When asked to prove if something is true or false, people tend to focus on confirming “the rule” as stated, rather than falsifying it. Humm that’s sort of a brain twister, isn’t it? As a result, even supposedly smart people can be quite illogical. That is, according to research psychologist Keith Stanovich, a prof at University of Toronto. His most recent book is What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought.
One way to prove what he means is this simple exercise, which I challenge you to take. It will give you an experience of what he means if you are willing to try it. And even if you do not get the correct answer, you’ll learn more about yourself for the next time you are presented with a parallel situation: Imagine four cards sitting on a table.
Even better, draw them on a piece of paper. Each card has a letter on one side and a number on the other, but you can only see 1 side of each card, so you don’t know what’s on the other side. Two of the cards are letter side up. One has an “A” and the other has a “K” written on it. Two are number side up, with an “8” and a “5” written on them.
Here’s the rule to be tested: For these four cards, if a card has a vowel on its letter side, it has an even number on its number side. Your task is to decide which card or cards must be turned over to find out whether the “rule” is true or false. In other words, tell me which cards must be turned over to prove the rule. Cool, huh?
According to the research, 90% of people get this wrong…. If you want to know the correct answer, you can email me or comment on the blog.
Here’s what I notice in terms of leadership and why I think this is so important. Leaders have, in my mind, an ethical responsibility to continually challenge our assumptions and our own quality of logic. We can’t rest on our laurels and past accomplishments, or fall asleep. Stanovich wrote an article for Scientific American Mind about his ideas on intelligence. His point that IQ tests are not the be all, end all is nothing new. His examples and insights are uncommon and refreshing. Stanovich challenges us to think with greater clarity. In today’s celebrity mad, pop-culture crazy, and media driven tumult, it’s easy to become confused and distracted, to put your eye on the wrong balls. The challenge for clarity of thought and logic is something no conscious person can resist exploring. I can’t wait to read the book.