June 3, 2015

Confusing Skill and Luck

You knew that would happen. You just had a feeling! Right?

Maybe not. Psychologists break down the outcome of an event into two pieces: skill and luck. Skill is easy to define – it’s when someone can use knowledge or ability to affect an outcome when he/she is required to do so. Luck (and bad luck) is something that our brains have a much more difficult time understanding.

There is a part of our brains that neuroscientists call “the interpreter“. The interpreter has a daunting task. It is responsible for taking in new information and reconciling it with the knowledge that we already have. When something happens, the interpreter goes to work and creates a narrative to explain the outcome.

As this article suggests, “Since the interpreter is about finding causality, it doesn’t do a good job of recognizing luck. Once something occurs, our minds start to believe that it was inevitable.”

Next time the interpreter starts jumping to conclusions, ask yourself, “Did I really know that was going to happen?” Maybe it was all just pure chance.


Questions? Comments? Let's hear 'em.