Are You an Intuitive or a Deliberative Information Processor?
Quick — take this test:
(1) A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?
(2) If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?
(3) In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake?
(see below for answers)
In an interesting new article, Blinking on the Bench: How Judges Decide Cases, Chris Guthrie, Jeffrey Rachlinski, and Andrew Wistrich report the answers of 252 Florida trial judges to this Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT), which is designed to have a “correct answer that is easy to discern upon reflection, [as well as] an intuitive–but incorrect–answer that almost immediately comes to mind.” The judges scored, well, slightly better than the average undergraduate student subject at Michigan and slightly worse than the average undergraduate student subject at Harvard. Almost one-third of these judges didn’t answer any of the questions correctly; another third answered one question correctly; less than a quarter of the judges answered two questions correctly; and only one seventh answered all three correctly. Their mean score of 1.23 compares unfavorably to student subjects at MIT (2.18), Carnegie Mellon (1.51), and Harvard (1.43).
So what does this all mean? Looking to this data alongside other studies, the authors argue that judges often make decisions intuitively rather than deliberatively. This is not always a problem; indeed the authors note that the “conversion of deliberative judgment into intuitive judgment might be the hallmark of expertise.” But, judges who respond intuitively, as the test results show, might make inaccurate decisions. The paper concludes with several suggestions as to how to limit “bad” intuitive decisionmaking –more time and resources, requiring written opinions, training and feedback, use of scripts and checklists, and separating out decision-making authority– very similar to suggestions that my co-authors and I made in our recent article, Refugee Roulette, which describes disparities in decision-making in the asylum process. Sounds like we might need to stop those asylum adjudicators from blinking on the bench . . .
So could you cut it amongst those MIT students? Here are the answers:
(1) Five cents. If the ball costs five cents, the bat costs $1.05, and the total is $1.10. The intuitive and incorrect answer is that the ball costs ten cents — but then of course the bat costs $1.10 and the total is $1.20
(2) Five minutes. The intuitive and incorrect answer is 100 minutes; each machine makes one widget in 5 minutes, so increasing the number of machines increases the number of widgets accordingly.
(3) Forty-seven days. The intuitive and incorrect answer is 24 days — if the patch of lily pads doubles each day and covers the entire lake on the last day, it must cover half the lake the day before.