GOOD

Distinguishing Expert Intuition from Lay Intuition



This post is a response to “How Might We Leverage Informed Intuition for Decision-making?” Learn more about the conversation here.

My grandfather, a high school driving instructor in Oregon, enjoyed a 42-year-long career behind the wheel entirely accident-free—not a single crash, minor fender-bender, or absent-minded scratch. He taught thousands of students, but sadly, several of them met their fate behind the wheel, failing to see their senior year of high school. Grampa Joe was not an especially cautious person, but he was an incredible driver. Doubtless, the fate of these students influenced his day-to-day driving behavior; or, perhaps in contrast to the rest of us, he enjoyed what one might call expert intuition. And there is a big difference between expert intuition and what we normally call intuition.

What’s your "intuition" when it comes to your intuition? When you ask people to rate their intuitive judgment, they’ll typically give it high marks—hardly surprising. But when you ask them to rate their intuitive judgment compared to others, something very strange occurs. It’s not uncommon for 20 percent of people surveyed to claim that their intuitive prowess ranks in the top 1 percent and for the bottom half of the distribution to become a ghost town. Are you seeing the problem here?

The problem is known as the Blind Spot Bias, and it has serious implications for all sorts of decisions we make. Next time you’re driving on a crowded freeway, consider the fact that the vast majority of drivers think they’re better than average drivers—a lot better than average. As a result, they tailgate, change lanes more frequently, and multi-task with presumptive skill. What they’re really doing is taking risks they don’t realize they are taking and collectively causing a countless number of annual traffic deaths. And I’ll avoid elaborating the implications for sexual partners who consider themselves particularly skilled at withdrawal method of birth control.

What does this all mean? It means that our beliefs about intuition often get us into trouble. What about lay intuition itself? Unfortunately, that’s a bit of a sordid story too. Check out Daniel Kahneman’s excellent overview of intuitive judgment in his Nobel prize acceptance lecture.

What’s most relevant for social impact work and its evaluation is the special class of judgment and decision-making that stems from expert intuition: cardiologists who can reliably determine degree of arterial blockage with only a stethoscope; marriage counselors who can with uncanny precision predict future divorce by listening to a couple talk for five minutes; Secret Service agents who can accurately detect liars at every level of experience and sophistication; and, of course, my Grampa Joe.

What can we learn from these folks that we can leverage in social impact work? The answer usually won’t come from asking them. Most of the time the intuitive people performing these feats cannot clearly articulate how they do it. To be sure, their abilities are not innate. They can be learned. Below are some of the features that can help sharpen our intuition (also check out IDEO’s Jane Fulton Suri’s article "Informing Our Intuition: Designing Research for Radical Innovation").

Keen observation. Individuals in a constant state of learning can better detect nuances in the relationships between people and their environment. This requires approaching observations with an open mind, and constantly updating perspectives and hypotheses.

Accurate feedback. Feedback during observations is what enables us to compare what we’re measuring to what we expect to find; discrepancies become opportunities to learn and improve. This typically refines our understanding, helps us evaluate key hypotheses, and allows us to recalibrate so we make even better decisions in the next iteration.

Perpetual iteration. Repeated exposure to a given target is a prerequisite for developing expert intuition. Any expert can learn something by conducting a single trial with a sample of 300, but they’ll learn a great deal more by conducting 300 trials with a sample of one. Expert intuition is about honing pattern recognition, which can only be developed through serious iteration.

Notice that these tools are agnostic with respect to methodology. Observation, feedback, and iteration are required for most valid methods of investigation or evaluation. The expert intuition they can produce improves upfront decision making which is important because when there’s little trust in upfront decisions donors tend to over-rely on evaluation.

I think people commonly hear “intuition” as a code word for wanting to avoid quantitative evaluation. In fact, I think those who lean toward qualitative methods are often open to validating their work through quantification, but just not at the expense of constraining the richness of their inquiry.

Continue our conversation by commenting below:
    \n
  • What examples have you seen of expert intuition working or not working?

  • How have you integrated expert intuition into qualitative and quantitative evaluation practices?

  • \n

David Fetherstonhaugh is a behavioral economist at IDEO.


Articles
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

If you are totally ready to move on from Donald Trump, you're not alone. According to a report last April from the Wason Center National Survey of 2020 Voters, "President Trump will be the least popular president to run for reelection in the history of polling."

Yes, you read that right, "history of polling."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.

Culture

In the category of "claims to fame nobody wants," the United States can now add "exporter of white supremacist ideology" to its repertoire. Super.

Russell Travers, acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center, made this claim in a briefing at The Washington Institute in Washington, D.C. "For almost two decades, the United States has pointed abroad at countries who are exporters of extreme Islamist ideology," Travers said. "We are now being seen as the exporter of white supremacist ideology. That's a reality with which we are going to have to deal."

Keep Reading Show less

Between Alexa, Siri, and Google, artificial intelligence is quickly changing us and the way we live. We no longer have to get up to turn on the lights or set the thermostat, we can find the fastest route to work with a click, and, most importantly, tag our friends in pictures. But interacting with the world isn't the only thing AI is making easier – now we can use it save the world, too.

Keep Reading Show less
Good News