A little stupidity increases your efficiency, says study


These days, people overthink every decision they make. To compensate, more people need to underthink their decisions. Luckily, many people, including this writer, do this automatically.

Like the man who spent months building a nursery for quintuplets, but learned a few days ago that he just had a fat girlfriend. (Paul Servat of Quebec, if you want to look him up.)

Or the guy in Australia who recently got lost in his back garden and phoned the police. “I’m lost.” “Where are you?” “In the garden of my house in Darwin.” “Thought you said you were lost?” “It’s a big garden.” A police rescue team found him 300 metres from his back door, NTnews.com reported. (Also Read: Top 12 laws across the world that make you go WTF!)

Now I can see you starting to smile but it’s really important we do not laugh at these people. As Modern Scientific People, we need to consider the positive side of stupidity.

Exhibit A is the US police force, which rejected an applicant because he scored too high in an intelligence test. The irritated brainy guy, Robert Jordan, sued. His appeal was rejected by the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals after police chiefs explained that less intelligent applicants better suited the job and stayed longer. Judges considered mounds of data and agreed. Stupid was better.

The case took place several years ago but has been much discussed recently by researchers. Would-be cop Jordan pleaded at the time that he couldn’t help being smart, having been born that way. “I maintain you have no more control over your basic intelligence than your eye colour or your gender or anything else,” he said, according to ABC News. (He should have said: “Me like being brainiac! Woof woof!”)

The good news is that the US police force can bulk-recruit from Asia. Recently, the Delhi Police force admitted that it had had missed eight years of on-line corruption tip-offs because no one could remember the email password. When they finally managed to download the messages, they found 600 tips, many referring to people who had already died, moved away or been elected to high office.

But how exactly is stupidity good? Studies say it improves efficiency (Journal of Management Studies), boosts productivity (University of Texas) and increases happiness (University of Edinburgh). In a study in top journal Nature, scientists divided people into three groups: unconfident, accurate and overconfident. They found that “natural selection is likely to have favoured a bias towards overconfidence”. I would give more details, but all the studies are full of really big words.

I learned the wisdom of stupidity when I was 13. I walked into a gang of neo-Nazis in London, who told me they had a policy of beating up all Pakistanis. A typical bookish Asian kid, I nervously explained: “I was born 1,499 miles from Pakistan in Sri Lanka, as far from the aforementioned country as London is from Russia.” They beat me up. The next time, I just talked rubbish. “Yeah! Cool! Manchester United vs Arsenal, right? I like popsicles! Gary Glitter sucks!” They greeted me as a brother.

So I don’t worry about the future of the world. Consider the words of our greatest modern role model. “Stupidity got us into this mess, and stupidity will get us out.” (Homer Simpson).