November 12, 2019
Why Do We Make Bad Judgements?
No one wants to make bad judgements but everyone does. Most people don’t know why we make bad judgements. Daniel Kahneman is a psychologist and economist who has these answers. Kahneman tells his readers about making bad judgements and why we make them. He explains that there are cognitive fallacies which are things in your thinking that are not right. This causes us to make bad judgements. He talks about different cognitive fallacies in which we make these judgements. Some of the specific fallacies that he talks about, and I have witnessed in a friends bad judgement, are the illusion of validity, being blind to your own blindness and an idea he calls “what you see is all there is” (WYSIATI). If you take a minute to stop and think, you will realize that many of these fallacies are present in your life.
This summer I met a new friend named Mat. Mat and I became pretty close in a short amount of time. We had lots of fires at his house with his friends almost every weekend. There was one particular weekend that had not quite gone to plan.
Everyone there was having a good time just hanging out by the fire and talking to each other. A while after we got the fire going, a group of about 10 people showed up from a local town. I did not know any of these people and Mat only knew one or two. As the night proceeded, Mat had said something that made one of these guys quite mad. For a while they both brushed it off and they managed to deal with each other which, didn’t seem to last too long.
Things began to escalate quickly and they decided, with the help of a few fellow friends egging them on, that they would wrestle. Obviously when two guys are angry with one another and they decide to wrestle, nothing could possibly go wrong right?
“Mathew don’t do it.”
“Mathew this is a bad idea you don’t want to do that.”
“You know he is going to kill you.”
In his own mind he must have had a whole storyline planned out on how this would end. This is an example of WYSIATI, which I will explain later on. I know we definitely did not see this playing out the same way. I believe his cockyness and overconfidence led him to make a horrible choice. He thought this guy would be easy but in my head I knew he just wanted to kill him.
I tried to stop them and convince them it was a horrible idea.
After about an hour of debate, they agreed on no punches and they could tap out. This plan seemed fair and it seemed to work until Mat won. This made the other guy very angry, so he started throwing punches. This was the real turning point of the night. There were at least three different fights going on. There were people on the ground with bloody noses and black eyes. Meanwhile, I am on the phone with 911 trying to stay away from everyone. After hearing “Guys stop stop if someone calls the cops I’ll go back to jail”, I knew I needed to stay away before someone found out what I was doing.
I was trying to help my friend while talking to the 911 operator and after what seemed to be hours, multiple police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances showed up. An error in judgement was that Mat was trying to refuse to go to the hospital. It took three or four of us to convince him he needed to go. We later found out he had a broken nose, which was very obvious in the first place. He also had a broken tooth and a brain bleed. We were all very happy he went.
I see this as an error in judgment by my friend for deciding to even “wrestle” in the first place. He was overconfident in himself causing himself to get very hurt. Some people may argue that this group of people should not have been there in the first place but in reality they were never invited. This was a group of teens, and some people who were even older, who heard of the fire and collectively decided to show up.
Mat found out the hard way that this was a bad idea. We spent about 13 hours in 2 different hospitals.
Like Mat, many of us believe certain things that are not true and make judgments based on them and in Kahnemen’s article “Don’t Blink! The Hazards of Confidence”, he talks about different types of fallacies that lead us to believe certain things. A few specific cognitive fallacies that Mat faced include being blind to your own blindness, the illusion of validity, and WYSIATS which stands for what you see is all there is. This means that you really only see and know what you first see. This is a good reason why you should never judge a book by its cover. There can be much more to a person rather than what you see when you first meet them. These fallacies tend to lead us to believe things that either we shouldn’t believe or that are not true. One example of this is being over confident. In the article, Kahneman talks about why we make bad judgments.
One type of cognitive fallacy is the illusion of validity. Within the article Kahnamen tells a story about when he was assigned to the army’s psychology branch when he had to help evaluate candidates for officer training. They had to observe the candidates to find ones that they thought would do good. They observed them while they completed a “leaderless group challenge”. The reasoning for choosing their candidates was that they seemed to perform well while completing this task. Kahnamen and his colleagues later discovered that they made a mistake in their choosing and that these were not the best they could have chosen. He declares that their “forecasts were better than blind guesses, but not much.” (1). This is an example of an illusion of validity because they overestimated themselves and later did not correct it. Kahnamen later found that his predictions were not correct but did not do anything about it.
Another fallacy is WYSIATS (what you see is all there is). WYSIATI is when you believe something from only what you see such as meeting a new person. You are likely to judge them or create a story about them strictly based on what you see when you first meet them. I believe that is can cause problems and create a false judgement of someone in your head. This could make you believe things about people that are completely untrue.
In my eyes, I believe that the fallacy that Mat fell for was WYSIATI. He saw this person and immediately had a story in his own mind about him and about how he thought he was better, bigger, stronger. He was overconfident and whether he knew it or not, it put him in a bad position. In Kahnamen’s article, he points out that they “had made up a story from the little we knew but had no way to allow for what we did not know about the individual’s future, which was almost everything that would actually matter” (3). It was this exact situation that accounted for the problems we faced that night at the fire. A story was created in Mat’s mind about this guy but what he did not know about him would be the most important. Confidence is a false way to determine if something is reliable or correct. If you feel that you are correct about something, you are more likely to be confident in what you believe in and more confident in your reasoning. Just because you are confident in what you believe does not mean it is true or right. Mat gives a perfect example of this by being overconfident which the entire situation was not correct therefore showing just because you are confident, does not mean you are right.
Another fallacy I believe that he fell into was being blind to your own blindness. Mat had no idea what he was getting himself into with this guy. He failed to realize that this man was bigger than him, angrier than him, and that he didn’t just want to wrestle. This is an example of being blind to his own blindness because he could not see these things upfront, he was blind to them.
Overall it is important to make good judgements because some of the things that we have to make choices on can make a big impact on our lives. I think that Kahnemen along with my friend Mat both have very good examples of why we should be making good judgements versus bad judgments. Although many of the choices that we have to make in our life may be very small and may not have a very big impact on anyone else, or possibly yourself, we should still put in every effort to do good with our choices.
Kahnemen, Daniel. “Don’t Blink! The Hazards of Confidence. October 19, 2011. 1-9. Print.