Prekletstvo pretiravanja: Ko ima hudič mlade…

Tim Harford o prekletstvu pretiravanja: Ko gre dobro, so vsi in vse super, ko gredo stvari navzdol, je vse narobe. Umetnost se je zaustaviti in analizirati celoto, identificirati dobre stvari, ki so privedle k uspehu, in šibke točke, ki jih je treba izboljšati. “Misija skoraj nemogoče” pa se je zbrati v času, ko stvari gredo po klancu navzdol, in identificirati tako minuse kot pluse. Pomembno je že zavedanje te nagnjenosti k pretiravanju v obe smeri.

If you have colleagues, what do you think of them? Are they smart? Competent? Motivated? Open to new ideas? Good communicators? Do they work well as a team? The answer may not depend on what you think. And that fact suggests a reason why the modern world now seems so poisonously polarised.

In the 1970s, the psychologist Barry Staw gave a collaborative task to groups of strangers, inviting them to analyse some corporate data and make predictions about the company’s future earnings and sales. When the task was complete, he told each participant how well their group’s forecasts had worked out. Then he asked these individuals to evaluate the group they’d been working with.

But Staw was telling a white lie: he gave each group’s forecast a good or bad rating purely at random. There was no connection between how well the group did and how well Staw told them they’d done. Nevertheless, Staw found that when people believed their group had made an accurate forecast, they told him that they’d been working with open-minded, motivated, clear, intelligent and collegiate people.

But when they were falsely told that their group had made poor predictions, they explained to Staw that this was no surprise, as the group was narrow-minded, lazy, abstruse, foolish and mutually antagonistic.

Subsequent researchers found the same pattern, even when they repeated the experiment with well-established teams. As Phil Rosenzweig explains in his book The Halo Effect, this behaviour is not confined to colleagues. We have a systematic tendency to overgeneralise both praise and blame. Profitable companies are presumed to have superior policies and procedures across the board. This halo effect operates in reverse, too: scandal-struck politicians see their opinion poll ratings fall on every issue, from economic competence to foreign policy. Apparently we struggle to acknowledge that something can be good in some ways and bad in others, whether that thing is a president, a corporation or our own teammates.

The reverse halo effect is sometimes called the “devil effect” or the “horn effect”. Neither term has quite caught on. So let me offer another: the oil slick effect. Disagreements, like oil slicks, seem to spread much further and more ruinously than we would think. It’s not possible for somebody simply to be wrong about something; they must be wrong about everything, and wicked, too. The oil slick covers everything and ruins everything.

Vir: Tim Harford

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