Conjunction fallacy

Behavioral economics, media

When something is more specific, more detailed, we tend to think it is more probable, even though specific things are actually less probable. This is the conjunction fallacy - not understanding that there is an inverse correlation between specificity and probability.

For example, consider your standard marketing prediction article - they'll say something like "next year, more will be spent on digital advertising as big companies finally shift their TV budgets to online channels". This may sound logical, but, of course, it is more likely that the companies will spend more on digital advertising next year for any reason vs for one specific reason.

Details place your mind and gut against each other: your gut wants to believe the narrative because it sounds more believable with all those details - you can follow the steps to the conclusion. But your mind should realize that the more specific the prediction or narrative, the less you should believe it.

Imagine someone - perhaps a billionaire or someone with a big Twitter following - explaining their success. The more specific the "blueprint" they claim is the reason for their success, the less probable it actually is that their success can be attributed to it. The secret formula for their success sounds more convincing as they add detail, but it also becomes less probable as the actual cause for their success. Kind of defeats the purpose of buying their "7-step framework" master course, no?

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