You would think you are a rational human being right!
That you’re able to assess new information in a completely logical way; you’ve made it this far in life.
But the opposite is true; the majority of your success in making it to this point is purely down to the ancient purpose of life – to survive (not something I’m going to cover here).
Don’t worry you are not alone we are all the same, despite some thinking they are more equipped and have the secret answers. I-for-one-am-not-one-of-those.
I AM NOT YOUR GURU!
For most of us, we can fall into the trap of believing things that may not be completely accurate, accepting many of the daily projections without questioning all that much and why would we, life is hard enough without questioning everything.
However… you may want to pause on occasion and do just that!
What you believe in and the decisions you make are often influenced by cognitive biases, heuristics and logical fallacies that shape the way you think. These are deeply rooted and stretch back in most cases to our childhood and the impressions of those around us during this time.
These happen by;
We tend to have preconceived assumptions about how things work. When you hear information about a particular topic – it could be a story or any other type of information – you tend to pay attention to parts of that information that are known to your existing beliefs.
This is called confirmation bias, effectively connecting what you hear to what you know already, lets face it you cannot know what you do not know!
In a previous article I wrote about the benefits of failing more and the wisdom and knowns that this brings.
What causes the most human deaths – sharks, or cows?
The Availability Heuristic
If you said “sharks”, you may have fallen foul to the availability heuristic. This is a mental shortcut that operates on the notion that if something is easily recalled, it must be more important than alternative solutions, options or explanations that are not as readily recalled.
In simple terms, when choosing from a set of options, you are most likely to choose the option for which you have the most information and makes the most logical sense.
Your instinct to say “sharks” is because coverage on shark attacks is high, however cow-related deaths get virtually no coverage, even though there are significantly more deaths from cows than there are from sharks.
The Argument From Authority
The status and credentials of an individual greatly influence your perception of that person’s message. If a person is known to be an authority on a topic, you’re more likely to believe that person’s comments on the topic. You’re probably thinking, this makes a lot of sense. It does. It is perfectly natural and logical to believe them. This is called the argument from authority.
The argument from authority can be a logical fallacy in which you’ll believe what that person has to say on topics outside their scope of expertise. Whenever you see a major sports personality on a TV advertisement helping to promote shampoo or energy drinks, the advertiser is trying to tap into your appeal to authority. Trading off their expertise to add value, despite in most cases that lack of transference.
The Argument From Ignorance
Do you believe in reincarnation? If you said either “yes” or “no”, your decision is subject to a logical fallacy referred to as the argument from ignorance. The argument from ignorance occurs when you decide something is true or false because you can’t find evidence to the contrary.
The argument from ignorance exists when you argue for or against a claim, even though there is no evidence to prove or disprove that claim. I often refer to this as the trap of ‘truth and fact’.
Consider the following passage of text:
You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. Disciplined and self-controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You also pride yourself as an independent thinker; and do not accept others’ statements without satisfactory proof. But you have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be rather unrealistic.
Do you think that passage of text accurately describes you? Most people would respond “yes”. If you’re in that camp, you’re experiencing something called the Forer effect.
Psychic readings, horoscopes, and even some types of personality tests – they all involve vague statements from which you apply personal significance and create your own meaning. This is subjective validation at play.
So what now?
It’s not hard to see how these biases, heuristics and fallacies can be problematic. In some situations, poor decisions can be inconsequential. But in others, the consequences could be catastrophic.
Refection, self-awareness, confidence and welcomed failures are a good way to shift into a state of increased rational thinking.
Looking for some help? Why not reach out to me Benjamin Bonetti.
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