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Recognition heuristic in super learning

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Recognition heuristic is extremely powerful evolutionary, practically used cognitive concept. We are just ignorant of it…

A good name is better than riches <Don Quixote> Cervantes


  • Recognition heuristic can get help you in unspecific areas where not a lot of knowledge or familiarity is acquired.
  • Recognition heuristic has predictive powers.
  • Recognition has its meaning from an evolutionary point of view
  • Super learning in the terms of “learn all fast” really stands in recognition heuristic area – you can get plenty of it
  • Recognition is better than total ignorance – being known helps you


Most of heavily involved guys in super learning like Tim Ferris, Jim Kwik, Jonathan Levi are going to teach you super learning as speed – reading and memory enhancing set of techniques.

There’s a lot to learn in life, that’s why you need to help it to stick and you need to learn it fast.

Techniques and hacks are always nice. And they work! In fact we say that super learning techniques should go beyond mentioned categories.

For instance memory is a muscle. It’s a network of connections and if you use it intentionally – good, if not you simply lose it.

Here you can see a very comprehensive list of memorization techniques.

On the other hand we at tell you – don’t learn everything. For this our view of what it means to be a superlearner is somehow different.

Long story short – you learn accordingly to your filter.

Only you have to decide for your life who you want to be and filter applicable information that may enhance your life.

Otherwise, there’s no huge added value in learning when it’s not improving you.

In super learning and recognition heuristic we’re going to take slightly different approach.

recognition heuristic

When is “Learning everything” good

Let’s dive into heuristics in general, and most of all to category type called recognition heuristic.

Heuristic is any approach to problem solving or self-discovery that employs a practical method, not guaranteed to be optimal, perfect, logical, or rational, but instead sufficient for reaching an immediate goal. Wikipedia

To this definition we should add that heuristics as a method of solving a problem are very useful when method of probabilities or shall we say utilization of probabilities often fail us.

It’s the realm of uncertain environments like let’s say stock markets.

The more I know, the more I realize I know nothing. <Socrates>

This quote should be a mantra of all decent adult learners and life – time students in general.

But, sometimes, it’s maybe human nature, the more educated the person is, the more he thinks he already knows everything – and they might know shit.

That’s why wolves of wall street armed with all their mathematical models, predictive analysis and big data fail to predict when to push sell/buy/ button.

It seems that a simple recognition heuristic can get you the same positivity outcomes that an army of probabilities counting men in luxury suits can.

And recognition heuristic is all around us – it’s evolutionary

It’s unbelievably powerful.

The heuristic works quickly and with limited knowledge – and even requires a certain amount of ignorance.

It searches, stops, and decide – that’s the algorithm we use, but we are not aware of.

Search is limited to recognition memory – no recall of knowledge beyond recognition is attempted.

As soon as you recognize you stop searching in your mind, you stop recalling. And you are ready to make a decision. For your benefit.

Is it really true that we can benefit from our ignorance?

The observation that people often try to avoid trade – offs in thinking and focus on one good reason has been documented numerous times.

Missing information scenarios may result in more accurate inferences than a considerable amount of knowledge as we will see in the example below.

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Diving into Recognition heuristic

Human minds encode every second we breath and ‘stay alive’. It seems that it is a never – ending recording disk.

The natural question is why? Why do minds encode this?

Human mind does not need 1000 pages long papers of analysis, encoded in a cryptic statistical language, ornamented by graphs and signed by respected expert names.

Human mind was created by evolution in an environment that needed quick decisions.

Or let’s say the least, that the human mind and its decision making was motivated by survival & prosperity – answering specific circumstances of the environment.

It’s got some predictive qualities that are extremely interesting.

Recognition memory is vast, automatic, and saved for deja vu, reliable – in the meaning that recognition is encoded.

If we gave you 1,000 pictures chances are high that you’d recognize at least 85% of them. Recognized that is different than having knowledge or familiarity.

Recognizing to knowing

Recognition is a binary phenomenon: one either recognizes or does not.

Familiarity can be defined in terms of availability. That mark or bit of memory to be made available for future references.

Or simply that one needs some extra memorization work to make that piece of information a working memory.

The good distinction found in Gigenrenzer’s books could be recognition heuristic can use recognition to predict some criterion in the world, whereas the feeling of knowing only predicts future memory performance.

The knowledge is of course broader memory term that in order to be created is needed to be associated throughout memory system many times.

We like to define knowledge as information already applied in the practice – the gained value from it. The cookbook recipe and getting your kitchen dirty from it.

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How can a recognition heuristic benefit us

Which U.S. City has more inhabitants: San Diego or San Antonio?

One study group is U.S. citizens particularly Chicago university students (usually with the highest score) vs. German students who might have not heard of these two cities.

Such a methodology of scientific research is present at Gigenheizer’s et al. works, such an example was read in his book – Simple heuristics that make us smart.

Who do you think has won?

Americans – Chicago University students vs. Germans.

You are right, Germans 🙂

How did the Germans infer that San Diego was larger?

All of the German students had heard of San Diego, but many of them did not recognize San Antonio.

Thus German students applied recognition heuristic.

The American students, recognizing both cities, were not ignorant enough to be able to apply the recognition heuristic.

Recognition heuristic really does bring better outcomes, but when?

The recognition heuristic is not a general – purpose strategy. The correlation holds in some situations, but not in all.

We could say that recognition is more than total ignorance – 0.

That’s why super learning can be a match, mainly its speed – reading properties to recognize as many subjects of this world as possible.

Recognition has huge benefits to effort ratio. Simple light that “you’ve heard” of something can get you better results than comprehensive analysis.

It’s usually the strategy for two – alternative choice tasks.

The recognition heuristic is studied by robust mathematical calculations, and its results are recorded.

However, it occurs in the real world as well.

Oliviero Toscani, the marketing guru of notorious firm Benetton has known the effect of recognition heuristic.

In his campaign you could not usually find anything about products of Benetton. There were campaign showing AIDS patients dying, pools of blood were pictured – all bunch of moving pictures.

Yet, Benetton was always recognized with better correlation to other brands like Channel and such.

In the social world, name recognition is often correlated with wealth, resources, quality, power and the like.

All advertisers pay great sums for a place in the recognition memory of the general public. They all operate on the principle that if we recognize them, we will favor them.

Recognition heuristic conclusion

Recognition is an evolutionary created concept that allowed organisms to benefit from their own ignorance.

Lot of great research is behind this – it’s technical, mathematical, we would not post a technical paper here.

In overall statement recognition is more than nothing. And it’s far greater than nothing, because simple recognition can get better results than a comprehensive knowledge.

German students armed with just recognition were able to pick a correct answer with more interference than more knowledgeable Americans students.

And these examples are numerous just about everywhere.

It’s not a general strategy.

But, it’s a very powerful one. And super learning is a great method to acquire as much recognition as possible.

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