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Smart people can make dumb decisions, says Grawemeyer Award winner in Education

by UofL Today last modified Dec 02, 2009 04:33 PM

Having a high IQ and good standardized test scores doesn't guarantee that you will make good decisions, says the winner of the 2010 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Education.

Smart people can make dumb decisions, says Grawemeyer Award winner in Education

Keith Stanovich

Keith Stanovich, a professor of human development and applied psychology at the University of Toronto, won the prize for his 2009 book, "What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought."

He was selected for the award from among 34 nominations worldwide.

Many people who score highly on tests such as the IQ and SAT still make poor life decisions, Stanovich's research shows. Such tests are incomplete measures of good thinking because they fail to take into account the rational skills we use to exercise good judgment in our daily lives - skills such as planning, evaluating and weighing risks.

Our brains function in "low gear" most of the time - we are what psychologists call cognitive misers, he says. However, intelligence tests measure only how well our brains function in "high gear" and also miss how well we know when to switch from low to high gear, a critical trait in good decision-making.

 "Stanovich makes a good case that current tests miss the mark in measuring the full range of our thinking and reasoning," said Bill Bush, a UofL education professor who directs the award. "He also encourages us to rethink what intelligence means and come up with a better way to measure this important human trait."

 Stanovich's work has potential for changing not only the way we view and assess intelligence but how we structure learning and teaching goals in schools, Bush said.

 Five Grawemeyer Awards are presented annually for outstanding works in music composition, ideas improving world order, psychology, education and religion. Winners of the other 2010 Grawemeyer Awards also are being announced this week.

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