Top Quotes: “Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All The Facts” — Annie Duke
“The promise of this book is that thinking in bets will improve decision-making throughout our lives. We can get better at separating outcome quality from decision quity, discover the power of saying, “I’m not sure,” learn strategies to map out the future, become less reactive decision-makers, build and sustain pods of fellow truthseekers to improve our decision process, and recruit our past and future selves to make fewer emotional decisions.”
“Why are we so bad at separating luck and skill? Why are we so uncomfortable knowing that results can be beyond our control? Why do we create such a strong connection between results and the quality of the decisions preceding them?”
“I ask group members to come to our first meeting with a brief description of their best and worst decisions of the previous year. I have yet to come across someone who doesn’t identify their best and worst results rather than their best and worst decisions.”
“Firestein points out that in science, “I don’t know” is not a failure but a necessary step toward enlightenment. He backs this up with a great quote from physicist James Clerk Maxwell: “Thoroughly conscious ignorance is the prelude to every real advance in science.” I would add that this is a prelude to every great decision that has ever been made.
What makes a decision great is not that it has a great outcome. A great decision is the result of a good process, and that process must include an attempt to accurately represent our own state of knowledge. That state of knowledge, in turn, is some variation of “I’m not sure.””
“being wrong hurts us more than being right feels good. We know from Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky’s work on loss aversion, part of prospect theory (which won Kahneman the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002), that losses in general feel about two times as bad as wins feel good. So winning $100 at blackjack feels as good to us as losing $50 feels bad to us. Because being right feels like winning and being wrong feels like losing, that means we need two favorable results for every one unfavorable result just to break even emotionally. Why not live a smoother existence, without the swings, especially when the losses affect us more intensely than the wins?”
“When I speak at professional conferences, I will occasionally bring up the subject of belief formation by asking the audience a question: “Who here knows how you can predict if a man will go bald?” People will raise their hands, I’ll call on someone, and they’ll say, “You look at the maternal grandfather.” Everyone nods in agreement. I’ll follow up by asking, “Does anyone know how you calculate a dog’s age in human years?” I can practically see audience members mouthing, “Multiply by seven.”
Both of these widely held beliefs aren’t actually accurate. If you search online for “common misconceptions,” the baldness myth is at the top of most lists. As Medical Daily explained in 2015, “a key gene for baldness is on the X chromosome, which you get from your mother” but “it is not the only genetic factor in play since men with bald fathers have an increased chance of going bald when compared to men whose fathers have a full set of hair. … [S]cientists say baldness anywhere in yoür family may be a sign of your own impending fate.”
As for the dog-to-human age ratio, it’s just a made-up number that’s been circulating with no basis, yet with increasing weight through repetition, since the thirteenth century.”
“Their errors went in one direction: under any sort of pressure, they presumed all the statements were true, regardless of their labeling. This suggests our default setting is to believe what we hear is true.”
“Led by advice drawn, in part, from research secretly funded by the sugar industry, Americans in one generation cut a quarter of caloric intake from fat, replacing it with carbohydrates. The U.S. government revised the food pyramid to include six to eleven servings of carbohydrates and advised that the public consume fats sparingly. It encouraged the food industry (which enthusiastically followed) to substitute starch and sugar to produce “reduced-fat” foods. David Ludwig, a Harvard Medical School professor and doctor at Boston Children’s Hospital, summarized the cost of substituting carbs for fats in the Journal of the American Medical Association: “Contrary to prediction, total calorie intake increased substantially, the prevalence of obesity tripled, the incidence of type 2 diabetes increased many-fold, and the decades-long decrease in cardiovascular disease plateaued and may reverse, despite greater use of preventive drugs and surgical procedures.””
“When the researchers kept the data the same but substituted “concealed-weapons bans” for “skin treatment” and “crime” for “rashes,” now the subjects’ opinions on those topics drove how subjects analyzed the exact same data. Subjects who identified as “Democrat” or “liberal” interpreted the data in a way supporting their political belief (gun control reduces crime). The “Republican” or “conservative” subjects interpreted the same data to support their opposing belief (gun control increases crime).
That generally fits what we understand about motivated reasoning. The surprise, though, was Kahan’s finding about subjects with differing math skills and the same political beliefs. He discovered that the more numerate people (whether pro- or anti-gun) made more mistakes interpreting the data on the emotionally charged topic than the less numerate subjects sharing those same beliefs.
“This pattern of polarization . . . does not abate among high-Numeracy subjects. Indeed, it increases.” (Emphasis in original.)
It turns out the better you are with numbers, the better you are at spinning those numbers to conform to and support your beliefs.”
“It’s a shame the social contract for poker players is so different than for the rest of us in this regard because a lot of good can result from someone saying, “Wanna bet?” Offering a wager brings the risk out in the open, making explicit what is already implicit (and frequently overlooked). The more we recognize that we are betting on our beliefs (with our happiness, attention, health, money, time, or some other limited resource), the more we are likely to temper our statements, getting closer to the truth as we acknowledge the risk inherent in what we believe.”
“By saying, “I’m 80%” and thereby communicating we aren’t sure, we open the door for others to tell us what they know. They realize they can contribute without having to confront us by saying or implying, “You’re wrong.” Admitting we are not sure is an invitation for help in refining our beliefs, and that will make our beliefs much more accurate over time as we are more likely to gather relevant information.”
“We know we tend to discount the success of our peers and place responsibility firmly on their shoulders for their failures. A good strategy for figuring out which way to bet would be to imagine if that outcome had happened to us. If a competitor closes a big sale, we know about our tendency to discount their skill. But if we imagine that we had been the one who closed the sale, we are more likely to find the things to give them credit for, that they did well and that we can learn from. Likewise, when we close the big sale, let’s spare a little of the self-congratulations and, instead, examine that great result the way we’d examine it if it happened to someone else. We’ll be more likely to find the things we could have done even better and identify those factors that we had no control over. Perspective taking gets us closer to the truth because that truth generally lies in the middle of the way we field outcomes for ourselves and the way we field them for others. By taking someone else’s perspective, we are more likely to land in that middle ground.”
“The term “devil’s advocate” developed centuries ago from the Catholic Church’s practice, during the canonization process, of hiring someone to present arguments against sainthood.”
“If someone expresses a belief or prediction that doesn’t sound well calibrated and we have relevant information, try to say and, as in, “I agree with you that [insert specific concepts and ideas we agree with], AND . . .” After “and,” add the additional information. In the same exchange, if we said, “I agree with you that insert specific concepts and ideas you agree with], BUT
...” that challenge puts people on the defensive. “And” is an offer to contribute. “But” is a denial and repudiation of what came before.
We can think of this broadly as an attempt to avoid the language of “no.””
“Oettingen recognized that we need to have positive goals, but we are more likely to execute on those goals if we think about the negative futures.”