Rationality vs. Intelligence


Have you ever taken an IQ test? Think about the results. Did you do well? You might have gotten a high score, but, often, intelligence doesn’t have anything to do with rationality. There is a marked difference between the two, although we often conflate them. We talk with York University associate professor Maggie Toplak and Boston University professor Carey Morewedge about why even smart people do irrational things.

Three Takeaways:

  • Some of us are bad at making rational decisions because we’re “cognitive misers.” We don’t spend as much time thinking about decisions as we should. Of course, being a cognitive miser can be helpful (who wants to waste time choosing shampoo?) But saving time by not thinking about your 401(k) options? Not a great move.
  • Socrates had it right when he said, “The only thing I know is that I know nothing.” We tend to make more irrational decisions when we’re overconfident.
  • Believe it or not, you can become more rational if you practice. But it’s not that easy. We’re surrounded by biases that constantly drag down our rational thinking. That’s why, Morewedge says, employers often make poor choices when hiring.