Following our schedule in our reading calendar, it is time for chapter 5.
In this chapter Kahneman describes a very interesting phenomenon, cognitive ease, or the feeling that the situation is fine, nothing worries us and we think that the tasks at hand are easy to be solved.
We might be in such state just because the task is easy, but there are other very different and incongruent reasons, like it is a repeated experience, we are in front of a clear display, we have received former priming that we didn’t realize, or we are just in a good mood.
This generates biases and errors in our judgment. For example, if we are familiar with a name just because it has been primed to us before, we might wrongly think that we remember this person because it is famous, but actually is just a name that the investigador made up.
The more astonishing, fascinating and unexpected result in the chapter, for me, was how if students have to fight hard with how a problem is stated, they’ll more probably switch to System II and solve it correctly. For example, if a mathematical problem is written down in a small font size and poorly printed, experimental subjects will more probably solved it correctly than if it is presented in a very clear form and then the subjects use just their system 1 instead and make mistakes.
This clearly go against the idea of that clearer a problem is presented the better to understand it. But if you think about it, it makes perfect sense, and there are plenty other experiments that shows similar results. Sounds like we have to revise some classical ideas about how to teach…
I have some precautions with some experiments that are described in passim, so it is difficult to establish their real relevance. For example the experiment in which investors prefer stocks with fluent names Emmi or Swiss-first versus Geberit or Ypsomed how was it developed exactly? If experimental subjects were just told to choose between a list of stocks which they didn’t know and no more extra info was provided, then of course, one has to invent some criterion, or use an unconscious one. But my question here is: if these were real investors -and not just experimental subjects- and have to use their real money to buy stocks, would them just pick the nice sounding names? Of course not. So the experiment doesn’t prove that people choose stocks depending on how the name sounds, but only that confronted with a problem that is far away from any real one, confronted to a pure lab problem, people just do some educated guesses in order to not look like a fool.
A similar problem arises with the experiment of the Turkish words in a newspaper. People considered “good” words those that they were familiar with them because they were published in a newspaper before and have seen them several times. The more they see them, the more familiar with them, and the more they tend to consider “good”. But, what does “good” mean here if the experimental subjects do not undestand Turkish? Probably not much.
Still the general thesis of the chapter holds together well, and we all have experienced cognitive ease so we see that this makes sense, and this chapter also give us another disturbing fact: if a learning material is presented in a supereasy way, it might be less helpful than a more difficult to process one.