A book offers a rigorous analysis of the famous Monty Hall dilemma and the consequences for the nature of human decision-making.
Although technically the Monty Hall dilemma was first formulated by a biostatistician in 1975, it gained its popular notoriety from a 1990 column in Parade magazine. The columnist asked the reader to imagine she’s on a game show and is given a choice among three doors, one of which has a car behind it and two of which conceal goats. The contestant picks one, but then the game show host reveals which one of the remaining doors has a goat behind it. Should the contestant now change her choice or remain firm with her original decision? The columnist argued she should switch, because her original choice has a one-third chance of being correct, while the new choice would have a two-thirds chance. The magazine was subsequently flooded with angry letters calling into question the columnist’s math as well as her intelligence. It turns out, however counterintuitively, that the columnist was correct. Granberg (co-author: A Most Human Enterprise, 2010, etc.), a professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Missouri, Columbia, reproduces many of the letters, some of which are not only venomous, but also hilarious. The author analyzes the Monty Hall dilemma, investigating studies conducted upon it and performing empirical studies of his own. Most people stick with their original decisions, but why? Is it an inclination influenced by gender? Or a decision-making quirk caused by a bias toward maintaining the status quo? Or could it be the result of the persistent illusion that people exert greater control over their circumstances than they really do? Granberg deftly treats the dilemma as a cognitive illusion, which “occurs when the obvious answer to a thought question turns out to be incorrect.” The author has co-written three other books, and his experience shows—despite the conceptual complexity of the subject matter, the prose is unfailingly clear and surprisingly engaging. The deepest aim of the study is to explore the very nature of human rationality, and Granberg furnishes a fascinating portal into the proclivities—and limits—of the mind. Even for the less academically inclined, this is a delightful, intellectually stimulating read.
A painstakingly researched and often charming look into the nuances of human calculation.