Artemis Takes Aim

What’s Donald Trump’s CRT score?

My sense is that cognitive reflection may have an inverse relationship to confidence in locus of control. The confidence exuded by those who fail to recognize their insignificance, as it were, may be compared to the physical posturing Amy Cuddy advocates; it makes me think of apes beating their chests, vying for power/supremacy. The key to cognitive reflection--which I believe is acquired through at least two channels--is recognition of the vast space between what one individual knows, and the potential for knowledge/ideal state of perfect information in the universe, multiplied by the infinite number of perspectives that may shape its interpretation. I suspect Trump would score poorly on the Cognitive Reflection Test, if he deigned to take it.

It would be interesting to consider the relative CRT performance of people who hold/have held offices of power. My mother, a psychologist and leadership expert, often said that men who become presidents have unflappable egos. Perhaps ego and control are engaged in a dizzying dance around cognitive reflection, as men in power suspect that turning a critical eye inward would jeopardize their construction of the self as King.

The ego is "that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world" (Freud, [1923], 1961, p. 25).

If the id is a horse, the ego is 'like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse.' (Freud, 1923, p. 15).

I can just as easily posit another tack on Trump's likely performance on the CRT: that deep insecurities feed into the egotist's posturing, because he is hyperaware of the giant disparity between his understanding of the world and the vast universe of knowledge. In this reckoning, Trump would score highly on the CRT.

I'd be interested in others' thoughts on these ideas. I am drawing from the following work in my contemplation of these forces, with a poorly formalized notion that network effects somehow offer a bridge between ego-driven information avoidance that has been noted to motivate confirmation bias and the pursuit of disconfirming information that is instrumental to cognitive reflection and a superior understanding of the world in terms of approaching a state of perfect information.

Resources that have informed this train of thought

Ascher, D. (2015). Cognitive Reflection and Information-Seeking Behavior: An Exploratory Study. [Working paper].

Chatman, E. A. & Pendleton, V. (1995). Knowledge gap, information seeking and the poor. The Reference Librarian, 49(50) 135-145.

Connaway L.S., Dickey T.J., & Radford M.L., (2011). If it is too inconvenient, I’m not going after it: Convenience as a critical factor in information-seeking behaviors. Library & Information Science Research, 33(3), 179-190.

Carney, D., & Cuddy, A. (2010). Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance. Psychological Science. DOI: 10.1177/0956797610383437

Dervin, B. (1976). Strategies for dealing with human information needs: Information or communication. Journal of Broadcasting, 20(3) 324-333.

Dervin, B. (1983). Information as a user construct: The relevance of perceived information needs to synthesis and interpretation. In S.A. Ward & L.J. Reed, (Eds.), Knowledge structure and use: Implications for synthesis and interpretation. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, (pp. 153-184).

Dervin, B., & Nilan, M. (1986). Information needs and uses. In M. E. Williams (Ed.), Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 21 (pp. 3–33). White Plains, NY: Knowledge Industry, Inc.

Fischer, J., et al. (2011). Empower my decisions: The effects of power gestures on confirmatory information processing. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47, 11461154.

Fischoff, B. (1982). Debiasing. In Kahneman, D., Slovic, P., & Tversky, A., (Eds.), Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Frederick, S. (2005). Cognitive reflection and decision making. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19(4) 25-42.

Freud, S. (1920). Beyond the pleasure principle. SE, 18: 1-64.

Freud, S. (1923). The ego and the id. SE, 19: 1-66.

Kahneman, D., & Frederick, S. (2002). Representativeness revisited: Attribute substitution in intuitive judgment. In T. Gilovich, D. Griffin, & D. Kahneman (Eds.), Heuristics and biases: The psychology of intuitive judgment, pp. 49–81. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Kahneman, D., Slovic, P., & Tversky, A. (1982). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Krikelas, J. (1983) Information seeking behavior: patterns and concepts. Drexel Library Quarterly, 19, 5-20.

Kuhlthau, C. C. (1993). A principle of uncertainty for information seeking. Journal of Documentation, 49(4), 339-355.

Kuhlthau, C. C. (2004). Seeking meaning: A process approach to library and information services, (2nd ed.). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Loewenstein, G. (1996). Visceral decisions. Organizational behavior and human decision processes, 65(3), 272 –292.

Mandelbrot, B., & Taleb, N. N. (2010). Mild vs. wild randomness: Focusing on risks that matter. In F. Diebold, N. Doherty, & R. Herring (Eds.), The known, the unknown and the unknowable in financial institutions. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

March, J. G., & Heath, C. (1994). A primer on decision making: How decisions happen. New York, NY: Free Press.

Marchionini, G. (1995). Information seeking in electronic environments. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Sairanen, A. & Savolainen R, (2010). Avoiding health information in the context of uncertainty management. Information Research 15(4).

Savolainen, R. (1993). The sense-making theory: reviewing the interests of a user-centered approach to information seeking and use. Information Processing & Management, 29(1), 13-28.

Sonnenwald, D.H. (1999). Evolving perspectives of human information behavior: Contexts, situations, social networks and information horizons. In T.D. Wilson and D. Allen (Eds.), Exploring the contexts of information behaviour, pp. 176-190. London: Taylor Graham.

Stanovich, K. E., & West. R. F. (2008). On the relative independence of thinking biases and cognitive ability. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94, 672-695.

Taleb, N. N. (2009). Errors, robustness, and the fourth quadrant. International Journal of Forecasting, 25(4), 744–759.

Taleb, N. N., & Goldstein, D. (2012). The problem is beyond psychology: The real world is more random than regression analyses, International Journal of Forecasting, 28(3), 715-716.

Toplak, M. E., West, R. F., & Stanovich, K. E. (2011). The Cognitive Reflection Test as a predictor of performance on heuristics-and-biases tasks. Memory & Cognition, 39, 1275-1289.

Urbany, J. E., Dickson, P. R., & Wilkie, W. L. (1989). Buyer uncertainty and information search. Journal of Consumer Research, 16(2), 208-15.

Vicente, K.J. (1999). Cognitive work analysis. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.



Diana L. Ascher, PhD, MBA, is a principal at Stratelligence and a co-founder of the Information Ethics & Equity Institute. Her lifelong interest in knowledge and decision making has focused on the evaluation, classification, organization, communication, and interpretation of information, and motivates her work in the fields of behavioral science, finance, higher education, information studies, journalism, law, leadership, management, medicine, and policy. She brings more than two decades of experience as a writer, editor, media director, and information strategist to her work.

DianaWhat’s Donald Trump’s CRT score?

Leave a Reply