The Feynman principle, however, is simple: "You must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool," as the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman put it.The article continues:
The moguls of J.P. Morgan, in letting a complex risk run wild and denying any potential for error until it was too late, are a reminder that one of the biggest dangers in finance is self-deception.
...You can also fool yourself by placing too much faith in the findings of supposed experts. Mr. Feynman recounted the story of an influential formula for measuring the charge of an electron ...devised by...pioneering physicist Robert Millikan. The result was slightly wrong, but it took many researchers years to prove it wrong - since Millikan's successors assumed that he had to be right."
|Alex Nabaum www.http://online.wsj.com|
Whether as a trader betting on ... a stock, a lawyer gauging a witness's reliability or a doctor pondering the accuracy of a diagnosis, we spend much of our time—consciously or not—guessing about the future based on incomplete information. Unfortunately, decades of research indicate that humans are not very good at this. Most of us, for example, tend to vastly overestimate our chances of winning the lottery, while similarly underestimating the chances that we will get divorced.The article continues noting, however, that
"...certain groups of people—such as meteorologists and professional gamblers—have managed to overcome these biases and are thus able to estimate probabilities much more accurately than the rest of us.The article continues noting that Sarah Lichtenstein, an expert in the field of decision science, points to several characteristics of groups that exhibit high intelligence with respect to risk.
- They tend to be comfortable assigning numerical probabilities to possible outcomes (in 1965, for instance, U.S. National Weather Service forecasters have been required to predict weather patterns such as chance of snow or rain in percentage terms);
- They tend to make predictions on only a narrow range of topics (probability of rain - a narrow prediction vs. the probability of a drug's effectiveness, which involves many more factors and is therefore a much more complicated prediction);
- They tend to get prompt and well-defined feedback, which increases the chance that they will incorporate new information into their understanding.
Translating Risk Research for Home and School:
Risks are important to take. As parents, we make and take risks all the time - in choosing schools and summer programs, and evaluating and acting upon professionals' recommendations, to name a few. Students must also take risks: in choosing school-project topics, books to read, deciding what comments to share and how best to share them. Students take risks when taking tests - knowing what answers to answer and how to select the 'best' response. Kids take risks in sports, socially, even dressing. We need to empower our kids to take risks, while teaching them how best to do this.
I am not an investor or an economist, but Feynman's Principle and the research by Sarah Lichtenstein and Dylan Evans rings true for me as a parent / educator:
Avoid fooling yourself: While this is intrinsically difficult to do, here are some things to help you better understand your kids, their teachers, their health, their skills:
- look at and listen to various sources to better understand our kids' strengths and weaknesses.
- look at their actual successes and failures in and out of school - review their homework assignments and tests once graded; meet with teachers;
- listen and weigh teacher/physician/professional evaluations; while
- talking and listening to our kids to get their perspectives as well.
Play prediction games with your kids - assigning specific numbers or values to what it is you are predicting. This will help them understand 'number' concepts, better understand variables effecting the outcomes they are predicting, and better understand their own skills. Here are some examples of what they might predict:
- Have them predict on how well they will do on a test or paper. Make sure they assign themselves a number or letter grade. Then check for immediate (or relatively immediate feedback). Chart these predictions to see if they improve in accuracy while reviewing and incorporating teachers' comments.
- Predict how long it will take them to complete homework assignments. Here too, chart their predictions and monitor their accuracy. Not only will this give them a better sense of their skills in that subject, it will help them develop a keener sense of time, all while helping them analyze their skills and (homework) risks.
- Play games of chance and risk. Discuss options and probabilities. Assign numbers or 'grades' to your 'chances'.
These are just a few suggestions. I'd love to hear your suggestions and reactions. Please share them in the comments. Thank you for your visit and have a wonderful week.