Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why Intuition Is Overrated

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why Intuition Is Overrated

Article excerpt

Byline: KATIE LAW

THE UNDOING PROJECT: A FRIENDSHIP THAT CHANGED THE WORLD by Michael Lewis (Allen Lane, PS25) AS AUTHOR of the hugely popular Thinking, Fast and Slow and winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize for Economics, Daniel Kahneman is often credited as the father of behavioural economics. It's true up to a point but, as Michael Lewis makes clear in his new book, Kahneman was only half of the equation.

The Undoing Project tells the story of how Kahneman and another brilliant young Israeli psychologist, Amos Tverksy, forged a close friendship in war-torn Israel at the end of the Sixties and collaborated on a series of studies that changed the way we think about the usefulness of intuition, how we judge probability and the criteria we need to make good decisions.

Not only has their work impacted in areas such as finance, Big Data, medicine and sport, it has spawned a whole genre of literature, of which Lewis himself, together with writers such as Malcolm Gladwell and Daniel Livitin, is a leading exponent.

Lewis paints vivid portraits of two very different men. Kahneman, now 82 and still going strong, grew up in Nazioccupied France and was filled with doubt about everything. A rootless survivor looking for answers, he was, says Lewis, conflict-avoiding, gentle and physically inept.

Having fled from Europe to Israel with his mother after the war, he graduated in psychology from Hebrew University and worked for the Israeli army. There he devised a series of personality tests that could predict which soldier might be best suited to which job. In the process he discovered that the interviewers tended to make assumptions that would bias their choices.

For example, if a soldier had a "good" quality, such as appearing to be physically strong, the interviewer might assume he was more likely to be good at other things, and vice versa. This turned out often to be wrong. "Remove their gut feelings and their judgement improved," he concluded. He changed the questions, introduced a 0-5 score rating for each answer and turned it into an algorithm. Known as the Kahneman score, it is used by the Israeli army to this day. …

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