On not trusting your intuition

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Back when I was in high school and taking multiple choice tests, the conventional wisdom was to trust your first choice and not to change your answer unless you were sure. Turns out that this is the wrong answer. Kruger et al. report in J. Pers. Soc. Psychology that when people are down to two answers, their first instinct is more often wrong than right. However, it turns out that they regret the times when they incorrectly change from their first instinct more than the times they incorrectly stick with it, and they remember those cases better. The authors suggests that this accounts for the belief that one ought to stick with one's first instinct.

Of course, for students of the economic psychology literature, this result shouldn't be too surprising. The data consistently demonstrates that people's ability to estimate quantities is fairly bad and is improved by systematic techniques for arriving at the answers. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that your second intuition is any better, but if you're actually trying to consider the problem rather than just use your gut, then it's probably worth going with that answer...

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