It's now a scientifically established fact: When most people look at a hill ahead of them, they significantly overestimate how steep it is.
The Chicago Tribune reported that in a series of experiments on perceptual bias run by psychologists from the University of Virginia, volunteers estimated that a hill with a 10-degree slant was 30 degrees, while five-degree hills were rated as 20-degree slants.
Still, there is a silver lining in this inability to correctly evaluate a hill's "difficulty." In fact, researchers said, these misconceptions may be helpful, rather than posing a problem.
Dennis Proffitt, who conducted the study, told the newspaper: "The overestimations are functional. They help people pace themselves when ascending hills and may even prevent people from undertaking climbs that would be too difficult."
Lesson for Leaders: Just because a task appears easy to your experienced eye, don't dismiss the apprehension of others who have a more limited frame of reference. Let them set their own pace. Assuming there's no particular rush, learning by doing will prove more beneficial in the uphill struggle.
Payoff: If they complete the task with greater ease than expected, they'll have learned more than just how to do the job. They'll have a new basis for more correctly evaluating the difficulty of future challenges and newfound courage to attempt what appears to be even more difficult feats next time.
From: Leadership...with a human touch. April 4, 2000. Page 3
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