Do Smart People Have Better Intuitions?

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There is much evidence that high-capacity reasoners perform better on a variety of reasoning tasks (Stanovich, 1999), a phenomenon that is normally attributed to differences in either the efficacy or the probability of deliberate (Type II) engagement (Evans, 2007). In contrast, we hypothesized that intuitive (Type I) processes may differentiate high- and low-capacity reasoners. To test this hypothesis, reasoners were given a reasoning task modeled on the logic of the Stroop Task, in which they had to ignore one dimension of a problem when instructed to give an answer based on the other dimension (Handley, Newstead, & Trippas, 2011). Specifically, in Experiment 1, 112 reasoners were asked to give judgments consistent with beliefs or validity for 2 different types of deductive reasoning problems. In Experiment 2, 224 reasoners gave judgments consistent with beliefs (i.e., stereotypes) or statistics (i.e., base-rates) on a base rate task; half responded under a strict deadline. For all 3 problem types and regardless of the deadline, high-capacity reasoners performed better for logic/statistics than did belief judgments when the 2 conflicted, whereas the reverse was true for low-capacity reasoners. In other words, for high-capacity reasoners, statistical information interfered with their ability to make belief-based judgments, suggesting that, for them, probabilities may be more intuitive than stereotypes. Thus, at least part of the accuracy–capacity relationship observed in reasoning may be because of intuitive (Type I) processes.

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