Reasoning Tools (2016)

The Psychology of Thinking – with Richard Nisbett
The Royal Institution, Jun 22, 2016
Reasoning Tools for the Information Age

Vocabulary has increased
The more words you have, the more concepts you have.
The more concepts you have, the smarter you hare.

Calculus is routinely taught in high school

there’s been no continuous change: Scandinavia
Scandinavia does a better job than the rest of us bringing up the bottom
industrial revolution skills

Examples of the new tools: Statistics and probability theory
– sample
– population
– sample bias
– randomness
– law of large numbers (23:30)
– normal distribution
– standard deviation
– statistical significance
– regression to the mean (29:27-> 32:32)
26:57 sophomore slump, second novels, albums
– base rate
– correlation (odds) 17:55
Perceived and actual correlations acrross two occasions and across 20 (21:44)
+ abilities (test scores)
+ traits (honesty)

10:47 Scientific methodology
– control group
– randomized control experiment
– confounded variable
multiple regression analysis (39:40)
control for social class: the prestige of their occupation
– self-selection
– independence of observations
– natural experiment
– artifact

11:01 Decision Theory
– cost/benefit analysis
– opportunity cost (48:59)
– sunk cost (52:31)
– loss aversion
26:57 sophomore slump, second novels, albums
– base rate
– correlation (odds) 17:55
Perceived and actual correlations acrross two occasions and across 20 (21:44)
+ abilities (test scores)
+ traits (honesty)







Intelligence and How to Get It (Nisbett, 2009)

Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count
February 17, 2009

Richard Nisbett talked about his book Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count
(W.W. Norton and Co.; February 2, 2009).
In his book Professor Nisbett contends that a person’s cultural background provides the greatest influence on their potential intelligence. Mr. Nisbett counters the argument that genetics dictates intelligence

Richard Nisbett is a distinguished university professor and a professor in psychology at the University of Michigan.
He is the author of several books, including The Geography of Thought.

Struggle is a predictable part of the learning process

Struggle For Smarts? How Eastern And Western Cultures Tackle Learning
by Alix Spiegel
November 12, 201

“I think that from very early ages we [in America] see struggle as an indicator that you’re just not very smart,” Stigler says. “It’s a sign of low ability — people who are smart don’t struggle, they just naturally get it, that’s our folk theory. Whereas in Asian cultures they tend to see struggle more as an opportunity.”

In Eastern cultures, Stigler says, it’s just assumed that struggle is a predictable part of the learning process.
Everyone is expected to struggle in the process of learning, and so struggling becomes a chance to show that you, the student, have what it takes emotionally to resolve the problem by persisting through that struggle.

intellectual struggle

Geography of Thought
March 3, 2003
Richard Nisbett


A high IQ and a subway token will only get you into town

What Does IQ Really Measure?
April 25, 2011

in his 2009 book “Intelligence and How to Get It,” Richard Nisbett, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, argued that differences in IQ scores largely disappear when researchers control for social and economic factors.

Nisbett agrees that the study is “tremendously important in its implications.”
Motivation, along with self-discipline, “are crucial,” Nisbett says.
“A high IQ and a subway token will only get you into town.”

Lex Borghans, an economist at the Maastricht University in the Netherlands, who has also studied the relationship between intelligence tests and economic success, says the new report shows that “both intelligence and personality matter.”
Even if native intelligence cannot be increased, Borghans says, “there might be other routes to success.”

this article is based on the original paper:

Telling more than we can know (1977)

Telling more than we can know: Verbal reports on mental processes.
Psychological Review, 1977, 84, 231-259.
Nisbett, R. E., & Wilson, T. D.

Reviews evidence which suggests that there may be little or no direct introspective access to higher order cognitive processes.
Subjects are sometimes (a) unaware of the existence of a stimulus that importantly influenced a response,
(b) unaware of the existence of the response, and
(c) unaware that the stimulus has affected the response.

It is proposed that when people attempt to report on their cognitive processes, that is, on the processes mediating the effects of a stimulus on a response, they do not do so on the basis of any true introspection.
Instead, their reports are based on a priori, implicit causal theories, or judgments about the extent to which a particular stimulus is a plausible cause of a given response.
This suggests that though people may not be able to observe directly their cognitive processes, they will sometimes be able to report accurately about them.
Accurate reports will occur when influential stimuli are salient and are plausible causes of the responses they produce, and will not occur when stimuli are not salient or are not plausible causes.

cited by:

What are the signs that a person is disturbed enough to take action?

What Causes Someone to Act on Violent Impulses?
Some people are able to control anger or frustration and channel these feelings to nondestructive outlets. Others, …
Jan 12, 2011

Marco Iacoboni, a University of California, Los Angeles, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and director of the school’s Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Laboratory, about why some individuals act on their violent thoughts whereas others do not.
Iacoboni is best known for his work studying mirror neurons, a small circuit of cells in the brain that may be an important element of social cognition.

What turns anger into action?
Mostly cognitive control, or to use a less technical term, self-control.
About a year ago I was in Davos at the World Economic Forum, and we had a dinner-with-talks on intelligence. University of Michigan professor of social psychology Richard Nisbett, the world’s greatest authority on intelligence, plainly said that he’d rather have his son being high in self-control than intelligence.
Self-control is key to a well-functioning life, because our brain makes us easily [susceptible] to all sorts of influences.
Watching a movie showing violent acts predisposes us to act violently. Even just listening to violent rhetoric makes us more inclined to be violent.
Ironically, the same mirror neurons that make us empathic make us also very vulnerable to all sorts influences.

A variety of issues, especially mental health problems that lead to social isolation, lead the subject to a mental state that alters his or her ability to exercise cognitive control in a healthy manner.

What are the signs that a person is disturbed enough to take action?
The signs are quite visible, although difficult to interpret without a context


How universal can an intelligence test be?


Myeloid differentiation architecture of leukocyte transcriptome dynamics in perceived social isolation
PNAS vol. 112 no. 49: 15142–15147
Steven W. Colea, et al.

9:05 Isn’t this what we all seek in life?
to build that connection with another human being, to know that they’re going to be there supporting us, listening … even through our wildest dreams


© 2007 NCS Pearson, Inc
Although the Core Abilities Assessment provides valuable insight into an applicant’s cognitive ability, it provides no information about an applicant’s level of motivation or personality fit for the job.

Cognitive ability assessment scores tend to be lower for some groups, resulting in adverse impact for these groups. Research on the Core Abilities Assessment as well as other cognitive ability assessments show that these differences are not due to flaws in the assessment. The differences reflect real disparities attributable to factors outside of the assessment.