by Valentin, August 4 2023, in random

A chess paradox, and a social psychology bias

In 2021, redditor /u/ashtonanderson posted a graph on /r/chess which showed that the more time chess players spent thinking about their next moves, the higher the chance that their move would be a blunder. (A "blunder" is a costly mistake, something like losing a piece in exchange for nothing.)

The explanation given in the Reddit thread, which makes a lot of sense, is that people spend a lot of time thinking of a move when their position on the board is complex, which is exactly the type of position they will blunder in anyway. In the "correlation does not imply causation" debunking toolkit, this is called a "common cause": players having pieces in a complex mess is causing both them thinking a lot, and them blundering.

This chess paradox reminded me of a cognitive bias, which, it seems to me, is not pointed out often enough: fundamental attribution error is when we disproportionately attribute people's behavior to their personality rather than to the (often complex) circumstances which lead them to behave this way. So, remember, when people make mistakes, go easy on them, because real life is just like chess: people blunder when they're in a complex position, and they might have already tried hard.