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When They All Sound the Same: Cognitive Heuristics and Walk-In Advising . Marion Schwartz Division of Undergraduate Studies Penn State University October 19, 2007 NACADA National Conference in Baltimore. Advising Under Pressure. Starting the semester, a few spaces left in critical courses:

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when they all sound the same cognitive heuristics and walk in advising

When They All Sound the Same: Cognitive Heuristics and Walk-In Advising

Marion Schwartz

Division of Undergraduate Studies

Penn State University

October 19, 2007

NACADA National Conference in Baltimore

advising under pressure
Advising Under Pressure

Starting the semester, a few spaces left in critical courses:

  • Honors physics for likely engineering stars
  • Honors biology for pre-meds
  • Critical thinking about social and political issues for pre-law students

Who is going to get these courses?

two ways to think
Intuitive

“Gut” response

Quick as perception

Open to prejudice

Generates over- confidence if you know “too much”

Deliberative

Thoughtful response based on gathering and comparing evidence

Subject to errors in weighting evidence

Takes time

Never have all factors

Two ways to think
two system processing
Two system processing

Begin with a gut reaction.

Test it by using deliberative system.

We usually don’t express the result unless the conclusion has been approved by System 2 (Kahnemann).

heuristics as efficiencies
Heuristics as Efficiencies

Gigerenzer argues that no decision can reflect all possible factors.

  • Impossible to gather all relevant details.
  • The most available information may be most relevant.
    • E.g. If you are investing in stocks, pick the ones you recognize rather than doing research.
heuristics as efficiencies6
Heuristics as Efficiencies
  • E.g. An old statue must “feel” old, experts’ feelings more reliable than chemical tests.
  • E.g. Successful engineers will enjoy problem solving, more reliable than an SAT score.
heuristics as efficiencies7
Heuristics as Efficiencies

Blink author Malcolm Gladwell cites Gigerenzer, discusses subconscious processes, like gestalt thinking, which integrate a number of variables without deliberation.

  • Choosing the first guess on a multiple choice test.
  • Choosing major on basis of identity with others in that field.
heuristics leading to fallacies
Heuristics Leading to Fallacies

But Kahnemann argued that gut reactions lead to violations of logic, prejudice, exaggeration.

  • Important implications in law enforcement, torts, economics, policy.
statistics as the touchstone
Statistics as the Touchstone
  • Heuristics judged misleading because they lead to conflicts with statistical probability.
  • Kahnemann’s original tests showed how people made logical errors in predicting uncertain outcomes.
    • E.g. that a woman is more likely to be a bank clerk and a feminist than to be a bank clerk.
heuristics leading to fallacies10
Heuristics leading to fallacies

Availability

The first thing you think of, especially if you’ve seen a lot of it lately.

  • Might be correct: some situations are common, doctors treating an epidemic
  • May lead you to miss the unusual
heuristics leading to fallacies11
Heuristics leading to fallacies

Representativeness

Assuming that the example in front of you should be treated like a typical case.

  • Things that look the same in some ways are not the same in all ways
  • Dangerous when irrelevant traits are considered, e.g. race, gender, political affiliation, age, area of origin
  • Can affect even those trying to resist it
heuristics leading to fallacies12
Heuristics leading to fallacies

Anchoring

Making an adjustment from a known point

  • Often the adjustment is inadequate or the known point is inaccurate: e.g. Only 30% of my patients with this condition need an MRI but I’m sure this is one who does without comparing him to others.
heuristics leading to fallacies13
Heuristics leading to fallacies

Or…

  • It takes a 600 SAT-M to do well in our calculus class; this student has 480 but says he had AP calculus in high school, so he will be fine.
  • My average grade in science courses is D- and I’ve failed to get a C in chemistry on three tries, but THIS TIME I’LL GET AN A.
heuristics leading to fallacies14
Heuristics leading to fallacies

Affect

A strong emotional response to a person or situation can exaggerate judgment

  • In courtroom settings, juries may offer very large settlements to the victims of events they find disgusting.
  • An advisor treats students differently based strong emotions towards one of them.
heuristics leading to fallacies15
Heuristics leading to fallacies

Imaginability

If a situation is detailed enough to dramatize in the mind, it will seem more probable.

  • An advisor might guide a student towards an educational choice that the advisor has already experienced at first hand or from the stories of others.
common ground
Girgerenzer

Too much information destroys effectiveness of intuition or frugal heuristics.

Kahnemann

Too many factors induce erroneous mathematical processing.

Common Ground
how do we mediate these positions
How do we mediate these positions?

Time pressure and fear will push decider towards System 1.

  • Gladwell cites the killing of Amadou Diallo to exemplify gut responses distorted by fear.
  • Advisor makes hasty recommendations when the lineup outside the door is long.
how do we mediate these positions18
How do we mediate these positions?

Help students recognize when fear is a factor in decision making, make a space for other responses—information that can make a choice imaginable, data on expanding fields.

  • Rather than force oneself into economics for the sake of a job, investigate how to get a job with an English degree.
  • Have back-up plans so that persistence in a given track is a real choice.
how do we mediate these positions19
How do we mediate these positions?

Make time for both student and adviser decisions—

  • Isolate oneself from the line outside the door.
  • Take breaks over lunch during busy periods.
  • Discourage students from hasty decisions; build in time for investigation, comparison, “living with” an option.
how do we mediate these positions20
How do we mediate these positions?

Gigerenzer and colleagues pointed to cues to make frugal, efficient decisions.

  • Three symptoms for judging the likelihood of a heart attack.
  • Four cues that tell whether a student is likely to succeed in a science-based curriculum.

These are not “instinctive”. Only research can determine relevant cues.

how do we mediate these positions21
How do we mediate these positions?

Extensive knowledge can help System 2 judgments migrate to System 1.

  • Gladwell’s example of expert tasters
  • Art critics who know the “feel” of an old statue
  • Doctor who can evaluate complex cases quickly because of long experience
how do we mediate these positions22
How do we mediate these positions?
  • Advisers can be exposed to complex situations so that they gain the habit of evaluating multiple variables.
  • Case studies
  • Visiting other units
  • Rotating responsibilities
how do we mediate these positions23
How do we mediate these positions?

When subconscious processes cannot process surplus information, decisions get confused.

  • Choosing from too many samples of jam, consumers bought none.
  • Asked to justify their choices, they changed their minds to choices more divergent from those of expert tasters.
how do we mediate these positions24
How do we mediate these positions?
  • Explaining a multiple choice answer, even to oneself, creates errors as often as it does corrections.
  • Help students find short ways to cut through confusion, eliminate irrelevant factors.
how do we mediate these positions25
How do we mediate these positions?

Institution can make available mathematical models for decision making where appropriate.

  • Placement tests
  • Interest inventories
  • Social intelligence surveys
  • Institutional research profiling student population
  • Models for prioritizing choices
bibliography
Bibliography

Gilovich, Thomas, Griffin, Dale, and Kahnemann, Daniel, Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment Cambridge, New York, melbourne, Madrid, Capetown: Cambridge U.P. 2002

Girgerenzer, G. and Selten, R. eds. Bounded Rationality: The Adaptive Toolbox. Cambridge, MA and London, England: The MIT Press, 2001

Gladwell, Michael. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. New York: Little Brown, 2005

Kahnemann, Daniel, Slovic, Paul, and Tversky, Amos, eds. Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. London, New York, New Rochelle, Melbourne, Sydney: Cambridge U.P., 1982

bibliography ii
Bibliography-II

Kahnemann, Daniel and Frederick, Shane, “A Model of Heuristic Judgment,” pp. 267-295 in The Cambridge Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning, ed. By Keith J, Holyoak and Robert G. Morrison. Cambridge, New York , Melbourne, Madrid, Capetown, Singapore, Sao Paolo: Cambridge U.P, 2005

LeBoeuf, Robyn A. and Shafir, Eldar B. “Decision Making,” pp. 243-265 in The Cambridge Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning, ed. By Keith J, Holyoak and Robert G. Morrison. Cambridge, New York , Melbourne, Madrid, Capetown, Singapore, Sao Paolo: Cambridge U.P, 2005

Politzer, Guy, and Macchi, Laura. “The Representation of the Task: The case of the Lawyer-Engineer problem in probability judgment,” pp. 119-135 in The Shape of Reason: Essays in Honor of Paolo Legrenzi, ed. by Vittorio Girotto and Phillip N. Johnson Laird, East Sussex and New York: Psychology Press, 2005

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