Resist that faulty narrative

Women who have high IQ scores usually marry men of lower intelligence. Why is that so?

When asked this question, several reasons present themselves to our mind. Maybe there are fewer ego clashes that way. Maybe the intelligent women want to avoid competition. Perhaps its the tendency for opposites to attract.

The correct explanation is more boring: just randomness at work. Highly intelligent women marry men of lower intelligence because the average man is simply not as intelligent as a woman of high intelligence.

Consider a box full of blue balls, with a few yellow ones thrown in. Let the yellow balls signify people of high intelligence, and the blue balls people of average intelligence. Let us hold a yellow ball in our hand and pick another ball from the box at random to pair with it. Chances are that we’d end up picking up a blue ball simply because they are more numerous.

This property, where extreme quantities usually regress to the mean is a statistically established fact. However, it is extremely hard to internalize, given our affinity to fit narratives and causation to random situations.

The narrative fallacy gives us several illusions of competence. People believe that they can control the outcomes of dice rolls, coin-toss or slot machines if they are the ones performing these acts. In the same vein, they believe that they can see patterns in the stock market and pick the right stocks. Or look at your palm and foresee your future.

In some cases, randomness is just boring old randomness. Our attempts to make it more interesting causes several slip ups that undermines our understanding of the world around us.

Inspiration: Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman

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