Life Hacker, look at the puzzle to the left. How long does it take you to solve?
Preschoolers solve in 5-10 min, whereas programmers take an hour. Overthinking is a real problem at times, and sometimes to solve certain problems, a little ignorance is bliss (the solution is at the end of this post).
We see this with some of our most divergent students. They overthink questions and come up with several well-reasoned possibilities (our favorite subtest for this on the WISC-IV IQ test is 'Picture Concepts) where the answer key lists only one.
The immediate practical results of over thinkers on the WISC-IV are: 1. over thinkers take longer because they think of many more possibilities than the one accepted answer, and 2. their reasoning ability can be very underestimated if they mention an alternate possibility as the final answer instead of the conventionally accepted one.
But the Lifehacker study's main point is that over thinkers are disadvantaged in this task because they focus on meanings and patterns that more naive test takers (here, children) wouldn't even consider.
The biographies of many eminent people often mention that as adults these individuals retained a certain child-like quality of questioning basic facts and assumptions. The question is, is this something we're borne with, or is it something we can cultivate?
Here's a nice blog post from the J Curve about famous scientists who liked thinking like children.
Some great quotes:
"I know not what I appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore” – Sir Isaac Newton
“One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike – and yet it is the most precious thing we have.”
– Albert Einstein