Posts filed under ‘Decision-making’


Via Keith Stanovich’s “What Intelligence Tests Miss” I’ve come across David Perkins and his concept of “Mindware“.

If reflective intelligence is the target of opportunity, then we should examine its nature more deeply. What is it “made of?” Is it a bag of tricks, a bundle of attitudes, a repertoire of habits?
All those things and more. One encompassing way to describe reflective intelligence is to say that it is made of “mindware.” Just as kitchenware consists in tools for working in the kitchen, and software consists in tools for working with your computer, mindware consists in tools for the mind. A piece of mindware is anything a person can learn — a strategy, an attitude, a habit — that extends the person’s general powers to think critically and creatively.
Mindware does three jobs, all of which concern the organization of thought. It works to pattern, repattern, and depattern thinking. Concerning patterning, a student may not have an organized approach to, for example, writing an essay. There are a number of strategies that help to pattern the writing process, not in rigid ways but in flexible and fruitful ways. As to repatterning, a person may suffer from bad thinking or learning practices. For example, many students adopt the strategy of reading something over and over as a way of understanding and remembering it. Research shows that this is not in fact a very effective strategy. Students need to repattern their reading, adopting more powerful strategies.
As to depatterning, a person may suffer from overly rigid or narrow ways of approaching problems and managing situations. For instance, people display a strong tendency to look at situations in one-sided ways. Also, people generally fail to question their tacit assumptions. Brainstorming, assumption identification, and other tactics of exploratory thinking can help people to depattern their thinking, opening it up to more possibilities and evading the ruts of habit and prejudice.

Seems reasonable enough, though of course any brain-as-latest-technological-invention metaphor needs a warning label attached…


February 12, 2011 at 11:04 am Leave a comment

Choking versus Panicking

From Malcolm Gladwell’s 2000 essay on The Art of Failure.

Panic, in this sense, is the opposite of choking. Choking is about thinking too much. Panic is about thinking too little. Choking is about loss of instinct. Panic is reversion to instinct. They may look the same, but they are worlds apart.

February 10, 2011 at 3:56 am Leave a comment

Chocolate fireguards…

Am reading (too) much about our species’ many cognitive frailties. It’s a sexy topic these days, and there’s no shortage of quality writing on the topic (personal faves at moment are Dan Ariely and Keith Stanovich).

Here’s a cartoon from Dore to this effect…

A goodly proportion of our frailties seems to be down to our need to think of ourselves as internally consistent, our beliefs attuned to reality, not influenced by other people’s attempts at conning us, or by our previous (irrational) decisions. So, if we spent a lot of money on something that was a dud, then we, if we can, refuse to admit that we bought a dud. And if a meal cost a lot of money, if it’s ok it will taste great, and if it’s great it will taste amazing.* And so on. Emperor’s New Clothes and all that…

* The sentence implies that there is an objective scale independent of our beliefs. Hmmmm.

February 5, 2011 at 7:15 am Leave a comment

Hidden Traps of Decision-making

The Hidden Traps in Decision Making
Harvard Business Review
November 2000
by John S. Hammond, Ralph L. Keeney, and Howard Raiffa

This article takes a closer look at the importance of challenging business assumptions and lines of reasoning that limit learning. The authors describe modes of thinking that impede good decision making–and offer tips for avoiding these traps. For example: 1) Through anchoring, you give disproportionate weight to the first information you receive. To illustrate, a marketer projects future product sales by looking only at past sales figures. To avoid this trap, pursue other lines of thought in addition to your first one, and seek information from a variety of sources. 2) Through status quo, you favor decisions that perpetuate the existing situation. To avoid, ask how well the status quo really serves your objectives. 3) Through sunk costs, you make choices to justify past, flawed decisions. To avoid, elicit views from people who weren’t involved in the earlier decisions, and discourage fear of failure.

Here’s a bit more.

January 31, 2011 at 12:01 pm Leave a comment

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