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Scientific Inquiry SCI 105.020. The Psychology of Stupidity - I Something Out of Nothing. Data, Information, and Knowledge. Data Also known as random data, raw data Factual information (as measurements or statistics) used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation Information

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Scientific inquiry sci 105 020

Scientific Inquiry SCI 105.020

The Psychology of Stupidity - I

Something Out of Nothing

Data information and knowledge
Data, Information, and Knowledge

  • Data

    • Also known as random data, raw data

    • Factual information (as measurements or statistics) used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation

  • Information

    • The communication or reception of knowledge or intelligence

    • Presented as a message to another individual

  • Knowledge

    • The fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association

    • Presented as concepts, predicates, rules, etc


  • Let’s look at some data about a weather data set concerning whether a game is played under different weather conditions

    • The individual data entries, such as Outcast/Sunny, Humidity/High don’t mean anything by themselves

    • We can generate informative reports using these data:

      • Out of the 14 records, there are 6 with high humidity, 8 with normal humidity.

    • We can also discover some patterns

      • We are 85.7% confident that it will play when humidity is normal; 75% confident that it will play when humidity is normal and it’s cold


  • Human cognitive mechanisms do have flaws

    • The Gateway Arch illusion (Gilovich, p17)

    • A similar optical illusion caused by two arches

      • Which one is bigger?

    • The Muller Lyer illusion

    • More illusions can be found at


  • What’s more dangerous?

    • The illusions are so strong thatit is not eliminated simply byknowing the correct answer

Illusions on random events
Illusions on Random Events

  • Finding patterns out of our observations is the right way to discover new knowledge

  • But, be careful, overuse such strategies can also cause problem

  • Erroneous beliefs are hard to eliminate once they are formed

  • In this chapter, Gilovich emphasized on people’s erroneous intuitions about how random events should look

Nature abhors a vacuum
Nature Abhors a Vacuum

  • People are disposed to see order, pattern, and meaning in the world

    • Human nature abhors a lack of predictability and the absence of meaning

    • As a consequence, we tends to see order where there is none

  • We simply tend to see something out of nothing for no good reasons

    • Psychologists believe this is due to flaws in the cognitive machinery we use to comprehend the world

Misconception of random data
Misconception of Random Data

  • The dislike of randomness and seeking for order and patterns may leads to

    • Cluster illusion

      • The belief in a “hot hand” in basketball

    • The regression fallacy

  • The representative heuristic is a major contributor to these errors

Cluster illusions
Cluster Illusions

  • Erroneous human intuition about random events

    • A random event shouldn’t have any clusters at all

    • Rather, it should be perfectly evenly distributed

  • Coin-flipping exercise

    • First, make up a 20-flip sequence

    • Then, flip a coin 20 times

    • Compare

    • C2 test:

      • Can you reject the claim that the head-tail mix is evenly distributed?

Representative heuristic
Representative Heuristic

  • Read this paragraph and answer the question

    • Steve is very shy and withdrawn, invariably helpful, but with little interest in people or the world of reality. He has a need for order and a passion for detail.

    • Is Steve more likely to be salesperson or a librarian?

The regression fallacy
The Regression Fallacy

  • The Sports Illustrated jinx

  • Which is more effective: praise or punishment?