the stupidity of Joe Public but with a much more interesting issue: the susceptibility to erroneous intuitions of intelligent, sophisticated, and perceptive individuals such as themselves.
Whatever the reason, the article soon became a standard reference as an attack on the rational-agent model, and it spawned a large literature in cognitive science, philosophy, and psychology. We had not anticipated that outcome. I realized only recently how fortunate we were not to have aimed deliberately at the large target we happened to hit. If we had intended the article as a challenge to the rational model, we would have written it differently, and the challenge would have been less effective. An essay on rationality would have required a definition of that concept, a treatment of boundary conditions for the occurrence of biases, and a discussion of many other topics about which we had nothing of interest to say. The result would have been less crisp, less provocative, and ultimately less defensible.
As it was, we offered a progress report on our study of judgment under uncertainty, which included much solid evidence. All inferences about human rationality were drawn by the readers themselves. The conclusions that readers drew were often too strong, mostly because existential quantifiers, as they are prone to do, disappeared in the transmission. Whereas we had shown that some, not all judgments about uncertain events are mediated by heuristics, which sometimes, not always produce predictable biases, we were often read as having claimed that people cannot think straight.
The fact that men had walked on the moon was used more than once as an argument against our position. Because our treatment was mistakenly taken to be inclusive, our silences became significant. For example, the fact that we had written nothing about the role of social factors in judgment was taken as an indication that we thought these factors were unimportant. I suppose that we could have prevented at least some of these misunderstandings, but the cost of doing so would have been too high.
The interpretation of our work as a broad attack on human rationality — rather than as a critique of the rational-agent model — attracted much opposition, some quite harsh and dismissive. Some of the critiques were normative, arguing that we compared judgments to inappropriate normative standards Cohen, ; Gigerenzer, , We were also accused of spreading a tendentious and misleading message that exaggerated the flaws of human cognition Lopes, , and many others. Some authors dismissed the research as a collection of artificial puzzles designed to fool undergraduates.
A young colleague and I recently reviewed the experimental literature, and concluded that the empirical controversy about the reality of cognitive illusions dissolves when viewed in the perspective of a dual-process model Kahneman and Frederick, The essence of such a model is that judgments can be produced in two ways and in various mixtures of the two : a rapid, associative, automatic, and effortless intuitive process sometimes called System 1 , and a slower, rule-governed, deliberate and effortful process System 2 Sloman, ; Stanovich and West, Thus, errors of intuition occur when two conditions are satisfied: System 1 generates the error and System 2 fails to correct. They tell us little about the intuitive judgments that are suppressed. If the controversy is so simply resolved, why was it not resolved in , or in ?
The answer that Frederick and I proposed refers to the conversational context in which the early work was done:. A comprehensive psychology of intuitive judgment cannot ignore such controlled thinking, because intuition can be overridden or corrected by self-critical operations, and because intuitive answers are not always available. But this sensible position seemed irrelevant in the early days of research on judgment heuristics.
They believed that including easy questions in the design would insult the participants and bore the readers. More generally, the early studies of heuristics and biases displayed little interest in the conditions under which intuitive reasoning is preempted or overridden — controlled reasoning leading to correct answers was seen as a default case that needed no explaining. Kahneman and Frederick, , p. What happened, I suppose, is that because the paper was influential it altered the context in which it was read in subsequent years.
Its being misunderstood was a direct consequence of its being taken seriously. I wonder how often this occurs. Amos and I always dismissed the criticism that our focus on biases reflected a generally pessimistic view of the human mind. We argued that this criticism confuses the medium of bias research with a message about rationality. This confusion was indeed common. In one of our demonstrations of the availability heuristic, for example, we asked respondents to compare the frequency with which some letters appeared in the first and in the third position in words.
We selected letters that in fact appeared more frequently in the third position, and showed that even for these letters the first position was judged more frequent, as would be predicted on the idea that it is easier to search through a mental dictionary by the first letter. The experiment was used by some critics as an example of our own confirmation bias, because we had demonstrated availability only in cases in which this heuristic led to bias. But this criticism assumes that our aim was to demonstrate biases, and misses the point of what we were trying to do. Our aim was to show that the availability heuristic controls frequency estimates even when that heuristic leads to error — an argument that cannot be made when the heuristic leads to correct responses, as it often does.
There is no denying, however, that the name of our method and approach created a strong association between heuristics and biases, and thereby contributed to giving heuristics a bad name, which we did not intend. I recently came to realize that the association of heuristics and biases has affected me as well. Judging probability by representativeness is indeed associated with systematic errors. But a large component of the process is the judgment of representativeness, and that judgment is often subtle and highly skilled. The undergraduate who instantly recognizes that enjoyment of puns is more representative of a computer scientist than of an accountant is also exhibiting high skill in a social and cultural judgment.
My long-standing failure to associate specific benefits to the concept of representativeness was a revealing mistake. What did I learn from the controversy about heuristics and biases? Like most protagonists in debates, I have few memories of having changed my mind under adversarial pressure, but I have certainly learned more than I know. For example, I am now quick to reject any description of our work as demonstrating human irrationality.
When the occasion arises, I carefully explain that research on heuristics and biases only refutes an unrealistic conception of rationality, which identifies it as comprehensive coherence. Was I always so careful? Probably not. An outcome of this effort is the discovery of novel genes , regulatory pathways leading to the development of trait specific diagnostics and therapeutic strategies. External activities that contribute to scholarship:. Keywords :. Abhaya M. Position Title.
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