Annie Duke Explores the Correlation Between Intelligence and Politically Polarized Decision Making

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Poker expert Annie Duke discusses how smarter people may be more likely to mold the world around them to fit their political beliefs.

Renowned professional poker player, author and organizational decision making coach Annie Duke reacts to a surprising new study from Dan Kahan and his colleagues that shows that those who are good at quantitative reasoning are more likely to show bias in interpreting data about politically polarized topics. Duke writes:

“When presented with data from a gun-control study, a politically polarized topic, all subjects became more polarized in their conclusions, as expected. But the surprise here is that the more quantitatively adept subjects did not do better than their less quantitative peers in interpreting the data as they did in the non-polarizing condition. In fact, they did worse. The people highest in numeracy were more likely to fit the data to their pre-existing view on gun control. Those who were better with numbers were better able to manipulate the data to justify their conclusions when the topic was one that was emotionally charged and polarized.”

Duke, who often draws parallels from the decisions she made at the poker table to the decisions people make at the board room table, believes this is due to smarter people being more drawn to motivated reasoning. This provides a complicated basis to the logic of the everyday decision makers we rely on, Duke explains.

“This study is disturbing news for rationality. Every day, we have smart people interpreting data for us. Telling us what to eat; whether we are making the world too warm; when, how and how often we should be working out; who we should be voting for and the list goes on…If it is true that smart people are more likely to fall into the motivated reasoning trap, better able to interpret and manipulate data to fit what they want to be true, then that paints a bleak picture for our reliance on the news we get.”

Duke, who often advises corporations and individuals on decision making practices she learned during her career as a professional poker player and through her studies in cognitive psychology, cautions her readers to be more critical of the world around them as well as aware of the bias in their own decision making process. Similar to poker, Duke says, people can get caught up in the game they think to be true, rather than the objective reality:

“The lesson from this is: don’t believe everything you hear, even if it is coming from a smart person. If you are mindful that you might be biased in your own thinking and might be seeking out confirming evidence or, even, fitting data to your own model of the world, then you can take a step towards rationality. Seek out opinions that conflict with yours. Be open-minded to those conflicting interpretations of the data. And when you are interpreting information yourself, be mindful that you are likely to be looking to confirm your own pre-existing beliefs. Check your interpretations with not only your own harsh eye but also with others, particularly those who you know disagree with you or are, at least, neutral on the topic so they won’t be emotionally charged.”

These practical guidelines were important tools that lent to Annie’s success at the poker table, and now provide her with compelling content as a professional speaker and coach for those desiring to become better decision makers.

To read more of Annie Duke’s opinions, visit

About Annie Duke

Annie Duke has a strong track record of success in the world of poker. She first burst onto the scene at the 1994 World Series of Poker, where she cashed in three events included making the final three tables of the Main Event. A decade later, she won her first WSOP bracelet and in 2010 became the NBC National Heads-Up Champion bested runner-up, Erik Seidel. Duke has appeared on Celebrity Apprentice and tutored Hollywood A-listers including Ben Affleck and Matt Damon on the finer points of the game of poker. She is also the author of three books on poker: Decide to Play Great Poker; Heads-Up Tournament Poker; and The Middle Zone. She also authored an autobiography How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed, and Won Millions at the World Series of Poker.

For more information:

Call: 1-888-331-7376
or Email: Info(at)annieduke(dot)com

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