How to see the world as it is

Sunny day. You are driving. The road is clearly visible, it stretches for many miles ahead. You turn on cruise control, lean back and enjoy the ride.

Suddenly the sky is overcast and the first drops of rain are falling. It doesn’t matter, you think. So far, nothing prevents you from looking at the road and driving.

However, after a while, a real downpour begins. The sky is almost black, the car sways in the wind, and the wipers do not have time to flush the water.

Now you can barely keep going – you can’t see anything around. We just have to hope for the best.

This is what life is like when you are not aware of your biases. You can’t think straight or make the right decisions because you don’t see the world as it really is. Without realizing it, you fall under the control of invisible forces.

The surest way to combat these biases is to learn about them. We suggest that you familiarize yourself with the ten most common of them.

backlash effect

You’ve probably heard about the phenomenon of confirmation bias, which causes us to look for information that confirms our beliefs rather than questioning them. The backlash effect is its big brother, and the essence of it is that if, after remembering something false, you see a correction, you will begin to trust the false fact even more. For example, if allegations of sexual harassment by a celebrity turn out to be false, you’ll be less likely to believe that person’s innocence because you won’t be sure what you can actually believe.

Ambiguity effect

If we don’t have enough information to predict the likelihood of something, we’ll choose to avoid it. We prefer to buy lottery tickets over stocks because they are easy and stocks need to be learned. This effect means that we may not even try to reach our goals, because it is easier for us to assess the chances of more realistic options – for example, we would rather wait for a promotion at work, rather than develop as a freelancer.

Survivor bias

“This man has a successful blog. He writes like this. I also want a successful blog. I will write like him. But it rarely works like this. It’s just that “this man” has survived long enough to eventually succeed, and his style of writing is not critical. Maybe many others wrote like him, but did not achieve the same. Therefore, copying the style is not a guarantee of success.

Neglecting Probability

We do not even think about the possibility that we may fall down the stairs, but we are constantly afraid that it is our plane that will crash. Similarly, we would rather win a billion than a million, even if the odds are much lower. This is because we are primarily concerned with the scale of events rather than their likelihood. The neglect of probability explains much of our misplaced fears and optimism.

The effect of joining the majority

For example, you are choosing between two restaurants. There is a good chance that you will go to the one with more people. But people before you faced the same choice and chose at random between two empty restaurants. Often we do things just because other people do them. Not only does this distort our ability to accurately evaluate information, but it also destroys our happiness.

spotlight effect

We live in our own heads 24/7, and it seems to us that everyone else pays almost as much attention to our lives as we do ourselves. Of course, this is not the case, because those around you also suffer from the effect of this imaginary spotlight. People won’t notice your pimple or messy hair because they’re busy worrying that you’ll notice the same thing on them.

Loss aversion

If they give you a mug and tell you that it costs $5, you will want to sell it not for $5, but for $10. Simply because now it is yours. But just because we own things doesn’t make them more valuable. Thinking the other way around makes us more afraid of losing everything we have than not getting what we really want.

Error sunk costs

Do you leave the cinema when you don’t like a movie? After all, there is no benefit in wasting your time on an unpleasant pastime, even if you spent money on it. But more often than not, we stick to an irrational course of action solely to follow our previous choice. However, when the ship sinks, it’s time to leave it – regardless of what caused the crash. Because of the cost delusion, we waste time, money, and energy on things that no longer provide us with value or pleasure.

Parkinson’s law of triviality

You may have heard of Parkinson’s saying, “Work fills the time allotted for it.” Related to this is his law of triviality. It says that we spend a disproportionate amount of time on trivial questions in order to avoid cognitive dissonance when solving complex, important problems. When you start blogging, all you have to do is start writing. But logo design suddenly seems like such a big deal, doesn’t it?

Almost 200 cognitive biases are listed. Of course, it is impossible to overcome them all at once, but knowing about them is still useful and develops awareness.

In the first stage of mindfulness, we develop the ability to recognize bias when it deceives your or someone else’s mind. That’s why we need to know what prejudices are.

In the second step, we learn to spot bias in real time. This ability is formed only in the course of consistent practice. The best way to succeed on the path of becoming aware of false prejudices is to take a deep breath before all the important words and decisions.

Whenever you are about to take an important step, breathe in. Pause. Give yourself a few seconds to think. What’s happening? Is there bias in my judgments? Why do I want to do this?

Every cognitive distortion is a little raindrop on the windshield. A few drops may not hurt, but if they flood the entire glass, it’s like moving in the dark.

Once you have a general understanding of what cognitive distortions are and how they function, a short pause is often enough to come to your senses and look at things from a different angle.

So don’t rush. Drive carefully. And turn on your wipers before it’s too late.

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