Own My Growth

Helping folks with practical tips to manage themselves better

Avoiding Stupidity


Farnam Street is one of my favorite blogs that provides great content on decision-making models. One of the brilliant articles I have read is titled How Not To Be Stupid. It is a transcript of a conversation between the interviewer, Shane Parrish, and American Educator Adam Robinson.

In the interview, Adam Robinson talks about how Stupidity is not the opposite of Intelligence. Instead, he describes Stupidity as the act of overlooking or dismissing conspicuously crucial information. He presents seven factors that overload our cognitive brains and push us into the trap of missing crucial information right in front of our noses and acting stupidly.

The seven factors are:

  1. Being outside our circle of competence- When we are in a situation where the task we are doing or the decision we are taking is outside our zone of competence, we are prone to making mistakes.
  2. Being under the influence of some Stress-When we are stressed, our cognitive abilities are compromised, and we make silly mistakes.
  3. Being in a rush when doing something- When we are rushing to complete a task or when there is some deadline pressure, our decision-making is impaired. 
  4. Being fixated on a specific outcome- When we are so fixated on one particular outcome, we cognitively ignore any facts that challenge our desired outcome.
  5. A state of information overload- When we grapple with an overload of information, our cognitive mind struggles with it, and we tend to miss obvious cues.
  6. Being in a group where social cohesion is expected- When we are in a social setting where we are expected to conform to the group think, we tend to suspend our Intelligence in favor of conformity. 
  7. Being in the presence of an “authority” – When we are in the presence of some authority figure, our unconscious objective becomes being aligned with the “authority” figure, even if it means acting stupidly.

When one or more of the above seven factors come into play, they dramatically increase the odds of any of us being cognitively compromised. Knowing the impact of these seven factors can be helpful. It helps in avoiding stupidity.

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