When less is more memory limits and correlations
Do you remember this video? It’s one of the most popular videos on the web….Well I have some good news, the guys who put together that video, Chris Chabris and Dan Simons, have put together a fantastic book called. The Invisible Gorrila. They’ve also started a great blog with some fantastic posts Click Here To Watch The Video.
Introduction (Via Invisible Gorrilla)
Here’s where Kareev’s findings are particularly noteworthy: People who have low working memory capacity tend to perceive real correlations to be stronger than do people with high working memory capacity. In essence, people with less memory available can keep fewer examples in mind when checking whether an association exists, and as a result, they are more likely to have an inflated estimate of the actual association. That is, they’re more likely to see the correlation as really strong and are less likely to miss a moderate correlation in the world. Having less working memory available makes you better able to detect the presence of an association when you’re looking for one.
This sort of “less is more” idea has been used to explain the ease with which children can acquire language (e.g., Newport, 1988). It might also help to explain the ease with which people form stereotypes (but only when those stereotypes are actually true). This is a beautiful example of taking a simple, unremarkable fact about statistical distributions and using it to predict something remarkable about how people perceive the world.