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The Einstellung Effect Proves That a Good Idea Can Be A Very Bad Idea

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The perfect is the enemy of the good. We know that phrase very well. What the Einstellung Effect proves is the good can be a real enemy of the even better. When we have a solution that's good, we can't begin to think about a better one.

The seeming inability to come up with a better solution is called the Einstellung Effect. It's not the product of simple laziness. Once people see a possible solution in their heads, they have a really tough time approaching the problem from a fresh perspective. Experts become less skilled than novices. At least, that's what happens some of the time.

Another study found that chess players become less flexible and prone to settle for sub-optimal solutions as they gain expertise. Get above a certain level of expertise, though, and people are less and less prone to fall for the Einstellung Effect. They keep looking for different solutions until they find the best one. The question is, what relationship does the Einstellung Effect have to expertise? As you gain ability, maybe you lose the need to plug a known formula into every situation. Or is it the other way around? Perhaps if you are prone to settle for a known good instead of looking for something better, you never become a high-level expert.


What do you think?

[Via The Einstellung Effect in Chess, Inflexibility of Experts]