Intuitions and hunches are neither wild guesses nor unreliable pathways to the truth, asserts German behavioral scientist Gigerenzer; they are generally dependable, though unconscious, techniques based on our evolved brain’s structures and processes.
Sounds a bit like Blink (2005), doesn’t it? And no wonder, since Malcolm Gladwell based portions of his bestseller on research done by Gigerenzer and his associates at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. Here, readers will find an engagingly brisk summary of current knowledge about the heuristics of intuition—the “rules of thumb” we often employ. How do outfielders know where a fly ball will come down? What are the differences between the intuitive powers of men and women? How do people who know very little about specialized fields like tennis or the stock market match the predictive powers of experts? How do peahens select peacocks? Why do people follow the crowd? These are among the questions Gigerenzer explores, assisted by numerous graphs, illustrations and optical effects. He points to research that locates in the brain a “judgment” area we use to “decide” whether to employ gut feelings to a given issue. Near the end, the author takes a close look at the quick judgments physicians must make, at the unconscious rules we use to guide our moral decisions, at the ways we yield to the imperatives of our families and social groups. Gigerenzer’s prose—no translator is credited, so presumably he writes in English—is lively and at times even evocative. “Simplicity,” he writes in his discussion of such traditional moral codes as the Ten Commandments, “is the ink with which effective moral systems are written.”
A pleasing, edifying tour of territory that has long been dark and unexplored.