Monday, December 29, 2008

Thinking Errors

"He kept a log of all the mistakes he knew he had made over the decades, and at times revisited this compendium when trying to figure out a particularly difficult case. He was characterized by many of his colleagues as eccentric, an obsessive oddball."

Jerome Groopman, M.D.,How Doctors Think

This book is about the "thinking errors" that physicians are prone to as they face an avalanche of individual cases. Thinking or cognitive errors relate to how we search and process information, make inferences, and deal with information that doesn't quite fit. We are prone to embracing patterns we have seen before, emphasizing positive information that supports an established conclusion or pattern known to us, making inferences from stereotypes about people and places, generalizing from our last "bad experience," and uncritically adopting marketing messages about solutions.

Groopman quotes physician Dennis Orwig, "The more experience you have, the more seasoned you are, the greater temptation to rely on gestalt."

With all the attention to intuitions and snap judgements in books like Blink and Gut Feelings, there's something to be said for also remembering to apply a handful of critical questions about what seems to be obvious.

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