Are you a ‘she’ll be right’ type of grey nomad?

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Grey nomads taking game of chance
‘Don’t worry, last time we were low on fuel, we saw a roadhouse.’

It is estimated that the average adult makes some 35,000 conscious decisions a day. Of course, it’s fair to say that not all of those decisions will have earth-shattering consequences.

Indeed some 220 of them typically revolve around food alone. However, for grey nomads heading around the country in a motorhome or towing a caravan, many of those 35,000 ‘moments’ could be critical ones.

‘A road train is heading towards me, what should I do?’

‘Should l overtake that tractor or hope it turns off soon?’

How we absorb and process the information we need in order to make the right call is vital. A lot of that ability to ‘get it right’, of course, comes from the experiences we have accumulated … but sometimes that experience can apparently make us more, rather than less, likely to make a mistake.

The author of ‘The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things’, David Robson, believes a cognitive quirk known as ‘outcome bias’ can erode people’s sense of risk and make them blind to error.

“Studies have shown that we often judge the quality of a decision or behaviour by its endpoint, while ignoring the many mitigating factors that might have contributed to success or failure,” he writes. “And this can render us oblivious to potentially catastrophic errors in our thinking.”

Mr Robson cites an academic study which examined pilots’ evaluations of flying under perilous weather conditions with poor visibility. It found that pilots were more likely to underestimate the dangers of the flight if they had just heard that another pilot had successfully made it through the same route.

In reality, there is no guarantee that their success would mean a safe passage for the second flight – they may have only made it through by luck – but the outcome bias means the pilots overlooked this fact.

For grey nomads who may be veering towards overconfidence after perhaps coming out of a caravan sway incident unscathed, or finding a roadhouse just before they ran of fuel, or not having fishing rods stolen despite leaving them outside the van night after night, the academics say the best way to guard against outcome bias is to think about the particular circumstances in which a decision was made … and to recognise the factors, including chance, that might have contributed to the end result.

However, long-term traveller Mark Brown is not convinced. “I have backed my caravan into my shed literally hundreds of times,” he said. “Then last year, I crashed into it and nearly knocked the thing over … nothing to do with outcome bias though, just me being an idiot and trying to do things in a rush!”

  • Have you had a lucky escape which may have made you more blasé about taking a similar risk in the future? Comment below.
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