Monday, December 13, 2010

Expert Blinders

"The larger lesson is that the brain is a deeply constrained thinking machine, full of cognitive tradeoffs and zero-sum constraints. Those chess professionals and London cabbies can perform seemingly superhuman mental feats, as they chunk their world into memorable patterns. However, those same talents make them bad at seeing beyond their chunks, at making sense of games and places they can’t easily understand."
That is from a piece by Jonah Lehrer in Wired (HT: April Harding). People who have deep expertise in certain areas often have difficulty incorporating new information from outside their narrow expertise. This is why it is important to have a good mix of both experts and crowds in many endeavors, especially social ones. It is not either-or, but both-and. Finding the balance is the key.