Strooped!

Strooped!


>>NARRATOR:
There’s a simple test that’s been making
fools of us since the 1930s. Can you beat it? You’ll see words printed in different colors. Just name the color of each word you see,
as fast as you can. Don’t read the word, just name the color
of the letters. For example: yellow, blue, green, red. Got it? Try it for yourself. Ready? Go! Pretty easy, right? Now that you know what you’re doing, try
it again with one small change. Remember: name the ink color, not the word. Ready? Go! Was that just as easy? No. But why? It’s because naming colors may be easy,
but reading is easier. Reading is automatic. It’s effortless. We can’t NOT read – and we do it all the time. So when the word BLUE matches the color BLUE,
it’s easy to do the task perfectly. But when the two don’t match, suddenly,
we take longer. We make more mistakes. It’s hard. What you just experienced is the Stroop Effect,
named for psychologist J. Ridley Stroop. But its effects aren’t limited to the psychology
laboratory. In fact, it’s rumored that this test was used by Americans during the Cold War to catch Russian spies. Here’s how. The agents were asked to do the Stroop Task…
but in Russian. The Cyrillic characters meant nothing to the
American agents, so nothing stopped them from simply rattling off the right answers. But the spies, who could read Russian — they couldn’t ignore the words, so they slowed down, and they stumbled. And this revealed their true identities. This is an interesting story, but it also teaches us something important about decision-making… even if we’re not Russian spies. Once information is in front of us, we process
it — even if it’s irrelevant, misleading, or even wrong. So think about this: if having even
two variables makes our job harder, what happens when there are 5, 10, even hundreds
of variables in play, for instance when we evaluate people? It’s commonly argued that without television,
John F. Kennedy may not have become the 35th President of the United States. People who watched his debate with Richard
Nixon tended to vote for the younger, traditionally attractive Kennedy. But the people who listened to the debate
tended to vote for Nixon, who sounded more traditionally Presidential.>>RICHARD NIXON:
We know the way to progress, and I think first of all, our own record proves that we know the way.>>NARRATOR:
Our decisions shouldn’t hinge on whether
information is seen or heard. But this debate showed that seemingly irrelevant features
do matter — even in key decisions like voting. So what can we do to make our decisions better? Let’s start with the Stroop Test itself. When people try to beat the test, the first
thing they often do is squint. This blurs the word and puts the focus on the color. Smart. We can do this metaphorically, too. In the 1970s and 80s, American symphony orchestras began using blind auditions to filter out the information they didn’t need. So the musicians played. The judges judged. But between them now was a curtain that kept
the focus on the music instead of the musician. Over the next 25 years, the number of women
musicians in major orchestras skyrocketed. Their chances of being hired had increased by 25%. This is a template for how we can outsmart our own minds. 1: Acknowledge that you too can be “Strooped”. Our world is fast-paced and rich with information, so we can’t just say, “Oh, I’ll ignore
that”. 2: Don’t assume that more information is
better. Strange as it may sound, consider saying “please send me the data without x, y, or z.” Remove names from resumes or graded assignments. Make evaluations before knowing anyone else’s opinion. Each of these strategies takes work, but sometimes you need to squint to see more clearly. Whether you’re looking for spies or your
next employee, you’ll do it better if you focus on just what matters.

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