Thinking Critically with Psychological Science
The Need for Psychological Science
"Those who trust in their own wits are fools."
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool." -
Novelist Madeline L'Engle "The naked intellect is an extraordinarily inaccurate instrument"
(1973). Three phenomena - Hindsight bias, judgmental overconfidence and our tendency to
perceive patterns in random events - illustrate why we cannot rely solely on intuition and
common sense and often lead us to overestimate our intuition.
1. Hindsight Bias (I knew it all along phenomena)
The tendency to believe, after learning an outcome, that one would have foreseen it.
Ex. "Psychologists have found that separation weakens romantic attraction." Common
sense says, "Out of sight, out of mind." OR "Psychologists have found that separation
strengthens romantic attraction." Common sense says, "Absence makes the heart grow
fonder." Two opposite findings both seem like common sense which is a problem.
Good ideas are like good inventions, once created they seem obvious.
We humans tend to think we know more than we do. We are often more confident than
correct. Ex. Anagrams: WREAT > WATER. Should only take about 10 seconds to solve but
most of us take 3 minutes.
3. Perceiving Order in Random Events
In our natural eagerness to make sense of our world, we are prone to perceive patterns.
Some happenings seem so extraordinary that we struggle to conceive an ordinary
"The really unusual day would be one where nothing unusual happens."
The Scientific Attitude: Curious, Skeptical, and Humble
Magician James Randi exemplifies skepticism by testing a variety and psychic
phenomena. Science becomes society's garbage disposal sending crazy ideas to was