November 7th, 2019
Simple Mistakes Fixed With Simple Solutions
I have been looking at overconfidence and how it affects our day to day lives. Doing research on overconfidence and how it comes into play through our judgment and decision making. Through this research, I stumbled upon Daniel Kahneman’s work. By reading Kahneman’s work I found out about thought biasing tendencies and patterns that affect our judgment. In reading Kahneman and learning about patterns and tendencies, I have come to realize that you can’t always trust your own decision making. Looking at this it got me thinking of how maybe I could have improved some things I have done in my life so I have come up with a story that perfectly represents what I have learned and how I could have improved it.
It was October of my first semester in college and it was time for midterms. The first of my two midterms was my English midterm. In English class, I was doing somewhat poorly. I really needed to improve and do well on the test. I thought I was ready, and that I knew the material that would be covered in my exam well enough that I did not need to study that much so the night before I briefly put together a practice exam, but did not finish it or check the answers. So the next morning I walked to class with my backpack on thinking oh yeah I got this. This cocky attitude came from my little study session the night before. I got to class at 8:55 saw everyone pulling out there laptops, and instantly knew I messed up I had decided that I did not need my laptop for class because we were taking an exam, and you usually need just a pencil for an exam never your laptop but I was mistaken I then asked my professor “can I get my laptop I left in my room”.
He responded, “probably a good idea”. I quickly left the room went back down two flights of stairs, then sprinted to my resident hall, ran up the four flights of stairs that I had just gone down not even fifteen minutes ago, threw open the door to my room, and grabbed my laptop from my desk. I then went back down the four flights of stairs, left my residence hall, and ran back to class, reentered the room, and sat down in the first seat that was open. Even though I had my laptop I ended up feeling rushed and anxious during the beginning part of the exam, However, eventually, I calmed down and was able to take my time, and answer every question and felt mostly confident about my answers. I finished the test and moved on with my day without giving it a second thought, feeling like I was on cloud nine as I thought I had just aced my first college midterm. In my post “I just aced my midterm” bliss or the later stages of onset overconfidence, I went to math and took a math test, which I felt like I did really well on thus further reinforcing that good feeling I had going. then proceeded to my next class writing lab in writing lab the teacher asked me how I did on the exam, and I was like “I did great.”
Too, which she said, “really, well I hope you did as well as you think you did”. We moved on from this and began the lesson reading an article published by the New York Times written ironically about overconfidence. After writing lab I didn’t really think too much about my English exam for the rest of the day and went on normally until Wednesday when first thing in the morning I got hit with a 56% and realized I messed up.
This story is a perfect example of overconfidence in one’s own Judgement and how it can influence their decision making and cloud their vision. however, this overconfidence is not just limited to you and me. psychologist, Daniel Kahneman is famous for his work on judgment breaks down why bad decisions and bad judgments happen. In his 2011 article in the New York times, he goes over his philosophies about judgment and how he came to understand them. In the article he covers seven terms that he came up with however it will only be necessary for right now to know three of the seven. But first, in order to understand the terms, we must establish what a cognitive fallacy is. A Cognitive fallacy is false beliefs and mistakes in judgment due to these beliefs. The reason you must understand what a cognitive fallacy is because all the terms that will be referenced are cognitive fallacies and in order to fully understand them you need to understand cognitive fallacy.
The first of Kahneman’s terms is the illusion of validity, this is the idea that no matter how useless the thing is that you’re doing even if you know subconsciously that what your doing is pointless you will continue doing it if it gives you a feeling of fulfillment. The illusion validity is best demonstrated by me doing the practice exam and not finishing it or checking the answers I only did it to make me feel better so I could say that I studied.
Kahneman’s next term is called the illusion of skill, which means that people mistake luck for skill and allow this mistake to influence their decision making. A good example of this would be when I neglected to really study for the exam because I in high school could get by on Just kind of understanding the concepts that we had been taught and I was unable to stop and see that there was a difference between college and High school work.
This next term is an acronym that Kahneman created to describe the phrase what you see is all there is or W.Y.S.I.A.T. both mean that in order to really see someone or something for who or what they really are you must see past what’s on the surface. this would be when you just meet someone and construct an opinion on them, based on outer looks and maybe a small interaction without really getting to know them. Generally, I agree with Kahneman’s Ideas and they are true, and once tour aware of them you can easily see them in everyday life. However, it should be mentioned that these terms can overlap and are not black and white.
What initially lead to the decision of not really studying when I am terrible at English, and then leaving my laptop in my room when in English I have used my laptop the most out of any class. The first decision I think Kahneman would classify it as overconfidence and then go even further and call it the illusion of skill.. I developed a mindset in high school that made me think that I could get by with just barley understanding some of the material, however, now as a freshman I was proven wrong by the 56% I received on the exam. The second decision I succumb to W.Y.S.I.A.T.I because of previous knowledge from other midterms exams causing me to make a poor assumption about the exam, which lead to me showing up unprepared to class. Plus, on an exam, If you make one wrong move such as showing up without your stuff it can spell the end for you mentally without even starting the exam. But how could I have prevented myself from falling victim to these decisions? The first poor decision there was nothing I could have done except realize my mistake of not actually studying and start studying, however if I’m being honest there was no way for me to realize this without first failing on the actual test so I could be snapped out of this mindset, and come to the realization that for all test I can’t just rely on some kind of “intuition” that I think I have instead of actually studying, the other thing that could have been done is I could have done some analysis, stopped and saw the signs that I could do the exam without studying . The second decision could have been prevented by just thinking a little bit more deeply and realizing that this class was not like all the other classes and that I would need my computer for the exam.
The illusion of skill, the illusion of validity, and W.Y.S.I.A.T.I all these cognitive fallacies so how do we as students not fall prey to these? Well there is one solution that guarantees that we will never become prey to these fallacies ever again but in order for it to work you must already have been controlled by one or all of these fallacies, and this solution is failure no matter what you’re doing failure will break this mindset and keep you from doing it again because you will never want to make the same mistake again, however this is only a last resort solution and should try to prevent this at all costs. What are some other solutions? First is to take a step back and examine how you came to this conclusion in your mind for example if I had taken a step back and looked hard and saw that there was no evidence proving that I could pass a test on wits alone in English then I would have realized that I should study and if for some reason your still stuck in the mindset then look for any evidence that refutes or reinforces this behavior for example after taking a step back and seeing the error I could have looked at previous grades and they would have shown me that I needed to study. Something else to think about is how much experience do you have with the subject matter for example I was only a freshman in college i had not taken enough college level courses to come to these conclusions properly. Hopefully, this information proves invaluable in your future endeavors.
Kahneman, Daniel. “Don’t Blink! The Hazards of Confidence.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Oct. 2011, www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/magazine/dont-blink-the-hazards-of-confidence.html.