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Thoughts For Sure. How To Deal With Cognitive Bias - Self-development
Thoughts For Sure. How To Deal With Cognitive Bias - Self-development

Video: Thoughts For Sure. How To Deal With Cognitive Bias - Self-development

Video: Thoughts For Sure. How To Deal With Cognitive Bias - Self-development
Video: 12 Cognitive Biases Explained - How to Think Better and More Logically Removing Bias 2023, March

In connection with the fashion for "cognitive biases" there has been a tendency to combine phenomena and effects of different origins. The Internet is replete with long lists of these very distortions, which include almost all features of human perception, thinking, motivation and behavior known to social and cognitive psychology. How to understand this combined hodgepodge?

About the roots

The development of our thinking towards rationality is nothing more than a struggle with the mechanisms of magical thinking that naturally formed in ancient times. It is not for nothing that recently the most powerful "cognitive distortion" has been the loss of trust in other people's experience and, more broadly, in rational knowledge. And this is happening not only because the world scientific thought has been in a permanent crisis for half a century. The point, it seems, is also that the pace and scale of changes in the life of mankind over the past decades have exceeded all permissible norms, forcing huge masses of the population to retreat under the pressure of innovations to the distant defense lines of civilizational experience - religious and magical thinking. It is not for nothing that many cognitive distortions (illusion of control, preference for zero risk, etc.) are, in fact,a form of unconscious "distrust" of scientifically based laws.

The brain is not a machine

The human brain is often compared to a computer. The analogy is not the best, but it is convenient for our case, since all kinds of errors and program failures are really present in both "devices". It is fundamentally important that, unlike a computer, the reasons for our mistakes lie in very human things - in relations with others, the need to maintain high self-esteem, the desire to live in an understandable world, the dislike of uncertainty and the desire to get rid of it faster by accepting at least some then decisions, etc. So the most human thing in us is just our mistakes, which is indirectly confirmed by the results of investigations of all kinds of accidents and disasters, which indicate that a significant percentage of them are due to the “human factor”.

Old software

The results of recent studies using modern tomographs and other computer complexities confirm one of the most popular theories of the origin of cognitive distortions today, the essence of which boils down to the fact that what in today's realities is a "mistake" at the time of its inception was, on the contrary, a way of adaptation and promoted survival. Indeed, from a physiological point of view, most cognitive biases are aimed at saving time or brain energy. But the problem is that consciousness arose so long ago that many of its physiological "tools" and principles of work, which functioned wonderfully at the dawn of mankind, have turned into "old software" today, because of which our thinking computer periodically "freezes" or gives system crashes.

Conscientious delusions

We do not like the discontinuity and incompleteness of the real world, and therefore we successfully fill in the gaps in perception due to previous experience or reasoning by analogy. We are also big fans of sequential constructions or stories. And therefore, they tend to unconsciously "complete" stories and add missing details in them. Moreover, we also manage to sincerely believe in these completed stories! And when our version is quite reasonably questioned, we begin to take offense and sincerely defend our innocence! These effects are familiar to investigators who have to deal with witness statements. This case is so common that in legal psychology even a special term has been coined - "conscientious delusion."

Illusion of control

Do not forget that we do not have many opportunities to manage our lives. So everything that is related to our safety or our vital interests has a strong emotional connotation. And if we are emotionally involved in a process, then we tend to see cause-and-effect relationships where they do not exist, for example, in a random sequence of numbers at the game table (player's effect) or in a sequence of events that are not related to each other (the effect of paired cases, the "happy hand" fallacy). And if such inferences are included in the system of magical thinking, then it is not at all difficult to find “fateful” signs and connections around you. So, on the one hand, the outside world is filled for such people with many "significant" connections,on the other hand, they get the opportunity to “influence” and / or “control” important events, which in the logic of rational thinking cannot be controlled in principle (illusion of control).

The power of horoscopes

thoughts for sure
thoughts for sure

Needless to say, the belief in the possibility of such control is perfectly combined with the remarkable human ability to perceive very generalized and vague descriptions of the personal properties of some "zodiac signs" as an accurate portrait of oneself beloved! Named after the 19th century American showman Finneas Barnum, this effect feeds a large army of all kinds of predictors.

I knew it

We are especially strong in reasoning after the fact! A lot of people after some significant event walk around with an instructive look and the phrase: "I told you so!" Moreover, there are only a few real Cassandras among this crowd of strong "hindsight" characters. This effect is called "retrospective distortion", or "I knew it!" The same type of distortion can be attributed to quite a household “rationalization after the purchase”, when, having bought something at a high price that is completely unnecessary for us, we begin to convince ourselves that our choice was correct.

Friend or Foe

The problem is that some features of perception since ancient times are closely related to the "natural" processes of the formation of group identity, when, in order to isolate themselves from the mass of other people, group members begin to form a special attitude towards "friends" and "aliens" … Following a long-standing tradition, “ours”, of course, appear always white and fluffy, and “strangers”, respectively, as those who should be feared because of their unpredictability, dissimilarity and “foreignness”.


Such processes become even more active in conflict situations. This is where several interrelated effects associated with the process of “polarization” come into play, which work for the final separation of the conflicting parties: fundamental attribution error, selective perception, negative stereotyping, sacrifice trap, self-fulfilling prophecies, depersonalization and, in fact, the polarization effect itself. Without going into details, we can say that all these cognitive distortions and effects ultimately lead to the formation of an "enemy image" and, accordingly, to obtaining internal permission to kill this very enemy without a twinge of conscience. It can be stated with sadness that today in some post-Soviet countries the processes of polarization are identified with the processes of building national identity.

Thinking means talking to oneself

Immanuel Kant

On the shelves

Conventionally, cognitive distortions can be divided into several groups:

  • 1) those that are caused by all sorts of effects that arise in the process of communication between individuals and in groups of people (from very small to peoples and nations);
  • 2) those that are due to the "constructive" features of the functioning of our thinking, perception and memory (inherited from our ancestors);
  • 3) those based on the desire to maintain a good attitude towards oneself and various other motives.
thoughts for sure
thoughts for sure

Interpersonal affairs

Social psychologists were among the first to notice that something was wrong, with a lot of research devoted to the "effects of interpersonal perception." Traditionally, these include: the effect of the attitude is a well-known thing concerning the fact that our first impression of a person can be determined by the information available about him in advance; the halo effect is why people's attitudes towards film actors in life are often determined by the behavior of their on-screen characters; the effect of "primacy and novelty" - we judge about unfamiliar people by the information that came to us first, and about acquaintances - by the last, most "fresh"; the effect of stereotyping is the tendency to simplify information about people by assigning them to a group, etc.

Making decisions

Later, managers and businessmen came along, for whom the problems of planning and decision-making in a situation of uncertainty are a matter of survival. Nassim Taleb, in his famous "Black Swan", highlights the following cognitive biases that make our life difficult when predicting and making decisions:

  • confirmation error - an involuntary tendency to look in the incoming information only for what confirms our opinion or assumption;
  • distortion of the narrative - the desire to pack all the complexity and contradictions of the surrounding reality into simplified, condensed, but logical stories from our point of view;
  • the problem of hidden evidence - “what we see may not be all that is in the world”;
  • "Tunneling" - the tendency to focus only on obvious "zones of uncertainty".

How to deal with this?

Experimental scientists have come up with quite effective means of neutralizing such influences, which can be effectively applied in other areas. One of the most popular methods is the disinformation of the subjects, when the participants in the experiment are unaware of what and why they are participating. There is also a "blind method" and even a "double-blind method", as well as a method of dividing a general hypothesis into separate components and, accordingly, conducting different parts of the experiment by different people who are not aware of the main hypothesis. Karl Popper's famous demand that scientific theories (and, in a broad sense, all scientific knowledge) be “falsifiable”, that is, the need to search for evidence of the incorrectness of this theory instead of proof of its correctness, can also be ranked among the methods of dealing with cognitive errors.

For those wishing to personally avoid falling into the net of "cognitive distortions", classes on the development of critical thinking are suitable. With mistakes in the social sphere, the situation is much more complicated, because eliminating the consequences of the same polarization requires a huge educational and explanatory work and more than one year of effort. And if the consequences of military conflicts are eliminated, we can talk about tens of years of hard work on "post-conflict peace-building."

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