Betting While Distracted - And Winning

From a new paper about novices and experts, Jonah Lehrer explains "the virtues of unconscious thought when it comes to predicting the outcome of soccer matches":

[Dutch psychologist Ap] Dijksterhuis wasn’t interested in dismantling the myth of expertise. Instead, he was interested in the spooky powers of the unconscious. The first two conditions demonstrated that both deliberating too much (the conscious analysis protocol) and not thinking at all (the “immediate decision” approach) were terrible strategies. In both instances, the experts gained nothing from their expertise – they might as well have been randomly picking winners.

Everything changed, however, in condition number three, that setup where people looked at the matches and were then distracted. In this case, the ability of the experts to predict the outcome was significantly improved. Although their performance was still underwhelming, the payoff of expertise (the difference between the know-it-alls and the know-nothings) more than tripled. The practical lesson is clear: The next time you want to bet on a sports game, distract yourself with a little Sudoko for two minutes. Then, trust your gut. Your unconscious knows more than you know.