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I love it when something I’m studying has unexpected relevance to my everyday life. I got to experience this delightful surprise recently when the practice I’d been doing with truth tables in studying logic helped me in my insurance job.
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Before I tell you how, let me show you a basic example of a truth table in logic. It will list all the possible combinations of two statements’ being true or false.
“p” represents one statement, “q” represents another statement, “T” means “true,” and “F” means false
p | q | p and q
T | T | T
T | F | F
F | T | F
F | F | F
So for example, let’s say statement “p” is “They took turns” and statement “R” is “Joe chose red.” The conjunction “p and q,” then, is “They took turns and Joe chose red.”
To know whether this conjunction is a true statement using logic, you must consider the possibilities of each part of the conjunction being true or false. If you used the truth table above to list the possibilities, here is what each line would represent.
They took turns | Joe chose red | They took turns and Joe chose red.
They took turns | Joe did not choose red | They took turns and Joe did not choose red.
They did not take turns | Joe chose red | They did not take turns and Joe chose red.
They did not take turns | Joe did not choose red | They did not take turns and Joe did not choose red.
You can build on this concept to identify the true/false possibilities in more complex statements as well.
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So how did I use this concept at work? Now I need to set up the situation for you so you’ll be able to fully appreciate what happened.
I work as an insurance agent, and my boss, whose agency I work for, was out of town last week. A client called to modify his auto insurance policy; he had just gotten married, so he needed to add his new wife as a driver, and he also needed to add his teenage daughter who had just gotten her driver’s license—and he was adding a third vehicle.
At this insurance company, each vehicle has its own policy, and in multi-driver/multi-car households, each driver is rated on a different vehicle. My task was to figure out the most cost-effective combination of policies, drivers, and vehicles for the client.
Normally I would have just let my boss figure it out, because he seems to know these things intuitively from so much practice. I could also have tried to guess at the best option (or which options to try quoting) using the principles he’s taught me. But this was a long-time client who was also complaining about his price, so I really didn’t want to make a mistake with the information.
So I did the only thing I could think of to do: I made a chart much like the truth tables I’d been working with in my free time.
First I listed all the possible combinations of the three drivers, cars, and policies. Then, I did an insurance quote for every single item on the list, and added together all the outcomes (actually Excel did that part for me). It looked sort of like this:
Policy 123, Driver A, Vehicle A = $77 +
Policy 345, Driver B, Vehicle B = $88 +
Policy 678, Driver C, Vehicle C = $99
Total = $264
Policy 123, Driver A, Vehicle B = $73 +
Policy 345, Driver B, Vehicle A = $83 +
Policy 678, Driver C, Vehicle C = $93
Total = $249
…and so on, listing all the combinations and prices, until I found the least expensive option. I felt silly doing all that, but it gave me assurance of accuracy in delivering information to this client.
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There are many situations in everyday life in which it’s helpful to have practice with logic in order to be able to better think through options. I first noticed this in my own life when I started playing a logic game on my phone that made me systematically think through options—I started observing myself doing the same thing in my daily life. My thoughts sounded like this: “If I do A, then X will happen, but if I don’t do A, then Y will happen, and if I do B, then Z will happen…” and so on.
Intuition is valuable, but some circumstances in our lives call for the rigorous accuracy of logic.