kitchen table math, the sequel: Question: When can you trust your intuition?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Question: When can you trust your intuition?

Answer: When you possess knowledge stored in long-term memory, not on Google.

I'm semi-beavering away on the writing exercises for Ed's textbook (with Katie Beals) and on Eric Hollander's & my book on the compulsive-impulsive dimension, which has meant long stretches away from Kitchen Table Math (frustrating!)

Trying to organize my collection of articles on the basal ganglia, the orbitofrontal cortex, associative learning, OCD, ADHD, addiction, impulsivity, compulsivity, the cognitive unconscious, intuition, cognitive biases, cognitive heuristics, Go/NoGo (I'll stop here), I came across this:
When should I trust my gut? Linking domain expertise to intuitive decision-making effectiveness
Erik Dane, Kevin W. Rockmann, Michael G. Pratt
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 119*2012) 187-194

ABSTRACT: Despite a growing body of scholarship on the concept of intuition, there is a scarcity of empirical research spotlighting the circumstances in which intuitive decision making is effective relative to analytical decision making. Seeking to address this deficiency, we conducted two laboratory studies assessing the link between domain expertise (low versus high) and intuitive decision-making effectiveness. . . . Across both studies, and consistent with our overarching hypothesis, we found that the effectiveness of intuition relative to analysis is amplified at a high level of domain expertise. Taken together, our results demonstrate the importance of domain expertise in intuitive decision making and carry a number of theoretical and practical implications.


While theory suggests that people may perform well using intuition . . . , we expect that the benefits of intuition are most likely to be realized by certain individuals -- those who have acquired a substantial degree of expertise in the focal domain (Kahneman & Klein, 2009; Klein, 1998; Salas et al., 2010). Domain experts are well equipped to capitalize on the potential benefits of intuition because they possess rich bodies of domain knowledge that foster the rapid and sophisticated associative processes that produce accurate intuitions (Dane & Pratt, 2007). Although little work has demonstrated just how much expertise must be accrued before the benefits of intuition begin to take hold, the benefits of intuition are generally most evident - and most striking - among those who have engaged in intense, repetitive practice for a number of years, or even decades (Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 2005; Ericsson & Charness, 1994; Simon, 1987).

By the same token, we expect that intuition is likely a poor or misguided decision-making approach for those with very little domain expertise (i.e., domain novices). On this point, research suggests that the intuitions of domain novices are generally based on relatively simple, context-insensitive heuristics (Dane & Pratt, 2007; Tversky & Kahneman, 1974). These intuitions tend to be biased and thus inaccurate (Bazerman, 2006; Hammong, Keeney, & Raiffa 1998).


SteveH said...

It's not just domain knowledge. You have to have experience to place different weights and meanings on that knowledge. Then again, people with a lot of domain knowledge do not need intuition as much as those who do not. They know the answer. My wife doesn't have to intuit the reason for many computer system/network problems. She knows the answer. When she does have to apply her intuition, it's for much more complicated problems, and is often based on past experience, not just facts. This intuition based on experience is misunderstood in a high tech world that over-values knowledge of the latest stuff. Of course, those with less content knowledge just cannot compete with those who have that knowledge or with those who have years of experience.

Luke Holzmann said...

This is precisely the point of Gladwell's "Blink": Experience/being an expert enables you to make instant decisions.


Auntie Ann said...

A couple of days ago in a gym class a teacher was playing a song for our 12 year old's class and offered a reward of getting out of some of the work if anyone could identify it. Our kid listened to some of the suggestions and then guessed it was from "Karate Kid". He was right.

He said it was a wild guess, since he had never seen the movie, but we pointed out to him that he had used deductive reasoning based on the clues: athletics, a class for teen and pre-teens, the lyrics were about picking yourself up and fighting again, and he knew what the movie was about and had probably flipped past it on the TV a couple times to get a feel for it. He had just enough knowledge to make an educated guess.