Are You Over-trusting Your Intuition? Play a Game to Find Out!

Posted on Aug 8, 2016

Why a game?


We all use our intuition to help us make decisions, whether it’s picking places to eat, picking friends, or deciding what to look for in a dataset. While our intuition can be uncannily right sometimes, it can also lead us down wrong paths. So, it is best to trust our intuition only when we are confident that it is correct.

But confidence can be hard to measure. For instance, what distinguishes between 60% and 70%? How about 60% and 61%? Also,   how does "pretty sure" translate to a percentage? In summary, mapping intangible feelings to numerical numbers can be extremely tricky and awfully unreliable. Therefore, I borrowed the idea of using bets to measure confidence from the decision scientist Robert Winkler, as proposed in his book An Introduction to Bayesian Inference and Decision. The assumption is that people want to win as much money as possible and lose as little money as possible. So, if a person is asked to bet on his belief about some state of the world, he will select an amount that is directly reflective of  his confidence level.

Using this mechanism, I designed a game to help users gain a better sense of how much they know about their own intuitions––that is, knowing how much they should trust their intuitions at which time. The game is very straightforward. The rules of the game are:

  1. Answer the following 5 questions about Personal Income in the U.S. using your intuitions.
  2. Choose how much money you are willing to bet on each of your answers.ATTENTION: THIS IS REAL. If your answer is correct, you win the amount that you have bet on. If your answer is incorrect, you LOSE the amount you have bet on. So, it is very important that you choose the amount that best reflects your confidence. Not more. Not less. The amount of money you can bet on each answer ranges from $1 to $10, giving a maximum of $50 you can win in this game, and a maximum of $50 you can lose in this game.
  3. After you have finished step 1 and step 2, go to the "Explore the data" tab to find the correct answers. Your total earnings in this game will be displayed under the "Summary" tab.


Find answers using data visualisation tools:

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 10.03.21 PM

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 10.03.35 PM


Want to play the game? Click here.


All code used to generate the App can be found on Github.

About Author

Jielei (Emma) Zhu

Emma (Jielei) Zhu graduated from New York University in May 2016 with a B.A. in Computer Science and Psychology and a minor in Mathematics. In school, Emma was able to explore her interests to the fullest by taking...
View all posts by Jielei (Emma) Zhu >

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