The trap of insightful selection

“Which one do you want?”

There were 100 quarts of strawberries at the farmer’s market yesterday. In answer to the farmer’s question, the person ahead of me in line spent a full minute looking them all over before picking one.

The thing is: 90% of the strawberries in a quart are hidden from view. They’re beneath the top layer. There’s no strategy to tell which quart is better than the other, unless you (erroneously) believe that the top layer is an accurate indicator of what lies below.

The analogy wasn’t lost on me: We do this all the time. We do it with job interviews, with dating sites, with decisions about who to trust with an investment or even to drive our Lyft.

The other thing is: We get satisfaction out of picking, even if we know that our data is suspect and evidence is limited. We like the feeling of power and control, even though we have very little.

If all you’re seeing is the top layer, you’ve learned nothing. Maybe less than nothing. Con men are particularly good at seeming trustworthy, and the outfit worn to a job interview tells you nothing about someone’s dedication, work ethic or honesty.

The real information comes from experience. If the farmer is the sort of person who won’t put the clinkers on the bottom, she’s earned our trust.