I cannot remember when I started being alarmed about the high rate of poor decisions made by intelligent persons. However, the current political and cultural climate has heightened that alarm. One of those days I decided to find a book that dealt with the issue and ended up buying The Intelligence Trap by David Robson. The Intelligent Trap explores why intelligent people make silly decisions, what skills and dispositions make intelligent people susceptible to silly decisions and finally it explores how we can cultivate those positive decision-making qualities that protect us from the errors of silly decisions.
High IQ and other academically-tested intelligence measures are no guarantee for avoiding dumb decisions. The Intelligence Trap highlights decades of research that have pointed out that rather than high IQ, a better predictor of quality decision making is evident-based wisdom. It provides practical techniques that can be used to cultivate wise thinking and escape the intelligence trap of biases. The Intelligence Trap uses the springboard of highly people to highlight that intelligence is no vaccination against stupidity. The anecdotes are illuminating – going from Arthur Conan Doyle’s friendship to Houdini to Arthur Conan Doyle falling for the scam of the Cottingley Fairies photo hoax to the FBI’s wrongful arrest of Brandon Mayfield. The curse of knowledge, inflated self-confidence, earned dogmatism, meta-forgetfulness and motivated reasoning are some of the biases that induce poor decisions of not just highly intelligent individuals but also intelligence communities.
The Intelligence Trap is not just a book that explores the downside of intelligence, it provides antidotes to poor decision-making. Antidotes apply to both the highly intelligent and the average Joe. No other anecdote explores these antidotes other than the stories of Benjamin Franklin told in the book. The intellectual humility and moral algebra that underpinned his decision-making as highlighted in the book are foundations that can be implemented by anyone, irrespective of the person IQ. In a world where we are currently bombarded by information and expected to make definite choices on a myriad of topics, the toolkit that The Intelligence Trap provides is a worthy armour.