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Rationality and the Reflective Mind 7: Intelligence as a Predictor on Heuristics and Biases Tests

12/11/2013

This chapter is an extension of some of Stanovich’s earlier comments regarding the correlation between intelligence as measured by IQ tests and performance on heuristics and biases tasks. Stanovich goes through a pretty extensive list of biases (baserate problem, Linda problem, outcome bias) and shows the current data on it. Most of the time there is very little relationship between intelligence and normative performance.

On the “bias blind-spot:”

Bias is relatively easy to recognize in the decisions of others but often difficult to detect in our won judgments. We found that across a wide range of cognitive biases, the tendency to magnify the biases of others and minimize our own was not attenuated by high intelligence. If anything, the tendency was increased by high intelligence, not because the more intelligent subjects were in fact less biased but instead because they tended to assume that they would be less biased (135).

Pretty heavy stuff.

Stanovich’s explanation is that only biases that are associated with a need to maintain the decoupling process are based on intelligence, and many steps must succeed to even get to that point. One has to notice that there is a need to override the autonomous response, and also have the correct mindware to solve the problem. These steps do not depend on intelligence, and so if the person fails in these steps, it will be for different reasons.

Page 140 has a decent list of tasks that do and do not correlate with cognitive ability.

Basically you need a lot of cognitive ability to get to the upper limits of rationality, but even if you have cognitive ability, it is easy to reach the lower bounds of rationality and basically suck at life.

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