Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh, The Loh Down on Science is a fun way to get your daily dose of science plus a dash of humor in less than two minutes.
Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh
Airs Weekdays 2:31, 3:31 and 5:49 a.m.

Intelligence agents and college students go head to head!

Who’s more consistent—college students or . . . intelligence agents?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Psychologist Valerie Reyna studies decision making.  She says young people decide things using detail-focused, analytical thinking.  But as we age?  We focus more on the gist of issues, not the details.

Which type do you think highly trained thinkers, like intelligence agents, use?
To find out, Reyna asked both college students and intelligence agents about a series of hypothetical scenarios.

Each scenario had a low-risk and a high-risk option.  Sometimes options were framed in terms of lives saved; other times they were framed in terms of lives lost.  Either way, the outcome was the same.

She found that students answered consistently, no matter how the story was framed.  But agents?  They chose the low-risk option when they heard “one-third of lives saved,” but the risky option for “two-thirds of lives lost.”  

Subtle differences in gist affected their decisions. It’s called "framing bias," and Reyna says it shows more mentally advanced thinking.

I’m the same way—when I hear “one-third less calories,” my decision is made!  Again and again and again.


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The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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