David G. Myers wrote a fascinating book called Intuition: Its Powers Perils, which synthesised psychological research on the very slippery, easily misunderstood topic of intuition. (See: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.)

Myers write especially well in relation to the failings of human intuition, and specifically our inability to understand probabilities. I read his book many years ago, and it has had an enduring impact on my perspective on how we need to look at the big issues of our day.

He explains:

“When considering ways to spend money to spare injuries and save lives, smart people will not be overly swayed by rare though dreaded catastrophes. To be wise is to be mindful of the realities of how and why humans suffer and die. The wise person’s humanitarian plea will therefore be: ‘Show me the numbers.’ Big hearts and hard heads can come wrapped in the same skin.”

Myers quotes Melissa Finucane – if “statistics are human beings with the tears tried off,” perhaps we need to “put the tears back on.” There are too many things that get our attention because they are emotive, relative to things that fly beneath the radar, which have much broader, more insidious effects. 

Sonnie Bailey

Sonnie is an Authorised Financial Adviser (AFA) and former lawyer with experience in the financial services and trustee industries. Sonnie operates Fairhaven Wealth (www.fairhavenwealth.co.nz).