Torrey Canyon was one of the biggest and best ships in the world – nevertheless its captain and crew needlessly steered it towards a deadly reef known as The Seven Stones. This risky manoeuvre seems like utter madness, but the thinking behind it is something we are all prone to do when we fixate on a goal and a plan to get us there.
Featuring: Enzo Cilenti, Ed Gaughan, Rufus Wright and Melanie Gutteridge.
Producers: Ryan Dilley and Marilyn Rust. Sound design/mix/musical composition: Pascal Wyse. Fact checking: Joseph Fridman. Editor: Julia Barton. Recording: Wardour Studios, London. GSI Studios, New York. PR: Christine Ragasa.
Thanks to the team at Pushkin Industries, Heather Fain, Mia Lobel, Carly Migliori, Jacob Weisberg, and of course, the mighty Malcolm Gladwell.
Two authoritative books were written about Torrey Canyon shortly after the events described in the podcast, and I’ve relied on both of them.
One is Oil and Water by Edward Cowan, and the other is The Black Tide by Richard Petrow. Both excellent, both long out of print.
For a more contemporary discussion of plan continuation bias I strongly recommend Meltdown by Chris Clearfield and Andras Tilcik.
This book also contains a good description of Marlys Christianson’s study of plan continuation bias in emergency rooms, “More and less effective updating” in Administrative Science Quarterly 2018.
The study of landings at Hartsfield-Jackson airport is Chris A. West’s “The Barn Door Effect“.
The dark tale of Sir Cloudesley Shovell is told in Dava Sobel’s hugely enjoyable book Longitude, although I am sceptical Sir Cloudesley actually survived long enough for anyone to murder him.