I saw Jonah Lehrer speak last night at Seattle’s Town Hall and got to learn a bunch of new stuff about decision making, one of my favorite topics of study.
I will most likely be referring to notes I took during his talk for several posts this week, but I wanted to first comment on what I thought was the most interesting “actionable” take-away from his talk.
He referred to a study I was familiar with regarding people who were confronted with 4 decks of cards of subtley different quality. Turning over cards in each deck would tell you to gain or lose a certain number of dollars or points. The goal of the game was to turn over enough cards to know which deck was stacked to be the “best” in return.
On average, it took about 50 card turns for most people to determine the best card deck. However, they were also hooked up to stress sensors on their hands, measuring the alkalinity of the surface of your palms. It turns out, your hands became “stressed” when choosing cards from the wrong deck after an average of 8 cards had been turned over.
In other words, our hands (in this case an extention of our subconscious) is about six times faster at finding patterns than our conscious minds.
Poker players, therefore, are encouraged to become students of their hands when playing a game.
Our subconscious is great at finding patterns where patterns exist. Especially really complicated patterns (as our conscious minds are also good at finding simple patterns, just not as good).
Something we can do
First we should know that our subconscious minds, and our hands, are only going to be able to find patterns where patterns exist. For example, in card games. They will NOT help you play slots, or other games of chance. Perhaps the stock market is sufficiently complex and pattern-driven to benefit from our hands? Perhaps studying statistics, metrics, and such are another relevant field.
Second, we should become students of our stress responses in situations of extreme complexity. I almost think some small startup should help devise a stress-sensing ring. A modern mood ring that responded to alkalinity on our hands. Until then, though, simple awareness is the trick. I’m not even sure I can tell when my hands are sweaty with any consistency… so I have a long journey ahead of me.
Any tips or tricks along these lines would be appreciated.