Brain teaser: Please consider Linda, a 31-year-old woman, single and bright. When she was a student, in high school and in college too, she was deeply involved in social justice issues, and also participated in environmental protests. Which is more probable about Linda’s occupation today?
a) Linda works as a TV reporter;
b) Linda is a bank teller;
c) Linda is a bank teller, and she’s very active in the environmental movement.
Quick, what’s your answer? a) or b) or c)?
And, in what precise order?
First, ignore how you ranked a), as it is irrelevant to this exercise. The key is this: If you ranked c) as more probable than b), you are wrong…and in very good company. That’s what most people tend to answer the first time they face this particular brain teaser, and it reflects a very pervasive cognitive bias, technically called a “conjunction fallacy.”
Statistically speaking, it is more probable that Linda is a bank teller, which is a whole category, that she is both a bank teller AND also active in the environmental movement, which is a subset of the whole category of bank tellers.
Next brain teaser in SharpBrains’ top 25 series:
- #24. A few guesstimations often used in consulting and tech interviews