A Coffee Cup of Knowledge…. WYSIATI

During the course of my reading, I come across ideas and thoughts on a wide range of topics that may occasionally be of interest to others.  In passing some of these along, perhaps one or two will make a contribution to your thought process.   –  Bill Dinnebeil

Quick Hits:

To have a good idea, stop having a bad one. The trick was to inhibit the easy, obvious but ineffective attempts, permitting a better solution to come to mind.  –Marcel Kinsbourne, Neurologist & Cognitive Neuroscientist

This is just a sliver of an article by Kinsbourne on creative thinking.  Part of his thinking is that simply by creating a mental void which you would normally fill up with the obvious and ineffective, you create space that by necessity will be filled with something new.

A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.  –John C. Bogle, The Little Book of Common Sense Investing

Bogle is making this comment within his argument for index investing rather than managed investing.  Yet, the long habit of not thinking a thing wrong because it has “always been that way,” invades our thought processes in any number of disciplines.  Legacy thinking favors the length of time as the validator rather the factual evidence of something new and as such closes our mind to a larger solution pool.  However, it is time in the end that defeats poorly founded customs.

“The greatest enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan.” Stick to the good plan.   -John C. Bogle,  The Little Book of Common Sense Investing

Getting to perfect from very good often has significant diminishing returns in time and investment.   

WYSIATI, What You See Is All There Is:

Jumping to conclusions on the basis of limited evidence is so important to an understanding of intuitive thinking, and comes up so often in this book, that I will use a cumbersome abbreviation for it: WYSIATI, which stands for what you see is all there is. Intuitive thinking is radically insensitive to both the quality and the quantity of the information that gives rise to impressions and intuitions.

Kahneman, Daniel (2011-10-25). Thinking, Fast and Slow (p. 86). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

As the WYSIATI rule implies, neither the quantity nor the quality of the evidence counts for much in subjective confidence. The confidence that individuals have in their beliefs depends mostly on the quality of the story they can tell about what they see, even if they see little. We often fail to allow for the possibility that evidence that should be critical to our judgment is missing—what we see is all there is. Furthermore, our associative system tends to settle on a coherent pattern of activation and suppresses doubt and ambiguity.

Kahneman, Daniel (2011-10-25). Thinking, Fast and Slow (pp. 87-88). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

It is the consistency of the information that matters for a good story, not its completeness. Indeed, you will often find that knowing little makes it easier to fit everything you know into a coherent pattern. WYSIATI facilitates the achievement of coherence and of the cognitive ease that causes us to accept a statement as true.

Kahneman, Daniel (2011-10-25). Thinking, Fast and Slow (p. 87). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.   Blog 5/20/14

This final thought is necessarily long to provide a hint of the concept of WYSIATI, one of the most salient points in Kahneman’s book. It presents a clarifying thought when you consider the spontaneous movement to conclusions on limited information often seen in the  political arena,  national media, marketing, and the opinions of so called “experts.”



3 thoughts on “A Coffee Cup of Knowledge…. WYSIATI”

  1. A powerful enough school of thinking that it should be taught to our youth. The earlier in the educational process the better.

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