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The Einstellung Effect

Published 2/1/2017

In today's episode, we talk about a phenomenon called the Einstellung Effect.

Today's episode is brought to you by Linode. Linode Provides superfast SSD based Linux servers in the cloud starting at $10 a month. Linode is offering Developer Tea listeners $20 worth of credit if you use the code DEVELOPERTEA2017 at checkout. Head over to spec.fm/linode to learn more about what Linode has to offer to Developer Tea listeners .

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone, welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and in today's episode we're talking about the Einstein Long Effect. If you've never heard of the Einstein Long Effect, don't worry, you're probably in the majority. Most people are not sitting around reading Wikipedia articles about these cognitive studies that were done decades ago. But this particular study was done back in the 40s by a scientist named Abraham Luchin. And I hope I'm saying that correctly. It's either Luchin or Lukein, we're going to go with Luchin. But Abraham Luchin did this study to understand how people solve problems and not just how they solve one problem, but how they solve multiple problems and how the preceding problems affect the way that they solve the following problems. So the study was intended to understand the effects of solving one problem and then solving a next problem. How did that first problems solution affect the way you solved the second problem? Now there were some very interesting findings. The way that the study was conducted was they gave the participants three jugs, three jugs of water or jugs that hold water. And each of those jugs hold a different amount of water. That amount was labeled on the jug and they would have to use those jugs in order to arrive at a particular amount in the largest jug. So let's say for example, and these numbers are not correct, but let's say that they had one jug that had three ounces, one jug that had seven ounces and one jug that had twelve ounces. And their job was to end up with ten ounces in the twelve ounce jug. So the participants experienced a series of the similar types of problems where you have to end up with a particular amount in the jug. Now the Einstein Lung effect is named after the German word Einstein Lung, which means attitude or predisposition. So what Luchin found in his study was that the way that people solved the first problem, the actual solution to the first problem, very often was used to solve the second problem. This is very interesting finding. Basically what he found was that participants, they had the ability with the jars that they had in hand to solve a second problem with much simpler procedure. In other words, much less work. But because they already had in their minds the solution to a previous problem, they had already found the same number that they're looking for in problem number two. They had run across that number in problem number one. Their minds kind of short circuited to that solution. Even though it wasn't the most efficient solution, it wasn't the best solution to the problem given the resources available. So the Einstein Lung effect is really a label for our minds tendency to reuse solutions that we've used in the past on similar problems in the future without evaluating whether or not those solutions are the most efficient or the best solutions for that matter. There's even more interesting findings that go along with Luchin's study. One of them, for example, is that this worsens with age. This is something we've talked about on the show before. It's just more evidence to show that our minds become kind of set in their ways as we get older. When we're very young, we are much more in learning mode and our minds haven't learned how to overly optimize what we're trying to solve. We're evaluating all the time. We're re-evaluating, re-evaluating the problems that we're faced with. We aren't reusing solutions as much because we're still in that evaluation mode. What Luchin's study showed was that as people aged, the older they became, the more likely they were to fall prey to the Einstein Lung effect. In other words, younger children were much less likely to fall prey to the Einstein Lung effect. There's another very interesting finding from Luchin's study. He found that people are able to rebound from the Einstein Lung effect and perhaps most importantly, that the highest ability to rebound is found in people aged about 21 years old. In other words, once you recognize that you have reused a solution that wasn't optimum, then the next problem that you face, you are much more likely to actually rebound and create a novel solution for that problem rather than once again using a previously found solution. This likelihood to rebound is greatest around the age of 21. You may be thinking, well, I'm too smart to fall prey to the Einstein Lung effect. They did this study and eliminated differences between IQ as a statistical differentiator. In other words, your IQ level, your measured IQ, doesn't change how susceptible you are to the Einstein Lung effect. When final interesting thing that I want to point out about Luchin's study, when people were constrained to a certain amount of time, in other words, when they weren't given an unlimited amount of time to solve the water jar problems, they were even more susceptible to the Einstein Lung effect. All of us know that this has great implications for the type of work that we do because most of us, if not all of us, are probably under some kind of time constraint. We don't have an endless amount of time to deliver the code that we're working on. We don't have an endless amount of time to deliver features or to fix bugs, usually. More often than not, we are time constrained in one way or another. With the added dimension of stress, we are even more likely to fall susceptible to the Einstein Lung effect. Why is this such a problem? We're going to talk about that after a quick sponsor break. We're also going to share the one thing that actually made a difference, a positive difference in Luchin's studies. The one thing that actually kind of gave an uptick in people who were responding and rebounding from the Einstein Lung effect. We're going to talk about that right after our quick sponsor break. Today's sponsor is a very familiar sponsor to the show, Linode. Linode is such a great product because it's built on a very simple platform. It's one that you've used, whether or not you know it. Most of the web is arguably powered by Linux. The simplicity of Linux is mirrored by the simplicity of Linode. You can get a Linux box up and running in the cloud in under a minute. This gives you the power of networked Linux. It's only $10 a month for their introductory plan, which gets you, by the way, a very powerful box. It's not like you're buying a crippled box. It's a two gigabyte of RAM worth of a box. It runs on an Intel E5 processor stack. It also runs on an internal network that is 40 gigabits, which means it's super fast. If you ever networked two Linux boxes together, they're going to be talking to each other very quickly. That latency is not going to be an issue if you end up running a networked system of servers, which of course you can do because Linux is incredibly flexible. You can do anything that you can do with Linux. You can do on Linode. Once again, their monthly plan starts at $10 a month. They do have caps on all of their plans. They have long view. A tons of great features. You can go and check out more about what Linode has to offer to you at spec.fm slash Linode. Now here's another very important thing. One more thing I forgot to mention here is that all of these servers are running on SSDs by the way. You have solid state, very fast servers for just $10 a month. But if you use the special code Developer Tea2017 at checkout, you're going to get $20 worth of credit. That's two months effectively, totally for free, just for using the code Developer Tea2017. That's 2017. Go to spec.fm slash Linode to learn more about what Linode has to offer to you so you can start solving problems that really require your brain power like we're talking about in today's episode. The Einstein-Lung effect. We've already explained what it is. We have a tendency, a measurable tendency that gets worse as we get older. We have a measurable tendency to solve problems that look similar the same ways. As a developer, hopefully you've identified in your mind at least 20 different things that look very similar that you've used the same solutions for. Now I want to make sure that you're hearing me correctly. There are many problems that can be solved by very similar solutions. What we're not saying in this episode is that you need to use a new tool every single time you solve a problem that is similar to one that you've solved in the past. There are different classes of solutions to problems. You shouldn't view this episode as an excuse to go out and try a new tool every single time you encounter a new problem. That's not the point of today's episode. Instead we're talking about thinking behaviors. We're talking about the way your mind approaches fundamentally new problems. Really what we're talking about is the conservation of resources during the solution process. In other words, in the Einstein Lung Effect, the thing that is lost isn't the actual solution being correct or incorrect. It's how much work did it take to get there? How much harder is it to get to the problem, the problem's best solution if we use the same thing that we've used in the past. An example of the Einstein Lung Effect could be that you learned a new framework in order to solve a previous problem. Also in order to solve this problem, you will learn another new framework. This is an example of using extra resources where it's not necessarily the best place to use those resources. Just because learning a framework previously opened you up to the correct solution doesn't mean that learning a framework this time is going to open you up to the correct solution. Again, the same thing is true if you want to, for example, get a raise. Let's say that you're seeking a raise in your job. The last time you got a raise, you did x, y, and z. If you do x, y, and z again, that doesn't mean that you're going to get a raise again. The situation is different. The problem is different and you should look at it from a brand new perspective. This is why this is such an important thing to understand. Our minds have a tendency to think that all things being equal, we can treat our problems very systematically and usually we're going to fail at some really important piece of this in particular, spending too much resources or arriving at the problem after a very long detour around a previous solution. So I told you that one thing did make a difference in Luchin's study and hopefully that's what this episode is going to act as for you today. Then wrote the words don't be blind on some of the participants' secondary and tertiary problems. For those people who he wrote, the words don't be blind at the top of their paper that had the problems outlined on the paper. For those people that he wrote that message to, he saw a significantly better recovery rate from the Einstein Lung Effect. In other words, people who saw a simple reminder don't be blind. People who saw a simple message reminding them to think a little bit harder about this problem. When they saw that, they actually did that. So let this episode be that reminder for you today, but in the future you're not going to have this episode to listen to unless you go back and remind yourself that they I should long effect by real listening to this episode in the future. That's perfectly fine as well. But you may need to set up some sort of systematic way to remind yourself when you go into problem solving mode, when you encounter a new problem. This should become a habit to remind yourself very simply to treat this problem as a fundamentally new problem. Treat this as a new class of problems. Very often what you will find is that even though your solution may look similar to a solution in the past, you're going to arrive at that solution with much better resource management. In other words, you're going to use less energy by simply using more of your brain earlier in that process. Hopefully this has been an enlightening discussion on the Einstein Lung Effect. I was lucky enough to receive a tip on the Einstein Lung Effect from a listener. If you want to send me something that you'd like for me to talk about on the show, if you want to send a question, just an idea or a story, a love getting all of your stories, you can send those to me by going to spec.fm slash slack, you can join our Slack community. You can also send them to me directly at Developer Tea at gmail.com. That email address has questions from hundreds of listeners at this point and I'm so excited to connect with you all on a personal level, very excited to get your stories and your questions there. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Don't forget if you are looking for a cloud Linux solution. A solid state drive in the cloud with two gigabytes of RAM for only $10 a month and they're giving you $20 for free in credit just for being a Developer Tealistener. Use a code Developer Tea2017 at checkout. Go to spec.fm slash linode. Thank you again to linode for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. Until next time, enjoy your tea.