Karl Niebuhr's Reviews > Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinking

Mindware by Richard E. Nisbett
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Have you ever wondered why people make stupid mistakes? You might have observed how even a very smart person does an obvious mistake. This book will help you to upgrade your reasoning skills. Correlation is not causation Whenever we encounter two things which correlate (occur together) we tend to assume that one thing causes the other (causation), especially when it confirms something we already believe. When A always occurs in tandem with B, we assume that A causes B or B causes A. We need to understand the difference between the statistical terms causation and correlation. Correlation means that if A and B occur simultaneously, then A positively correlates to B. But when A only occurs without B and B only without A, then we have a negative correlation. It is important to understand that we falsely assumed that just because two things correlate, they somehow influence each other. Let’s look at a concrete example. In the summers of the 1950’s, there was a clear correlation between cases of polio and ice cream consumption. In other words, a lot of people consumed ice cream and also a lot of people were contracting polio. Does that mean that ice cream could have caused the polio epidemic? Many people who don’t understand the difference between correlation and causation would be tempted to assume so. But it turns out that there is more stuff happening during a hot summer. People also visit swimming pools more often. And polio germs are transmitted by swimming in pool water. Now that seems to be a more likely causation. What about the correlation between the average IQ of people of some country, and that country’s average wealth? It’s a true correlation, but does that mean that being a smarter country makes you a richer one? Unlikely, there are much more factors at play. For example, wealthy countries usually have superior education systems, which produce people with higher IQs, that’s a more likely causation.

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Finished Reading
February 26, 2017 – Shelved
February 26, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read

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