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8 Mistakes Our Brains Make Every Day And How To Prevent Them

The "swimmer's body illusion"

It's a thinking mistake and it occurs when we confuse selection factors with results. 

Professional swimmers don't have perfect bodies because they train extensively. Rather, they are good swimmers because of their physiques.

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8 Mistakes Our Brains Make Every Day And How To Prevent Them

8 Mistakes Our Brains Make Every Day And How To Prevent Them

https://www.businessinsider.com/8-common-thinking-mistakes-our-brains-make-every-day-and-how-to-prevent-them-2013-10

businessinsider.com

8

Key Ideas

Information that matches our beliefs

We surround ourselves with it: We tend to like people who think like us; if we agree with someone's beliefs, we're more likely to be friends with them.

This makes sense, but it means that we subconsciously begin to ignore or dismiss anything that threatens our world views

The "swimmer's body illusion"

It's a thinking mistake and it occurs when we confuse selection factors with results. 

Professional swimmers don't have perfect bodies because they train extensively. Rather, they are good swimmers because of their physiques.

The sunk cost fallacy

It plays on this tendency of ours to emphasize loss over gain.

The term sunk cost refers to any cost that has been paid already and cannot be recovered. The reason we can't ignore the cost, even though it's already been paid, is that we're wired to feel loss far more strongly than gain.

The gambler's fallacy

It is a glitch in our thinking that occurs when we place too much weight on past events, believing that they will have an effect on future outcomes.

The positive expectation bias

This is when we mistakenly think that eventually, our luck has to change for the better.

Somehow, we find it impossible to accept bad results and give up—we often insist on keeping at it until we get positive results, regardless of what the odds of that happening actually are.

The Buyer's Stockholm Syndrome

It happens when we rationalize our purchases, even if we're not satisfied with what we've got.

We're pretty good at convincing ourselves that those flashy, useless, badly thought-out purchases are necessary after all. 

The anchoring effect

It essentially works like this: rather than making a decision based on pure value for investment (time, money, etc.), we factor in comparative value—that is, how much value an option offers when compared to another option.

Memories vs. facts

We believe our memories more than facts. Our memories are highly fallible and plastic. And yet, we tend to subconsciously favor them over objective facts. 

Don't base a factual decision on your gut instinct without at least exploring the data objectively first.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Decision-making errors

Most decision-making errors boil down to:

  • logical fallacies (over-generalizations, comparing apples and oranges, circular thinking)
  • limiting beliefs (underes...
Confirmation Bias

If you already have an opinion about something before you've even tried to figure it out, chances are you'll over-value information that confirms that opinion.

Think about what kinds of information you would expect to find to support alternative outcomes.

Attribution Bias

The “fundamental attribution error,” is when we excuse our own mistakes but blame other people for theirs.

Give other people the chance to explain themselves before judging their behavior.

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All fears are not created equal

Some are useful, and some are useless fears that you can't or shouldn't do anything about. 

They sap your strength for no reason, and you shou...

Fear can harm you

In scuba diving, for instance, fear can cause you to breathe too fast, swim too hard, move too suddenly, fail to take note of your surroundings, or rise too quickly toward the surface.

Knowing that fear has the potential to harm you can help you set it aside. Fold up that fear, put it in a box, and promise you'll get back to it later at a less dangerous time.

Fear and chemicals

You may think it's your judgment deciding that something is dangerous and you should be afraid, but what actually happens is that fear chemicals are flooding into your brain.

Experiments have shown that fear can be induced artificially by injecting certain chemicals. Do the chemicals know what you should and shouldn't be afraid of? They don't. You do.

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Status quo bias
Status quo bias

Status quo bias is when we prefer that our environment and situation should remain unchanged.

The bias has the most impact in the area of decision-making, as we tend to pre...

Common Explanations for Status Quo Bias

These explanations are all irrational for preferring the status quo:

  • Loss Aversion: When we make decisions, we weigh the potential for loss more heavily than the potential for gain.
  • Sunk Costs: We continue to invest resources like time, money, or effort into a specific endeavor just because we are already invested, not because it is the best choice.
  • Cognitive Dissonance: In decision-making, we an option as more valuable once we have chosen it. Considering an alternative can cause cognitive dissonance.
  • Mere Exposure Effect: It states that people prefer something they've been exposed to before.
  • Rationality vs. Irrationality: We may choose to keep our current situation because of the potential transition cost of switching to an alternative. It becomes irrational when we ignore choices that can improve a situation because we want to maintain the status quo.
Status Quo Bias examples
  • When offered several sandwich options, individuals often choose a sandwich they have eaten before.
  • In 1985, Coca Cola reformulated the original Coke flavor and started selling a "New Coke." Although blind taste tests found many consumers preferred New Coke, consumers continued to buy Coke Classic. New Coke was discontinued in 1992.
  • In political elections, the current candidate is more likely to win than the challenger.
Making Your Budget Too Strict

Budget for the life you have. When you’re going through your budget and assigning spending categories, be realistic. 

Don’t tell yourself you’ll never buy a single discretionary i...

Budgeting for a Life You Can’t Afford

This becomes a problem when you’re spending for a life you can’t afford. It puts pressure on your budget and encourages you to live in a paycheck to paycheck cycle.

Assess your financial situation, cut back on your expenses, prioritize your money goals, and then come up with a new spending plan.

Budgeting Without a Purpose

It’s hard to stick to a budget that doesn’t have a goal.

When there isn’t one, your budget becomes an afterthought rather than a spending plan to reach your financial goals.

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Confirmation bias

People don't like to rethink their beliefs once they are formed. 

We would rather ignore information that would challenge our ideas than engage with threatening new information. This is ...

Availability heuristic

Our brain likes to take shortcuts to solve a problem when normal methods are too slow to find a solution. 

The problem with this approach is that frightening events are easier to recall than every-day events. We should be aware that alarmist news broadcasts don't help in an accurate sense of events.

Anchoring

We have a tendency to stubbornly hold on to a number once we hear it and gauge all other numbers based on the initial number, even if the information is not that relevant.

For example, if customers are limited to 'four per customer' they are more likely to buy four, even if they did not initially intend to do so.

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Default options

Deciding is too much effort so we’re likely to just stick with the default or safer option if it’s already been chosen for us. 

When we get offered too many choices, the same...

Best decision making happens in the morning

This is when serotonin is at it’s natural high, which helps to calm our brain. Thus, we feel less risk averse and so we can face risks and make harder choices.

The part our bodies play in decision-making

If we’re feeling hunger, thirst or sexual desire, that can actually spill over into the decision areas of our brains, making us feel more desire for big rewards when we make choices. 

This can lead us to make higher-risk choices and to want for more.

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Opportunity Cost

It is the estimated value of the best alternative or the best option that one misses out as a consequence of picking one particular option.

Example: Spending a limited resource, lik...

Opportunity Cost in Non-financial Situations

Opportunity cost in non-financial situations is more difficult to quantify. The loss or gain with choosing an option while foregoing another can be subjective and not readily comparable.

Example: While deciding on which job offer to take, we may consider job satisfaction, brand name, commute time, long-term growth, and the salary offered. While finalizing, we have to forego the other best offer. While deciding on a career, we have to consider options like prestige, impact and the work sector.

Calculating Opportunity Cost

The way to calculate the opportunity cost is to subtract the value of the option from the value of the alternative that is foregone.

Opportunity Cost = Return on the best foregone alternative - Return on the chosen option.

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Keep yourself accountable

Making a commitment to yourself helps keep you accountable. 

Write your goals down, keep a to-do list with you, and create reminders on your phone and on your calendar.

Make yourself accountable to others
  • Tell everyone what you plan to do and talk about your goals. Tell friends, employees, and employers your intentions and you won’t want to let them down. 
  • Start documenting and sharing your journey. A blog or vlog where you share the projects you’re working on and your progress will encourage you to get things done. 
Cut out temptations

If you’re a chronic procrastinator and simply can’t resist the temptations of things like Facebook and Youtube, it might be time to cut out temptations.

There are tools such as Rescue Time, SelfControl and Focus that will temporarily block access to distracting websites like Facebook. Less aggressive tools such as Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator and Distraction Free Youtube will allow you to have access to Facebook and Youtube but block the distracting parts of these websites (such as the newsfeed).

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Fallacies

A fallacy is the use of faulty reasoning in an argument.

There are formal and informal fallacies:

  • A formal fallacy describes a flaw in the construction of a deductive ar...
Appeal to privacy

In this fallacy, someone behaves in a way that negatively affects others but then gets upset when others criticize their behavior. They will reply with a "mind your own business."
For instance, someone who doesn't see a reason to bathe, but then boards a full 10-hour flight.

Sunk cost fallacy

It happens when someone continues in a course of action, even if evidence shows that it's a mistake.

Common phrase: "We've always done it this way, so we'll keep doing it this way." "I've already invested so much..."

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Why decision-making blunders are made

Each day, we automatically make thousands of choices, from what time to wake up to what to eat.

The problem with this automatic processing is that there are instances when we jump to concl...

6 of the largest decision-making blunders
  1. Sunk-cost fallacy. Present yourself with the new options at hand -- without considering the sunk cost.

  2. Narrow framing. When we're in situations that will repeat themselves over time, we should take a step back and play a game of averages.

  3. Emotionally driven decisions. Hold off on making important decisions when you are in a bad mood.

  4.  Confirmation bias. Always look for conflicting evidence and then make judgments based on more well-rounded information.

  5. Ego depletion. When we're drained, physically or mentally, we're less likely to think critically.

  6. The halo effect says that once we like somebody, we're more likely to look for his or her positive characteristics and avoid the negative ones. Realize your biases toward certain people and do what you can to eliminate them.