What you see…

I looked at the clock beside my table to see that it was 8:00 AM.

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What time it is?

Later, I had realized that I had not read the time correctly, and I was running late! You can see the actual time in the clock’s reflection.

This anecdote demonstrates our mind’s ability to jump to conclusions with limited information – a tendency that Daniel Kahneman likes to abbreviate as WYSIATI – “What You See Is All There Is”. The moment we hear about the rich, religious American creationist, our mind assumes that he votes Republican. No sooner than we see a geeky kid with glasses, who spends all day at a computer, we assume she would grow up to become a programmer.

Did the use of the female pronoun (“she”) in the previous statement come as a surprise? Q.E.D.

The mind’s ability to jump to conclusions is an asset. The mere sight of a pattern is enough for us to decode it. However, it must be kept in check. For it can present an illusion that causes us to misread the time, make bad decisions, or worse, judge a person unfairly.

Our superhero intuition could use a sidekick – a good measure of healthy skepticism.

Inspiration: Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman

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