What Numbers Dont Tell You (Correctly)

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decision making, leadership, management

Text of What Numbers Dont Tell You (Correctly)

  • What Numbers Dont Tell You (Correctly)

    Richard Pircher University of Applied Sciences bfi Vienna


  • A Quiz

    Count how many times

    the players wearing white

    pass the ball

    please dont talk to your neighbour

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGQmdoK_ZfY (second Video)

  • Focus

    To be able to focus on something is a valuable ability

    To perceive all stimuli around us would be far too much

    To focus on something means missing everything else

    Numbers only may quantify what is noticed as important

    (Most, Scholl, Cliffort & Simons, 2001 )

  • Invisible Gorilla

    Some people may know the first video with an invisible gorilla already

    Do they realize the other surprising details which are new in the second video?

  • The Monkey Business Illusion

    Among those people who already knew the first video with the Gorilla only 17 % took notice of the other two events => they probably thought they knew the video already

    Among those who didnt know the first video 29 % realized the curtain changing colour and the leaving player.

  • The Monkey Business Illusion

    When youre looking for a gorilla,

    you often miss other unexpected events

  • The Monkey Business Illusion

    Prior experiences and knowledge

    may be misleading

  • Sensing the Future?

    of our brains capacity is occupied with differentiating valuable from irrelevant information

    For this task the brain uses expectations based on experiences from the past

    May we be sure that nothing is missed which could be

    important for the future?

  • Change Blindness Blindness

    The change blindness study

    Most people firmly believe that they would notice such large changes

    We tend to be blind to our own blindness

    Thats a kind of change blindness blindness

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qb-gT6vDrmU&index=56&list=PL944828D6EF3E7530 (Levin et al. 2000, Simons / Rensink 2005)

  • Change Blindness Blindness

    We dont want to believe that we can be that easily manipulated

    We want to believe in everything which confirms our current beliefs and which

    flatters our ego

  • Planning fallacy People tend to

    underestimate the time, costs, and risks of future actions and to overestimate the benefits of their own tasks (optimistic bias)

    overestimate the time needed as outside observers of somebody elses task (pessimistic bias)

    This phenomenon occurs regardless of the individual's knowledge that past tasks of a similar nature have taken longer to complete than generally planned.

    (Kahneman / Tversky 1979, Lovallo / Kahneman 2003)

  • Loneliness feels cold

    One group of test persons is asked to recall an experience of social exclusion within a larger test context

    The other group is asked to recall an experience of social inclusion

    With the pretext of a heating problem both groups were asked to estimate the room temperature

    Those who recalled the social exclusion experienced a significantly lower room temperature than those who recalled an inclusion experience

    (Zhong & Leonardelli, 2008, Bargh / Shalev, 2012)

  • Emotional and social

    contexts influence our perception and


  • The Unconscious Rules

    Everyday intuitions suggest full conscious control of behavior, but conscious thought has little or no impact on behavior.

    In fact the unconscious strongly influences our behaviour

    It is plausible that almost every human behavior comes from a mixture of conscious and unconscious processing

    (Baumeister, Masicampo, & Vohs, 2011)

  • Thinking Too Little Thinking Too Much

    Thinking too little causes

    mistakes, errors and

    actions which contradict other decisions and actions

    Thinking is a kind of mental test run.

    Thinking too much leads to

    a tunnel vision and narrow minded decisions

    decisions which are easy to explain to others but are not consistent with our own feelings and preferences any more

    (Ariely / Norton, 2011, Nordgren et al., 2011)

  • Using the Best of Both Worlds

    System 1 old and powerful

    (unconscious, intuitive)

    System 2 new and controllable

    (conscious, reflective)

    Automatic, affective Controlled

    Effortless Effortful

    Associative Deductive

    Rapid, parallel Slow, serial

    Process opaque Self-aware

    Skilled action Rule application

    Concrete, specific Neutral, abstract

    Causal propensities Statistics

    Prototypes Sets

    e.g.: DRIVING A CAR ON A




    Adapted from Kahneman / Frederick 2002

  • Using the Best of Both Worlds

    Unconscious ressources may be integrated:

    Sleep on decisions: during sleep the brain consolidates information and connects it with prior knowledge

    Stop thinking about something and switch to non-cognitive activities: sports, nature, meditation, etc.

    Invite contradictive and diverse perspectives to identify blind spots instead of favoring mainly affirmative oppinions, e.g. through critical people, customers, etc.

  • The strengths of our unconscious resources

    may be consciously integrated in everyday life

  • Take-away Guidelines 1. Be aware that we usually focus on what we already

    know. We overlook a lot which could be important for the future. Numbers only quantify what we already notice as being important.

    2. Question current beliefs and the misleading power of your own ego. Knowledge may be distortive.

    3. Use the best of both worlds: Consciousness and unconsciousness

    4. Ask yourself the question: Am I thinking too little or am I thinking too much?

    5. Use diverse and non-cognitive activities to enlarge perspectives and to identify blind spots

  • Richard Pircher University of Applied Sciences bfi Vienna, Austria

    richard.pircher@fh-vie.ac.at richard-pircher.net

    Slides are available at de.slideshare.net/pircher

    I would be glad to answer your questions and to

    discuss the topic

    Feel free to contact me!