Daniel Kahneman’s own experience with overconfidence from his days in the army

Richard Thaler and Daniel Kahneman are interviewed for an NPR story about lessons from behavioral economics. Long before he was a psychologist at Princeton, Kahneman was a psychologist in the Israeli army where one of his major tasks was evaluating soldiers and deciding which ones were likely to make good officers. To separate the good from the bad, Kahneman had groups of 8 soldiers figure out how to lift a giant telephone pole over a wall. The idea was that leaders, followers, and quitters would emerge. The telephone poll test turned out to be useless, however. There was no relationship between Kahneman’s evaluations and the evaluations at officer school based on six months of performance. Even after learning about the non-relationship, Kahneman initially didn’t believe it.

“The next day after getting those statistics, we put them there in front of the wall, gave them a telephone pole, and we were just as convinced as ever that we knew what kind of officer they were going to be.”

Listen to the story here.

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