CHAPTER TWO: The Locked Door: The Secret Life of Snap Decisions
|50.||For Hoving on Berenson etc., see "False Impressions." pp. 19-20.|
|51.||George Soros, according to his son, makes critical decisions in the stock market because "his back starts killing him." His intuition, in other words, has a physical manifestation. Flavia Cymbalista has written about this in more detail:
According to Soros, his theory informs his decisions, and his body gives him the signals. The making of a self-reinforcing trend brings water to his mouth. The need for a portfolio shift makes his back hurt. His body "knows" he needs to take action, or to take careful note of a situation before his intellect can grasp it É Realizing that logic alone cannot be the basis for successful speculation led me to study bodily knowing in my post-doctoral research. There's a whole side to our embodied, experiential knowledge that computers don't have and that the "rational economic man" in models most economists construct doesn't have either. Our bodies "know" the situations we meet in life and how they can unfold. I found that physical experience has much more organized information about the world than the usual understanding of the body assumes.
Apparently, Soros is not alone in this. Here is Bob Woodward, in "Maestro" (p. 120) talking about Alan Greenspan, the legendary chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve:
"I've been in the economic forecasting business since 1948, and I've been on Wall Street since 1948, and I am telling you I have a pain in the pit of my stomach." He noted that in the past he had listened to his instincts and that they had been right. The pain in the stomach was a physical awareness Greenspan had experienced many times. He felt he had a deeper understanding of the issueÑa whole body of knowledge in his head and a whole value systemÑthan he was capable of stating at that moment. If he was about to say something that wasn't right, he would feel it before he was intellectually aware of the problem. It was this physical feeling, this sense in the stomach, that he believed kept him from making dangerous or absurd statements that might appear on the front page of the newspapers. At times, he found his body sensed danger before his head. As he walked down the street there would be an approaching car, and his body knew to stay out of its way before his head."
1. Primed for Action
The scrambled sentence test:
Thomas K. Srull and Robert S. Wyer. "The role of category accessibility in the interpretation of information about persons: Some determinants and implications." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol. 37. 1660-1672. For abstract and information on ordering this article see here.
|53.||John Bargh's has published many papers on the priming phenomenon. This is probably the best introduction:
John A. Bargh, Mark Chen, and Lara Burrows. "Automaticity of Social Behavior: Direct Effects of Trait Construct and Stereotype Activation on Action." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1996. Vol. 71. No. 2. pp. 230-244. Purchase here.
2. The Story Telling Problem
In an op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal, the chess champion Garry Kasparov writes what I think is a wonderful précis of the story-telling problem. (WSJ. March 14, 2005; Page A16).
"Over the past several years I have made a number of speeches on the topic of chess themes in life, particularly in business thinking and strategy. The response has been overwhelming and enlightening and I am extracting a number of valuable parallels. For example: the difference between tactics and strategy; how to train your intuition; and maintaining creativity in an era of analysis. In particular, the topic of intuition is intriguing. When I analyzed an 1894 world championship game between Lasker and Wilhelm Steinitz, I also looked at their post-game analysis and the comments of other top players of the day. They all made more mistakes in analysis than the players had made during the game! The intuitive decisions of the players during the game were correct in most cases, and more often so than when they had all the time in the world to analyze later."
And speaking of tennis, here is an excerpt from a book called "Don't Worry Make Money" by Richard Carlson (of "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" fame).
"About ten years ago I was at a professional tennis tournament. It was a time when John McEnroe was at his peak and was seeded number one in the world. I was able, through friends, to be present at a series of players' interviews and it has always stuck with me.
The first interview was with a player who lost in the first round of action. He was ranked pretty far down the ladder. When asked questions about his performance, he answered them articulately. He was quite precise about why he did certain things and why he made certain decisions.
The next interview was with John McEnroe. His answer to the question, How do you do it? surprised me. He replied, "I don't really think about it." I just do it. The really interesting part of the evening was that McEnroe's comments were not unique. In every instance, the less talented players accurately explained their form and strategy. The better the player, the less able they were to describe how they did what they do so well. In one way or another, the top players all said the same thing: We just do it. It didn't seem to come from arrogance or from a lack of intelligence, but from the perspective that too much thought about how you are going to do something interferes with actually going out and doing it. The top players in the world all shared the belief that the best way to do something is to just go out and do it.
As I reflect on top performers in other fields (and I understand that there are certainly exceptions), I do understand the wisdom in McEnroe's words. It's not that you don't want to be articulate, or that being able to describe your success or how you do something is bad, but there is something very powerful about just going out and getting started. One of the key benefits is that you can avoid much of the fear that others who think everything through experience."
In my discussion of Vic Braden, I quote Braden as disputing the baseball legend Ted Williams' claim that he could track the ball onto the bat. To Braden, this was just another example of the story-telling problem. A number of readers questioned this.
Here's what one reader wrote:
"There's a fun book called "The Umpire Strikes Back", by Ron Luciano, a major league umpire who similarly doubted Williams's claim:
"[Williams] claimed he could actually see the ball hit the bat. He said he could see if the bat hit one seam, two seams or missed the seams entirely. ... I told him that was impossible. The human eye doesn't work that precisely. Doctors knew it. Scientists knew it. Umpires knew it.
...In spring training, in 1972, he offered to prove it to me. Admittedly I was reluctant to go along with him. In his prime Williams had been one of the greatest hitters in baseball history, but at this time he was fifty-four years old. A hitter's reflexes usually start fading in his mid-thirties, and in Williams's case that was two decades earlier. I didn't want to embarrass him by shattering one of his beliefs, but he insisted. With my head down, I followed him to a practice field. He covered the barrel of a bat with pine tar and stepped up to the plate. A hard-throwing rookie had been recruited to pitch to him. I took a deep breath, anticipating what was going to be a very sad moment.
The young pitcher threw a bullet and Williams hit a rocket to center field. "One seam," he shouted confidently over his shoulder.
"Sure, Ted," I agreed. I was just glad he was still able to hit the ball. Someone retrieved it and brought it over to me. One seam was covered with pine tar.
He hit another pitch. "About a quarter inch above the $#%$%$% seam," he said.
That ball had a pine-tar scar just a quarter inch above the seam. He called five of seven perfectly, the most amazing display of hitting ability I've ever seen." (p.129)
Another reader writes:
"I've seen film of a major league baseball team that attempts to enhance hitters' abilities by using a tennis ball server operating at 150 miles per hour. The balls had numbers written on them in different color inks, and the players were calling off the colors and numbers as they went over the "plate." Some of them were simultaneously reaching out and bunting the balls away. This seems to negate Mr. Braden's research and support the Splendid Splinter's impressions."
|56.||The Trivial Pursuit study can be found at:
Ap Dijksterhuis and Ad van Knippenberg. "The Relation Between Perception and Behavior, or How to Win a Game of Trivial Pursuit." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1998, Vol. 74. No. 4, 865-877. Purchase here.
|56-58.||The study on black and white test performance and race priming can be found at:
Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson. "Stereotype Threat and Intellectual Test Performance of African Americans." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1995, Vol. 69. No.5, 797-811. Purchase here.
|59.||The gambling studies are included in this wonderful book:
Antonio Damasio. "Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain." 1994. New York: Harper Collins. p. 193.
This phenomenon was described, most famously, by Richard Nisbett and Timothy Wilson in the 1970's. Their conclusion is worth quoting:
It is naturally preferable, from the standpoint of prediction and subjective feelings of control, to believe that we have such access. It is frightening to believe that no one has no more certain knowledge of the workings of one's own mind than would an outsider with intimate knowledge of one's history and of the stimuli present at the time the cognitive process occurred.
Richard E. Nisbett and Timothy D. Wilson. "Telling More Than We Can Know: Verbal Reports on Mental Processes." Psychological Review. 1977. Vol. 84. No. 3. pp. 231-259.
This article is not archived. For homepage of journal, please see here.
|69.||The swinging rope experiment:
Norman R.F. Maier. "Reasoning in Humans: II. The Solution of a Problem and its Appearance in Consciousness." Journal of Comparative Psychology. 1931. Vol. 12. pp. 181-194. For homepage of journal, please see here.