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Natural Accident - Self-development
Natural Accident - Self-development

Video: Natural Accident - Self-development

Video: Natural Accident - Self-development
Video: The Dark Side of Self Improvement | Suzanne Eder | TEDxWilmington 2023, April

"Like snow on your head", "like a bolt from the blue" - these phrases express our attitude to the unpredictability of the situation. We often find ourselves not ready to perceive the events taking place as a pattern. Why are we being deceived? The point is that our ideas about probability differ from the real state of affairs.

Climb above instructions

An interesting illustration of the regularity of accidents is the film "Everest", based on real events. Let me remind you that the picture tells about the death of five climbers in 1996. The story is tragic and interesting because there was nothing accidental in it: no stone slipped out from under the foot, a jammed carbine or a frayed rope. Note, then, on Everest, it was not beginners who were unable to correctly assess the danger, died - no, there were professional climbers and guides.

A group of climbers made a difficult climb, which usually takes about nine hours. Nine more had to be left for the descent. Not all climbers managed to climb to the top by two o'clock, but the leader of the group decided to continue climbing. As a result, some members of the expedition did not have time to descend before dark, they were covered by a storm and many died.

In order to avoid such situations, the leaders of the expeditions developed safety rules. Why, when it was time to follow the instructions, did the climbers choose to ignore them?

It is curious that almost anyone who found themselves in the shoes of professional athletes would behave in a similar way. This is because we are all prone to cognitive biases. *

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Cognitive biases are systematic errors inherent in our cognitive processes, leading to the fact that a person draws wrong conclusions, incorrectly evaluates the state of affairs. Such errors are not situational or individual. They are inherent in all people and are natural limitations of the human mind. Knowing about cognitive biases can come in handy when forming opinions and making decisions.

Delusions of reason

In most cases, safety measures do not make our life easier: it is harder to run in a bulletproof vest than without it; in protective gloves it is difficult to grasp a small part, the seat belt presses on the stomach, and safety glasses press the bridge of the nose. And most importantly, if we neglect all this, in many situations nothing terrible will happen. Because most of these things are designed for extraordinary cases. A shot, an accident, chips flying into the eye - this can happen once or twice in a lifetime. Or it may not happen at all.

It never occurs to anyone to take the tray out of the oven with bare hands, because in this case you get a burn every time and immediately. This is called instant negative reinforcement. On the other hand, life only becomes easier without a seat belt and body armor. And so every time. Until that very extraordinary case occurs, which can lead to death.

Intelligence is a certain form of balance

Jean Piaget

Both leaders of the expedition were highly qualified climbers, and therefore trusted their own intuition too much and considered themselves above the rules, even those that they themselves formulated. This was not the first time they had violated safety procedures, and they got away with it. But this time it didn't work out.

It may seem that an unprecedented storm has confused all the cards for them. But the trick is that there was nothing unusual about this storm - by the standards of Everest, the storm was quite average. It turned out to be unexpected only because our ideas about probability are very different from how things actually happen.

For several years in a row, the weather on Everest was favorable for climbing. The expedition leaders estimated the likelihood of bad weather only on the basis of their own experience. More than once the coin fell on the lucky side for them, but with a sufficiently large number of tosses of tails, the same number of heads inevitably falls out.

Get into the "stream"


Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, investigating errors in decision-making, asked the subjects the following question: “Do you think which of the sequences of heads and tails is more likely: O-R-O-R-R-O or O-O-O- R-R-R? " Although both sequences are equally likely, most people point to the former because it looks more "random." If you conduct an experiment yourself, tossing a coin a few dozen times, you will notice that groups of four, five or even six heads or tails in a row occur much more often than you thought. Gamblers call this "jets" and believe that they can be somehow felt or even controlled, but in reality this is just the counterintuitive way that probability works.

Attachment protection

Another cognitive error that affects our perception is called “investing protection” - the more money, time, or energy you put into something, the more you want to keep doing it. That is why a person is more likely to dissolve a marriage in which he is unhappy for a year than one in which he lived for ten years. The player in the casino tries to win back the more, the more he has already lost. If you bought uncomfortable shoes, the more you pay for them, the more you wear them.

In his book Mental Traps, André Koukla writes: “We enthusiastically sit down for a game in Monopoly and begin to experience boredom long before it ends. But instead of giving up, we carry on without any pleasure … the more we go the further we go. If we only made a few moves in a boring game, our efforts are so small that we can write them off without much regret. But after several hours of a dull and dreary game, it seems to us shameful not to endure a little more and not to bring it to the end. After all, efforts will be thrown to the wind!

This is, of course, a false argument. The joylessly spent hours have already been thrown into the wind. They cannot be restored by the fact that the game will still be completed. It's time to stop the flow of losses and put an end to this business. Paradoxically, it is the instinct to conserve energy that leads us to even greater losses."

Predictable irrationality


Psychologists who study cognitive biases are very fond of this type of visual illusion. Take a closer look at the segments - which one is shorter?

This illusion is interesting not because we are mistaken in estimating the length of the lines (you never know what we are mistaken in when assessing by eye), but in the fact that to all people, without exception, the top line seems longer. Our eyes trick us in a systematic and predictable way.

Israeli psychologist Dan Arieli writes that we are not just irrational, but "predictably irrational - our irrationality is expressed the same way over and over again."

Take, for example, the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. It would seem that it is very far from the tragedy on Everest, but in terms of cognitive distortions, the two stories have much in common. Dietrich Derner, in The Logic of Failure, mentions very similar reasons.

Like Hall's group, whose ascent to Everest was delayed several times, the Chernobyl NPP team also had to work under temporary pressure - the tests were started nine hours later than planned. Like the climbers, the station staff were considered a well-played team of professionals. In the same way, safety precautions were systematically violated. “If we talk about 'human refusal' in the sense of a duty unfulfilled by someone,” Derner writes, “nothing of the kind happened. Nobody fell asleep at the post, did not miss the signal. Everything that happened was done by the operators consciously and, obviously, with full confidence in the correctness of their actions.

Such self-confidence is not unique to nuclear reactor personnel. In any industrial plant and any driver who does not wear a seat belt, you will find this flattering confidence."

What to do?

First, remember the recommendation of the Canadian psychologist Norman Doidge: don't believe everything you think - your brain creates some thoughts simply because it is made that way. Second, study how the brain works to understand when it can be trusted and when it cannot. And third, always wear your seat belt in your car. Perhaps in many situations it will seem useless to you, but one day it will save your life.


Living in distortion


Let's dwell on a few more familiar cognitive biases. For example, when planning, it is often difficult to determine the completion date of a case. We sincerely call "real deadlines", leaving too little time, and in the end we do not have time (and we just need to admit the fact that the last 5% of the work takes up 30% of the allotted time). And the eternal arrogance? We believe that we will never be affected by divorce, illness, or job loss, but it will all happen to someone else. The same accident (and therefore it is not necessary to wear a seat belt). This overemphasis on optimism makes people underestimate the risks, but at the same time, it helps to hope and motivates to achieve. All of us more than once began to look for a bunch of flaws in an item that we really wanted, but did not have time to acquire. In this case, such a cognitive distortion as "loss aversion" is actively working. And certainly we are all subject to the effect of "familiarity with the object" - the tendency to express unreasonable sympathy for a person (object, phenomenon) just because we are familiar with him.


candidate of psychological sciences

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