We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.


Plenty of people point to plenty of mistakes committed by President George W. Bush. But David G. Myers may be the only one who’s accused the Commander in Chief of committing a fundamental attribution error. Ascribing someone’s behavior more to personality than to the dynamics of the situation he’s in, the Hope College psychology professor explains in his 2002 book Intuition: Its Powers and Perils, is what Bush did after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin. Having looked the Russian leader in the eye, Bush expressed confidence that Putin was “straightforward and trustworthy”—despite, as the Washington Post subsequently pointed out, Putin’s KGB pedigree as a “trained liar.” But Myers doesn’t seem to have a political ax to grind. The Bush-Putin encounter is just one of many real-world examples—others range from strawberry-jam surveys to the gender of baby chicks to the cost of Montreal’s 1976 Olympics Stadium—that Myers summons when he probes the pros and cons of relying on intuition. His conclusion, essentially, is that there do seem to be roads connecting the disparate realms of our gray matter, but expect plenty of dead ends, potholes, and frost heaves, too. Though subsequent chapters explore the role of intuition at such places as home plate, Wall Street, and the craps table, Intuition may best serve as a source of cautionary tales—for example, about the ease with which 58 percent of preschoolers in a study developed false memories of having been injured by, say, a mousetrap, the tenacity with which death-penalty foes and advocates alike cling to their opinions even in the face of contradictory studies, or the ways in which a few memorable anecdotes can hobble reams of statistics that say otherwise—that remind us of the slippery grip we often have on our own beliefs and opinions. Myers speaks at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s Ring Auditorium, 7th Street and Independence Ave. SW. $40. (202) 357-3030. (Joe Dempsey)