"Living a fully ethical life involves doing the most good we can." - Peter Singer
"Common sense is not so common." - Voltaire
“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Søren Kierkegaard

Friday, March 3, 2017

Doctors suffer from the same cognitive distortions as the rest of us

Michael Lewis
Nautilus
Originally posted February 9, 2017

Here are two excerpts:

What struck Redelmeier wasn’t the idea that people made mistakes. Of course people made mistakes! What was so compelling is that the mistakes were predictable and systematic. They seemed ingrained in human nature. One passage in particular stuck with him—about the role of the imagination in human error. “The risk involved in an adventurous expedition, for example, is evaluated by imagining contingencies with which the expedition is not equipped to cope,” the authors wrote. “If many such difficulties are vividly portrayed, the expedition can be made to appear exceedingly dangerous, although the ease with which disasters are imagined need not reflect their actual likelihood. Conversely, the risk involved in an undertaking may be grossly underestimated if some possible dangers are either difficult to conceive of, or simply do not come to mind.” This wasn’t just about how many words in the English language started with the letter K. This was about life and death.

(cut)

Toward the end of their article in Science, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky had pointed out that, while statistically sophisticated people might avoid the simple mistakes made by less savvy people, even the most sophisticated minds were prone to error. As they put it, “their intuitive judgments are liable to similar fallacies in more intricate and less transparent problems.” That, the young Redelmeier realized, was a “fantastic rationale why brilliant physicians were not immune to these fallibilities.” Error wasn’t necessarily shameful; it was merely human. “They provided a language and a logic for articulating some of the pitfalls people encounter when they think. Now these mistakes could be communicated. It was the recognition of human error. Not its denial. Not its demonization. Just the understanding that they are part of human nature.”

The article is here.
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