Lack of time, knowledge or just sloppy thinking?

pb mikburger22 at YAHOO.COM
Wed May 1 17:07:43 UTC 2013

"Example: The human tendency of "ignoring details" is essential in order to recognize new patterns in the world."
This gets into the area of non verbal intelligence and pattern recogntion.
The British try to test their medical school applicants for this ability
through a subsection of the UKCAT where applicants have to evaluate shapes in
two different groups, determining the relevant nature of the visual relationships 
in each group and how the two groups then differ. 

--- On Wed, 5/1/13, Lee Tilson <lee.tilson at GMAIL.COM> wrote:

From: Lee Tilson <lee.tilson at GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Re: Lack of time, knowledge or just sloppy thinking?
Date: Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 11:01 AM

The same human tendencies that are strengths are weaknesses.  The same human tendencies that enable progress also account for mistakes. 

If this was not true, then Darwinian evolution would have eliminated those tendencies. 


It also leads to a lot of mistakes. 

Is "ignoring details" good or bad? I think it is both, depending on how it is being used. 

In order to recognize new patterns of facts in the world, new categories of physical processes, new abstract entities, new kinds of diseases, new kinds of mechanisms, we have to ignore a lot of details.  Our ability to generate new categories (e.g. physicians look at patterns of patients and invent new disease concepts)  that we use for analyzing circumstances is essential to medicine. 

How do we generate new categories? To generate a new category requires that we focus on essential similarities and ignore non-essential details. We look at a group of similar patients and see patterns. Details that do not fit the pattern have to be ignored. 

Our ability to focus on similarities and ignore some details enables the creation of new disease concepts. We cannot make progress in medicine without training ourselves to ignore some details.  

This same ability to focus on essential similarities and to ignore some details can cause mistakes. 

My favorite philosopher says that the most interesting thing about logical fallacies is not that they are wrong, but that they are seductive. Understanding why and how we are seduced into error is very complicated. 

Or, as Walt Kelly used to say in Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Lee Tilson

To unsubscribe from IMPROVEDX: click the following link: or send email to: IMPROVEDX-SIGNOFF-REQUEST at LIST.IMPROVEDIAGNOSIS.ORG

Visit the searchable archives or adjust your subscription at: 
Moderator: Lorri Zipperer Lorri at, Communication co-chair, Society for Improving Diagnosis in Medicine

To learn more about SIDM visit: 
Save the date: Diagnostic Error in Medicine 2013. September 22-25, 2013 in Chicago, IL. 

HTML Version:
URL: <../attachments/20130501/2e0ae599/attachment.html>

More information about the Test mailing list