“‘Show me the numbers.’ Big hearts and hard heads can come wrapped in the same skin.”

4 December 2014

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. 


About the author 

Sonnie Bailey

In his spare time, Sonnie likes telling people that he’s a former Olympic power walker, a lion tamer, or that he is an orthodontist. He is none of those things. In reality, Sonnie is a financial planner based in Christchurch. Through his business, Fairhaven Wealth (www.fairhavenwealth.co.nz), he provides independent, advice-only, fixed-fee financial planning services. Sonnie is a “recovering lawyer”: he has specialised in trusts and personal client work. He has also worked as a financial services lawyer for many years.

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