Don’t Overthink It
Trust your gut and don’t overthink it, if you want to free your mind.
This is an extract from the chapter ‘Don’t Overthink It’, from new book Free Your Mind: The new world of manipulation and how to resist it by Laura Dodsworth and Patrick Fagan
‘As a rule, I have found that the greater brain a man has, and the better educated, the easier it has been to mystify him.’
So said master illusionist Harry Houdini. He said it during his spat with Sherlock Holmes’ creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle over the latter’s belief in seances and fairies. Despite being a literary genius, Conan Doyle nevertheless had some foolish ideas.
He’s not alone. Researchers have even coined ‘Nobel Disease’, referring to the tendency for some Nobel Prize winners to embrace unconventional beliefs. Charles Richet, for instance, won the 1913 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine but also believed in dowsing and ghosts.
Taken to the extreme, almost half of all German doctors in the 1930s joined the Nazi Party early, which was a higher rate than any other profession. Their education and intelligence did not shield them from madness – quite the opposite.
We are all deluged with attempts to manipulate us, from Big Tech and politicians to salespeople and colleagues. It is comforting to think that this is only a concern for the less intellectually gifted: we conjure up stereotypes of backwards ‘conspiracy theorists’ and ‘science deniers’ who need protecting from misinformation.
Yet the reality is that intellectuals are just as vulnerable to bias, if not more so. The scientific term is dysrationalia. Psychology professor Keith Stanovich researched it thoroughly and once concluded that ‘none of these [biases] displayed a negative correlation with [intelligence]… If anything, the correlations went in the other direction.’
Why might that be?