Our self-esteem is vital for personal well-being and happiness. People with higher self-esteem are more satisfied with their lives.
But sometimes, life doesn't give us any reasons for self-love. We get fired, or a relationship ends. Under the influence of bias from self-interest, we may change the facts so that they become acceptable. In some cases, this can grow harmful.
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We go to great lengths to preserve our self-image, even when we engage in behaviours that are inconsistent with our inner self-image. We may use phrases such as "not telling the truth is not lying", "I didn't have the time" to justify our actions.
The drive to save face is so strong that it often overrules and contradicts the effects of rewards and punishments. We may ignore our moral compass and instead find rationales for the bad, but fixable, choices that we repeat when it suits us.
A person with a strong self-serving bias may have little capacity to assess a situation objectively.
In his speech, The psychology of human misjudgment, Charlie Munger considers the tendencies of serious criminals in Tolstoy's novels.
The criminals defend themselves in one of two ways:
Denial happens when we have a serious thought about reality but decide to ignore it. For example, discovering a dark spot on your skin that you want to ignore. Later, it becomes darker, and eventually, you may visit the doctor. Some denial may serve as a buffer to absorb the information, but once denial becomes the default coping mechanism, it can amplify our problems and cause harm.
The psychological effects of drug addiction and alcoholism can lead people to believe that they have remained in a respectable condition with good prospects even if they continue to deteriorate.
We will do dumb things. However, we are not doomed to live in denial or keep trying to justify our actions. We can choose to correct our tendencies when we recognise them.
We can break the self-justification habit by reflecting on our behaviour and the reasons for our behaviour. Resisting the urge for self-justification is not easy, but it is much better than letting it cripple the integrity of our behaviours.
When we face a decision whose consequences are morally ambiguous, the first choice starts the process of entrapment. It leads us to justify our actions, which leads to further action in the wrong direction, which increases the intensity of our choice. This causes a vicious cycle of self-justification.
The implication is that if we don't draw the line, our habits and circumstances will do it for us.
On a personal level, Charlie Munger suggests we should face two facts:
On an institutional level, Munger suggests:
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 prefer the more familiar choice over the less familiar, but often better, option.
Cognitive Bias is a predictable pattern of mental errors where we misperceive reality and move away from the most likely way of reaching our goals.
These mental blind spots impact all areas of life. Cognitive biases have to do with judgment, not mood.
Chances are, at some point in your life, you’ve tried to change your behavior through sheer willpower. And chances are, you also failed miserably. Don’t feel bad! This is what happens most of the time.