Create Catalyze Communicate A-Ha Moments
A-Ha Moments

Merging Your First and Second Guesses

Written by: Bill Sherman on Tuesday, 15 July 2008, 7:41 AM

This weekend, I drove between Chicago and St. Louis. At one point, one of my passengers asked me how far it was to a specific exit. I replied by saying, “It’s at mile marker 22.” Then, a few minutes later, I said, “you know, it might be mile marker 18.”

When we reached the exit, it was actually mile marker 20–the average between the two guesses. I mention this story because it illustrates how powerful our “second thought” mechanism can serve us, if we know how to make use of it.

Ed Vul (of MIT) and Hal Pashler (of UC San Diego) published a study in Psychological Science that shows that the average of our first and second guess can be more accurate than either our first or second guess. Let’s look at my road-trip example.

  • First guess–mile-marker 22
  • Second guess–mile-marker 18
  • Average of two guesses–mile marker 20 (exactly right)

It’s an interesting approach to making estimates. First, take your best guess, then pause a few minutes and reweigh the options. Your answer is probably close to the average of your two guesses.

If you want to learn more, check out the summary article in The Economist.

2 Responses to “Merging Your First and Second Guesses”

  1. Dan Hawthorne Says:

    This reminds me a lot of UTT (Unconscious Thought Theory) which was originally presented by Dijksterhuis and Nordgren. There are some fundamental differences, such as UTT deals more with decision making and less with estimations, but they do seem to deal with some similar concepts.

    If you’d like to read the original journal article about <a href=”UTT, here’s a link to the pdf. It takes some time to get used to the idea, but it does begin to make some more sense as you think about it.

    July 16th, 2008 11:19 am

  2. Matt Ros Says:

    The ever increasing pace at which we are becoming interconnected through virtual networks will soon reveal to us that we are all bound together more tightly than we realise. We are gradually coming to the awareness that everything comes from one common informational field. We are all connected in one system, though at present we are in an unconscious state in relation to this system. If we begin to understand the system that we are each a part of, we can speed up the process of revelation of the true scope and depth of our interconnectedness. Aha moment to the nth degree.


    Click here
    for more information.

    September 19th, 2008 6:42 am

Something to say?

You must be logged in to post a comment.


    Wayback Machine Wayback Machine
    Now Reading


    Locations of visitors to this page