On October 22nd, 2015 we learned about

We save our sharpest scrutiny for other people’s suggestions

Revising your own work is hard. By the time you’ve planned your solution and implemented it in some way, it’s hard to see anything but your intended solution. Critiquing other people’s work, on the other hand, can be easy. Flaws pop-out at you. Errors seem can be glaringly obvious. Even if it’s actually your own work again…

Uneven evaluations

A recent study had participants solve a series of logic puzzles, writing down not only their solutions but also their planning and work that got them to that answer. Once their answers were submitted, they were asked to evaluate other possible answers. The catch was that their own answers were also being shuffled into the mix to be scrutinized like all the rest. When considering their own answers as “someone else’s,” volunteers rejected them nearly 60 percent of the time. They also quite good at catching when that answer was wrong in the first place.

Around half of the participants caught on to the test arrangement, recognizing their own work. They were removed from the statistical analysis, so they’re not included in the 60 percent rejection rate listed above. Interestingly, the group that recognized their own work were also more successful on the logic puzzles in general, raising questions about possible correlations between their self-awareness and effectiveness.

Collaborative criticism

The researchers don’t see the other volunteers in a negative light though. While they scrutinized their one work more thoroughly when they thought it was someone else’s, it may be a behavior stemming from a sort of efficiency in social problem solving. In a constructive environment, it makes sense to offer ideas to a group for further analysis, rather than withhold and refine it internally before sharing. A diversity of opinions and viewpoints does help when solving problems, so if your peers are able to provide constructive feedback, it’s not necessarily hypocritical to pick at others’ ideas more than your own. You may be fulfilling an expected role.

Source: The Selective Laziness of Reasoning, Neuroskeptic

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