Why Clever People Make Stupid Mistakes 聪明人为何犯愚蠢的错误
Jenni Russell 珍妮·拉塞尔
So here is an unnerving discovery. I am not the calm， rational， discriminating person that I hope to be. It didn't take much to discover this; just my answers to a couple of quick questions. Here's the first： how many pairs of animals did Moses take on the ark？
And the second： Jack is looking at Anne but Anne is looking at George. Jack is married but George is not. Is a married person looking at an unmarried person？
It took me no seconds at all to answer the first; I couldn't， but thought the Bible would tell me. What I didn't spot， because I was too busy looking at the end of the question and not the premise， was that the answer is zero. Moses wasn't busy building any arks; that was Noah.
As for Anne， George and Jack， I swiftly concluded we couldn't know， because we hadn't been told the status of Anne. I was of course wrong. If I had stopped to draw two diagrams of Jack， Anne and George looking at one another， with an unmarried Anne in the first diagram and a married one in the second， I would have seen that in either case a married person was indeed looking at an unmarried one.
This is what a new， wide-ranging book by the science writer David Robson has dubbed The Intelligence Trap， our tendency to assume that general intelligence leads to good thinking. It doesn't. It doesn't protect us from cognitive biases like the ones I've just demonstrated. Indeed， Robson shows， our confidence in the efficiency of our brains often makes us more vulnerable to foolish judgments.
People with high IQs drink more heavily， may take more illegal drugs， and are almost twice as likely as everybody else to hit credit card limits. They have the same rates of bankruptcy and missed mortgage payments as everybody else despite having better-paid jobs. Intelligent， educated people are less likely to question their assumptions， to learn from their mistakes， to take advice or reverse their decisions when they discover new facts. Instead they use their brainpower to ingeniously defend their original positions.
These tendencies lead us into disastrous and avoidable situations. In health， 15 per cent of all hospital diagnoses are wrong， often because they are made swiftly and rarely rethought， meaning that more people die from misdiagnoses than from diseases like breast cancer. In business， a reluctance to think through consequences， question optimism or challenge decisions leads to a myriad of uncounted collapses and some major disasters.
Robson's term for these failures is functional stupidity， and his thesis is that these errors could be largely avoided if we could recalibrate our approach to problems. The intelligence trap is， he says， largely a cultural phenomenon. Western culture prizes swift decisions， certainty， dominant leadership and simple answers. From school onwards we are taught to memorise what we've been told， put our hands up fast， jump to conclusions， argue our case convincingly， persuade others to follow. It's a common route to success but it's a dangerously limited way to operate， particularly in our hugely complicated world.
The key insight is our pressing need to deploy intellectual humility， open-mindedness， curiosity and wide consultation， rather than the blind stubbornness and grandstanding that so often passes for judgment. It's never been more necessary to recognise and release ourselves from the intelligence trap.