21 Mind Traps: A Guide to your most common Thinking errors pt. 1 - Deepstash
21 Mind Traps: A Guide to your most common Thinking errors pt. 1

21 Mind Traps: A Guide to your most common Thinking errors pt. 1

Curated from: Escaping Ordinary (B.C Marx)

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1. Cognitive Dissonance

1. Cognitive Dissonance

“Cognitive dissonance is when we have conflicting beliefs and try to ease the discomfort by creating a new belief.”

  • Aesop's fable of the fox and grapes is where the term "sour grapes" comes from.
  • The fox couldn't get the grapes, but instead of admitting defeat, he convinced himself they weren't good enough. This is cognitive dissonance - when two beliefs conflict.
  • E.g., if you don't get a job, you may tell yourself the job wasn't that great anyway.

When we can't get what we want, we often try to change our thoughts to justify our disappointment.

This can lead to mental stress and discomfort. 


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The fox had three choices:

  1. get the grapes,
  2. admit defeat, or
  3. create a new belief to justify not getting them.
  • If you think rich people are evil, but you also want to be rich, this contradiction causes cognitive dissonance. 
  • If the dissonance grows more intense, it can lead to depression.


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2. The Spotlight Effect

2. The Spotlight Effect

The phenomenon in which we overestimate how much people are watching us.

It can cause anxiety, but do yourself a favor and remember that people are seldom interested in you as much as you think.

Examples of the Spotlight Effect:

  • Arriving late to the office
  • Your first day at a new gym
  • Spilling something on your shirt

Remember:  you are not the center of attention and people are not scrutinizing your every move. 👀


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3: The Anchoring Effect

3: The Anchoring Effect

The Anchoring Effect is a cognitive bias that can significantly influence our decisions, even without us knowing it.

When facing unfamiliar territory, our minds tend to use anchors to guide us.

However, these anchors can sometimes be misleading, causing us to make inaccurate guesses and decisions.

  • Have you ever guessed the weight of an object by comparing it to an anchor point?
  • Or do you use anchor points when trying to estimate a statistic, like the population of a country?


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  • In one study, German judges were asked to roll a pair of loaded dice after being shown a random number of either 3 or 9.
  • Those who rolled a 9 gave on average, an 8 month sentence to a woman who was caught shoplifting, while those who rolled a 3 gave on average, a 5 month sentence.
  • In sales and negotiations, Anchors are used to trick us into making decisions that may not be in our best interest.
  • This can happen with car salesmen, online stores, salary negotiations, and real estate deals.


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To avoid the Anchoring Effect:

  • Set your own mental anchors before going into any sales or negotiation environment
  • Avoid long blocks of text
  • Use bullet-points or numbered lists to concisely explain ideas


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4: The Halo Effect

4: The Halo Effect

The halo effect occurs when a single, initial aspect of a person or thing determines and affects or “outshines” how we see the full picture.

First impressions about Alan and Ben:

  1. Alan: intelligent, industrious, impulsive, critical, stubborn, envious.
  2. Ben: envious, stubborn, critical, impulsive, industrious, intelligent.
  • When you meet someone, the first thing you learn will have a big impact on how you feel about them. 
  • You may think that the other traits are impacted by that key detail. More weight is given to the first thing we hear.


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The Problem: Our brains quickly come up with a narrative based on the first piece of information we get.

Even though both Alan and Ben have the same traits, we may believe that Alan is better than Ben, because we first heard that he was intelligent and industrious.

  • When you first start dating someone, both parties in the relationship are on their best behavior.  
  • You start to develop a halo of positive thoughts around this person. The honeymoon phase of a relationship is often when the Halo effect influences your judgment the most.


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In the workplace, it's common for the first people to speak in a meeting to have more influence, but it's better to gather independent opinions first before discussing.

Research shows that first impressions can greatly impact our judgment of someone, leading to distorted perceptions. To avoid this:

  • Do not rely on first impressions
  • Get multiple opinions before making a decision
  • Avoid attributing too much importance to initial judgments


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5: Gambler's Fallacy

5: Gambler's Fallacy

A common misconception that can lead to poor decision making by assuming that a desired outcome is more likely due to past events.

Examples of Gambler's Fallacy:

  • Choosing tails on a coin toss after heads were flipped three times in a row, even though both outcomes are equally likely
  • Believing that a sequence of decisions will balance out, such as predicting the next roll of a dice or roulette wheel
  • Feeling uneasy after answering the same letter choice multiple times in a row on a test
  • Judges being more likely to deny asylum when they have previously approved an asylum seeker


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6: The Contrast Effect

6: The Contrast Effect

The Contrast Effect shows how our perception of something can be influenced by its surroundings.

  • If something appears less expensive when compared to something more expensive, it could be the Contrast Effect in play.
  • This can affect our purchasing decisions in various ways, and even make us walk an extra 10 minutes to save $10 on food, while we are not willing to walk the same amount of time to save $10 on a more expensive purchase like a $1,000 suit.

Remember: Next time you go shopping, be aware of the Contrast Effect and try to make mindful purchasing decisions.


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7: Confirmation Bias

7: Confirmation Bias

  • You have a strong belief about something and you only seek out information that supports it, ignoring anything that contradicts it. This is known as confirmation bias.
  • Our brains are naturally wired to cling to our beliefs and it takes effort to seek out opposing evidence. The easier path is to simply stick to our beliefs and feel good, but this can limit our understanding of the truth.

In socio-political discourses

  • It creates an "I'm always right ego" that makes it hard to accept other perspectives
  • It causes people to live in an alternate reality and ignore facts


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<ul><li>It results in echo cha...

  • It results in echo chambers, where the same ideas are repeated and any opposing views are shut down
  • It makes it challenging to have a discussion about facts because each side is only looking for evidence that supports their beliefs

How can we reduce the impact of Confirmation Bias?

  • Become aware of its existence and try to "think gray"
  • Expand beyond the group mentality by seeking information from diverse sources
  • Avoid accepting beliefs solely because they are repeated by others or align with our views


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“A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.”



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8: The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

8: The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

Have you experienced suddenly seeing the same thing everywhere after learning about it?

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon is an illusion where your increased awareness makes you think something is appearing more.

  • It's like when you buy a new car and start seeing it everywhere.
  • Or you learn a new word and suddenly hear it multiple times.


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This is because our brains are always searching for patterns and meaning. But it can also be triggered by two other biases:

  1. The Recency Effect: which makes recent things seem more important.
  2. Confirmation bias: which confirms these strange coincidences we think we're experiencing.

Your brain is constantly filtering out stimuli that isn't in your awareness.

So next time you experience the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, remember it's just your brain playing tricks on you. 😉


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9: Zeigarnik Effect

9: Zeigarnik Effect

We remember unfinished tasks better than completed ones. This is called the Zeigarnik Effect.

  • Instead of stressing, write a plan to complete your tasks.
  • Simply having a plan can reduce the effect.
  • Get tasks out of your mind and onto paper for peace of mind. 


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10: The Paradox of Choice

10: The Paradox of Choice

  • At a supermarket, a study was conducted to see the effects of offering a larger vs smaller selection of jam.
  • Results showed that more people were attracted to a larger variety, but the smaller selection led to higher sales. This is the paradox of choice.
  • In modern day dating, having too many choices can lead to decision fatigue and hinder finding the perfect partner. A smaller selection can lead to more optimal decisions.

(☞゚ヮ゚)☞ Remember, sometimes less is more. ☜(゚ヮ゚☜)


119 reads



Content Curator | Absurdist | Amateur Gamer | Failed musician | Successful pessimist | Pianist |


This series explores 21 different cognitive mind traps, fallacies, biases and other phenomenon that exist within your brain. This series is inspired by Daniel Kahneman's "Thinking Fast and Slow."

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