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How “Science Says” Blinds Human Brains From Thinking Clearly

How “Science Says” Blinds Human Brains From Thinking Clearly

“Lies, damned lies, and statistics!” Have you heard this phrase before? It demonstrates how people can use statistics to strengthen arguments, specifically weak arguments.

    This simple comic demonstrates a logical fallacy we often fall for. We have all deferred to an expert or a position of authority before, yet how do we know they were accurate? This is called Authority Bias. Let’s take a look at how this works:[1]

    1. Person X is an authority in a particular field.
    2. Person X says something about a topic in their respective field.
    3. Person X is probably correct because they’re an expert.

    Another form of bias we typically fall victim to is Confirmation Bias. This occurs from the direct influence of desire on our beliefs. If we wish a certain idea or concept to be true, we end up believing it to be true. This leads to completely ignoring or rejecting information because we have already formed and embraced a specific belief. [2]

    We can never be 100% confident.

      A skeptical mind is a good thing. We can be 100% confident that we can never be 100% confident!

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      Let me show you what I mean through the use of hypothesis testing. What comes to mind when you hear a “not guilty” decision? Do you think there is any chance the person could have actually been guilty? A “not guilty” verdict could mean different things. For example, it could mean the jury was absolutely sure the person didn’t commit the crime (still we can never be 100%) or they were pretty sure the person didn’t commit the crime and had a reasonable doubt.

        If a jury were to convict an innocent person, this would be a Type I Error. Alternatively, by not convicting a guilty person, this would be Type II Error. Hypothesis testing reminds me of a quote from Benjamin Franklin,

        “It is better to let 100 guilty men go free than to convict one innocent man.”

          So, what can we do to overcome bias? Let’s look at a couple techniques… but first, let me ask you a simple question.

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          Knowing that we can never be 100% confident, could Einstein have been wrong? The answer is a profound yes. In fact, scientists behind a theory that the speed of light is variable, and not constant as Einstein suggested, have made a prediction they plan to test. [3] So, if one of the smartest people in history could have been wrong, this should demonstrate that anyone can be wrong.

          Always try to prove yourself wrong.

          What would happen if we always tried to prove ourselves wrong? Typically, we accept the hypothesis. If we try to look for evidence, the natural course for us is to seek out evidence confirming the hypothesis. Yet, by doing this, we ignore the fact that the evidence could provide us a different explanation. [4]

          “We are trying to prove ourselves wrong as quickly as possible, because only in that way can we find progress.” – Richard Feynman

          Use the rule of 3.

          Another powerful technique is the Rule of 3. Here you identify three potential causes for each issue. A study published in the Journal of Accounting Research revealed that auditors who develop three hypotheses are actually more efficient at identifying misstatements through the use of analytical procedures. [5]

          Let’s take a look at how Andy Snyder recommends using the Rule of 3 tactic. [6]

          • Train yourself to understand that what you first believe is not necessarily right or wrong. It is likely somewhere in the middle.
          • Create 3 distinct hypotheses as you work to discover the truth. By tracking 3 distinct ideas, it forces us to go beyond right or wrong. It forces us to explore the gray areas.
          • Strive to update your beliefs and reward yourself when you do. Snyder says this is the hallmark of a finely tuned mind.

          I also have another unique way to attack this issue. Let’s take a look.

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          Blinded by Numbers + Bias = Hypothesis

          Your hypothesis becomes the outcome.

          Here’s my Hypothesis for bias (using deductive reasoning)

          • Premise #1: People are easily convinced by statistics.
          • Premise #2: Statistics are difficult to understand, so people fail to question them.
          • Premise #3: People fail to question the experts.

          Conclusion: Therefore, people blindly defer to the experts.

          So, what can you do? Follow my winning formula Solution – Hypothesis = New Outcome.

          My Solution for overcoming bias:

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            • Step #1: Become aware of your bias.
            • Step #2: Remember your purpose or objective. Numbers are only indicators, so let them only serve as such and not your conclusion.
            • Step #3: Use a technique to develop your hypothesis (i.e. Prove Yourself Wrong or the Rule of 3)
            • Step #4: Use Argument Maps.

              Lastly, let’s end by looking at a famous parable – The Blind Men and an Elephant. This is the story of a group of blind men and their first encounter with an elephant. They learn how to conceptualize the elephant by touching it. They each feel different parts of the elephant’s body (each man only feels one part). They then describe the elephant to each other based on their partial experience. They argue as each description is in complete disagreement with one another. [7]

              The moral of the story is the following: We all have a tendency to project our own experiences; however, we project them as the entire truth. We should strive to consider that we might be partially correct, yet we only have a small chunk of the whole. We must become aware of the bigger picture, not just our chunk of information.

              Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

              Reference

              More by this author

              Dr. Jamie Schwandt

              Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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              Last Updated on July 8, 2020

              Productivity Can Be Improved By These 10 Actionable Steps

              Productivity Can Be Improved By These 10 Actionable Steps

              If there is any challenge that is common to everyone apart from staying happy, it’s improving personal productivity.

              Nothing stimulates joy like getting things done and doing the right things. You become happier when you are focused and productive.

              So what is productivity and how do we improve it?

              What is Personal Productivity?

              Personal productivity means different things to different individuals. Some might define personal productivity as accomplishing your milestones without failing, or setting goals and completing them.

              So what, then, is personal productivity?

              Personal productivity can be thought of as completing a set of tasks that moves you forward in the direction of your life purpose without causing you to sacrifice other life aspects.

              Personal productivity can be improved by identifying your key objectives and what actionable steps you need to take to fulfill them.

              In all of this, it’s important to remember that personal productivity is different than workplace productivity. Here’s why.

              Personal Productivity Vs. Workplace Productivity

              Workplace productivity deals with your level of efficiency in accomplishing corporate goals and providing goods or top-notch solutions for customers. For instance, productivity in the workplace could incorporate the speed at which you respond to a query as a customer service assistant or design a website for a web development agency.

              The 4 Components of Productivity

              Penny Zenker, a notable Productivity Coach, propounded four essential components of productivity: purpose, language, focus, and physiology. Let’s break these down.

              Purpose

              According to Penny,

              “When you are on a course or purpose that goes beyond what’s in it for you or what you need to do, you gain a higher sense of being more productive and a feeling that you are working on something significant.”[1]

              One way to find your sense of purpose is by answering your “Whys.”

              Language

              Language is another crucial component. It’s how you express yourself in describing the world around you.

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              Any time you utilize negative words during self-talk, you are conditioning yourself to produce negative situations.

              Productivity can be improved by paying attention to the language you use. That way, you can change your words consciously and then talk yourself into becoming more productive.

              Therefore, try to change your language to improve your output!

              Focus

              You only have 24 hours each day. How do you guide your energy within this limited time-frame? The answer lies in being focused.

              Focus is the art of directing your energy towards your objectives. It is eliminating every form of distraction and achieving your set goals.

              Physiology

              You need a great body to be productive. That’s why your physiology influences your level of productivity.

              For instance, what you eat affects what you can do. If you continuously neglect the habit of eating healthy, you will continually undermine your performance and efficiency.

              So what’s the way forward?

              Take good care of your body!

              Productivity can be improved by eating healthy, exercising regularly, and spending time with nature.

              How to Evaluate Productivity

              Evaluating your productivity is an important step as it helps you keep track of what you’re doing right and wrong on your journey to completing your goals. Try these five proven steps to keep you on track.

              1. Review Your Completed To-Do Lists

              One of the strategic means of assessing your productivity is by examining your completed to-do lists. You can accurately look at your activities in the past two to three weeks. Find out what you have accomplished. Estimate how many tasks, how long each task took you, and find the ones you failed to complete.

              Were you distracted? Busy? Or lacking sufficient time? The essence of this assessment is to enable you find a solution that can assist you in completing your objectives on time.

              2. Track Your Time

              Tracking your time is highly crucial to determining your productivity level. You only have 24 hours, just like any other person. How you spend each second is what differentiates you from the rest of the world.

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              While some are experts at managing their time productively, others retire at night without any significant thing they have accomplished all day.

              You just can’t live your life like that.

              Track your time to derive an accurate evaluation of your accomplishments and performance in your workplace.

              3. Practice Accountability

              While you can collaborate with an accountability partner to monitor your progress, Jones Loflin, a keynote speaker and a prolific author, also recommends that you ask yourself some reflective questions daily[2]:

              • Was I productive today or reactive?
              • Have I accomplished any of my short-term goals?
              • What took my time today?
              • Who is excited that I was part of their day?
              • What did I accomplish today that will relieve me of stress tomorrow?
              • What did I fail to do that can make my tomorrow worse off?

              While you don’t have to ask all these questions each day, you can ask them at intervals throughout the week.

              You can also practice journaling or blog about your experience.

              4. Allocate a Time-frame for Your Goals

              Establishing a timeline is one of the requirements for creating SMART goals. You can determine if you have accomplished your objectives when you have a time period as a point of reference. You provide yourself a timeline to implement your tasks when you assign deadlines for all your milestones.

              That way, you can detect when you are not meeting your deadlines and quickly get back on track.

              5. Complete a Weekly Review

              The best time to audit your accomplishment is the weekend and not the end of the year. Create time each week to evaluate your objectives and track your outcomes. Find out which stage you are in, and determine how you can tweak your schedules and routines to better achieve your aims.

              How to Improve Productivity

              Tracking productivity is important, but it’s all for naught if you’re unable to improve your productivity in the face of difficulties. Productivity can be improved by incorporating these simple things into your life.

              1. Exercise

              Do this first thing when you wake up. According to research, exercise, especially team exercise, can enhance your mood for up to 12 hours after a workout.[3]

              Therefore, if you care to have a productive day, invest your first 20 minutes in physical exercises.

              Nothing energizes you like physical exercises, and productivity can be improved by a boost in your energy level.

              2. Prioritize the Most Critical Tasks

              Everyone has specific activities that count the most. An important step is to identify three things that add value to your life’s purpose.

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              What three things produce the most income?

              What three things generate the highest impact?

              Delete the “additional stuff” as much as you can. This action will enable you to enjoy the importance of focusing on your most important activities.

              3. Allocate Less Time for Major Projects

              Time is like a new mansion. You fill a new house with furniture and fittings, just as you load each block of your time with activities.

              So here’s a practical approach you can apply.

              Reduce the amount of time you assign for a critical task.

              That will help you to focus and stay productive. It will also optimize your energy level and help you get things done faster.

              4. Chunk Your House Chores

              Now that you are working from home, housekeeping activities can become your greatest distractions.

              You don’t have to worry about that.

              Instead of performing those tasks at any time of the day, sort them out in an organized block. Then, schedule the blocks and take them out when you are tired or need a mental break.

              5. Learn to Say No

              That does not mean you are not polite. It’s important to protect your time by saying no as often as you say yes.

              Time is a great asset; you cannot waste it trying to please everyone.

              6. Schedule Free Time

              Don’t let your free time just happen. It should not also be a product of “if you have a chance.”

              Plan it!

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              Set out fun things to do during those free periods. It could be watching a new movie or playing an exciting game. Let it be something that you love so you can anticipate it.

              Productivity can be improved by an increased level of happiness, which we can improve during those crucial moments of free time.

              7. Take a Productivity Nap

              A quick nap has the ability to boost your creativity, retention, and focus.[4]

              Midday siestas can supercharge your productivity, so don’t overwork yourself; take a nap!

              8. Use Your Mind to Think, Not to Recollect

              Never clutter your mind with mental lists of things you need to remember.

              Instead, write those things down and focus your mind on how to do them better. Avoid wasting your mental energy on remembering important ideas, and let papers take care of that.

              9. Turn off Notifications

              Turn off email dings, phone buzzes, and pop-ups. Every notification distracts you from the most important task, so eliminating them is an important step if you want to focus your energy.

              Go notification-free, and once or twice each out, check for a few minutes if you’ve missed an urgent call or a message.

              Most of the time, you will discover you haven’t missed anything and that the time you gained was better spent being productive.

              10. Create Room for Reflection

              Block about 20 to 30 minutes of your working time for reflection.

              Close the door and reflect. You can also take a walk during this period. Exercising this way can aid your thinking as it encourages focused energy and relaxation.[5]

              Bonus Point: Use the 2-Minute Rule

              In his book Getting Things Done, David Allen recommends:

              “When an activity requires less than two minutes, do not schedule it, do not set it aside for a later time, do not set a reminder — just do them instantly.”

              Bottom Line

              Productivity can be improved by the ten actionable steps mentioned above. Don’t forget to do the most important things first, allocate limited time for them, and focus like a laser to achieve your milestones.

              Don’t forget the two-minute rule! If you can get it done quickly, get it done now.

              More Productivity Tips

              Featured photo credit: Carl Heyerdahl via unsplash.com

              Reference

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