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How “Science Says” Blinds Human Brains From Thinking Clearly

How “Science Says” Blinds Human Brains From Thinking Clearly
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“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

              10 Hacks to Increase Your Brain IQ, Focus, and Creativity How to Upgrade Your Critical Thinking Skills and Make Smart Choices The Ultimate Exercises to Improve Posture (Simple and Effective) How Cognitive Learning Benefits Your Brain and Grows Knowledge 9 Game Changing Tips on How to Write Goals (and Reach Them!)

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              Last Updated on July 21, 2021

              The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

              The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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              No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

              Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

              Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

              A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

              Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

              In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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              From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

              A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

              For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

              This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

              The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

              That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

              Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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              The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

              Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

              But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

              The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

              The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

              A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

              For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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              But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

              If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

              For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

              These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

              For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

              How to Make a Reminder Works for You

              Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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              Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

              Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

              My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

              Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

              I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

              More on Building Habits

              Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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              Reference

              [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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