Andy’s Quick Hits (10): Focus on Outliers Creates Flawed Snap Judgments

You walk into a large crowded room and you automatically scan the crowd to see who’s there. You may notice, for example, that there is a sizeable proportion of women, or asians, or any other identifiable group. You would probably think that the brain has developed to accurately predict these proportions — a survival instinct.


According to recent published research from Duke University by Mel W. Khaw et al., we consistently make bad estimates in particularly ways. Namely we overestimate the minority group — whatever that group is.

We seem naturally drawn to, and focus on, outliers, the researchers noted, and this is corroborated by their research which also used nature scenes to see if this was just with faces. The same pattern emerged.

This has implications in business because it means we will consistently overestimate proportions of certain groups of people and therefore assume our business is more diverse than it actually is — and also see less need for diversity initiatives. The same applies to society at large.

Andy publishes a quick hit every weekday on all things the brain, behaviour, and business. Please follow to receive your daily dose.

Andy is author of leading brains Review a monthly e-magazine on all things the brain, behaviour, and business

The brain and human behaviour, in business, society, learning, and health.

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