The Rationalist Delusion: Why We Get Everything Wrong

Jakub Ferencik
11 min readJul 21, 2021

Rather than talking only to people who agree with you, or collecting examples that fit your ideas, see people who contradict you, disagree with you, and put forward different ideas as a great resource for understanding the world. — Hans Rosling “Factfulness”

I have taken up playing chess in the past three years and have now played more than 6,000 games. For professional chess players, this is not a very significant number. In the beginning, I found it very difficult to respond to an e4 opening as there were so many possibilities. When you start learning the basic rules of chess, you start realizing that chess is orderly and that there are better and worse responses to e4, the most common opening.

Photo by Jani Kaasinen on Unsplash

Now, as I play chess I do not really think of responses to e4; I have learned different openings and respond quickly to the common openings. My intuitions prevail and are fairly reliable against players in my bracket. If you observe how GrandMasters play, such as Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, or Garry Kasparov, you will see that they have memorized countless games but they often do not “think” about them; they largely play intuitively, especially in the “end game,” where there are almost infinite possibilities. In fact, Carlsen has said that he usually thinks about moves only to reinforce his first intuitive judgment.

Intuitions are not necessarily bad. In the end, we all have them. Intuitions can both have positive and negative ramifications. Studies have shown that our instinctive judgments are often the correct ones. When it comes to multiple-choice questions on exams, many college students state that going with your initial judgment is risky. However, the truth is that it is more likely that you will get the answer right when you go for your initial answer.

Intuitions, however, are not, as Malcolm Gladwell has proposed in his book, Blink, some magical entity.

Jakub Ferencik

Author of “Up in the Air” & “Beyond Reason” available on AMAZON | MA McGill Uni | Research assistant for EUROPEUM Prague | 700+ blog posts with 1+ mil. views