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7 Stupid Thinking Errors You Probably Make

7 Stupid Thinking Errors You Probably Make
The brain isn’t a flawless piece of machinery. Although it is powerful and comes in an easy to carry container, it has it’s weaknesses. A field in psychology which studies these errors, known as biases. Although you can’t upgrade your mental hardware, noticing these biases can clue you into possible mistakes.

How Bias Hurts You

If you were in a canoe, you’d probably want to know about any holes in the boat before you start paddling. Biases can be holes in your reasoning abilities and they can impair your decision making.

Simply noticing these holes isn’t enough; a canoe will fill with water whether you are aware of a hole or not. But by being aware of the holes you can devise methods to patch them up. The entire domain of the scientific method has largely been an effort to overcome the natural inclination towards bias in reasoning.

Biases hurt you in a number of areas:

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  • Decision making. A number of biases can distort decision making. The confirmation bias can lead you to discount information that opposes existing theories. Anchoring can throw off negotiations by forcing you to sit around an arbitrary value.
  • Problem solving. Biases can impede your creativity when solving problems. A framing bias can cause you to look at a problem too narrowly. And the illusion of control can cause you to overestimate the amount your actions influence results.
  • Learning. Thinking errors also impact how you learn. The Von Restorff effect can cause you to overemphasize some information compared to the whole. Clustering illusions can also trick you into thinking you’ve learned more than you actually have.

Here are some common thinking errors:

1) Confirmation Bias

The confirmation bias is a tendency to seek information to prove, rather than disprove our theories. The problem arises because often, one piece of false evidence can completely invalidate the otherwise supporting factors.

Consider a study conducted by Peter Cathcart Wason. In the study, Wason showed participants a triplet of numbers (2, 4, 6) and asked them to guess the rule for which the pattern followed. From that, participants could offer test triplets to see if their rule held.

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From this starting point, most participants picked specific rules such as “goes up by 2“ or “1x, 2x, 3x.” By only guessing triplets that fit their rule, they didn’t realize the actual rule was “any three ascending numbers.” A simple test triplet of “3, 15, 317“ would have invalidated their theories.

2) Hindsight Bias

Known more commonly under “hindsight is 20/20“ this bias causes people to see past results as appearing more probable than they did initially. This was demonstrated in a study by Paul Lazarsfeld in which he gave participants statements that seemed like common sense. In reality, the opposite of the statements was true.

3) Clustering Illusion

This is the tendency to see patterns where none actually exist. A study conducted by Thomas Gilovich, showed people were easily misled to think patterns existed in random sequences. Although this may be a necessary by product of our ability to detect patterns, it can create problems.

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The clustering illusion can result in superstitions and falling for pseudoscience when patterns seem to emerge from entirely random events.

4) Recency Effect

The recency effect is the tendency to give more weight to recent data. Studies have shown participants can more easily remember information at the end of a list than from the middle. The existence of this bias makes it important to gather enough long-term data, so daily up’s and down’s don’t lead to bad decisions.

5) Anchoring Bias

Anchoring is a well-known problem with negotiations. The first person to state a number will usually force the other person to give a new number based on the first. Anchoring happens even when the number is completely random. In one study, participants spun a wheel that either pointed to 15 or 65. They were then asked the number of countries in Africa that belonged to the UN. Even though the number was arbitrary, answers tended to cluster around either 15 or 65.

6) Overconfidence Effect

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And you were worried about having too little confidence? Studies have shown that people tend to grossly overestimate their abilities and characteristics from where they should. More than 80% of drivers place themselves in the top 30%.

One study asked participants to answer a difficult question with a range of values to which they were 95% certain the actual answer lay. Despite the fact there was no penalty for extreme uncertainty, less than half of the answers lay within the original margin.

7) Fundamental Attribution Error

Mistaking personality and character traits for differences caused by situations. A classic study demonstrating this had participants rate speakers who were speaking for or against Fidel Castro. Even if the participants were told the position of the speaker was determined by a coin toss, they rated the attitudes of the speaker as being closer to the side they were forced to speak on.

Studies have shown that it is difficult to out-think these cognitive biases. Even when participants in different studies were warned about bias beforehand, this had little impact on their ability to see past them.

What an understanding of biases can do is allow you to design decision making methods and procedures so that biases can be circumvented. Researchers use double-blind studies to prevent bias from contaminating results. Making adjustments to your decision making, problem solving and learning patterns you can try to reduce their effects.

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Scott H Young

Scott is obsessed with personal development. For the last ten years, he's been experimenting to find out how to learn and think better.

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Last Updated on February 17, 2020

10 Ways To Always Be Yourself And Live Happily

10 Ways To Always Be Yourself And Live Happily

As you were probably told when you were in elementary school, “Just be yourself.” You can be a much happier person once you figure out who you truly are and when you learn how to be yourself.

If you are like most people, then you have probably told yourself that things would be better if there were certain changes in your life or changes to yourself. You can make those positive changes yourself. Be proactive, and have a more positive outlook about yourself.

Below are 10 ways to learn how to be yourself and live more happily:

1. Don’t Aim to Please Others

There is a problem if you are never doing what you want to do, yet always doing what everyone else wants to do. This Is Why You Shouldn’t Please Others But Yourself.

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Pleasing others can be a nice thing to do, but know where your boundaries are. Instead of always aiming to please others, you should do things for yourself as well every now and then.

2. Don’t Worry About How Others View You

Occasionally thinking about how others view you may make you change for the good, but you should not be constantly wondering about what others are thinking. You should change if you want to, and change into what or who you want to change into.

3. Learn More About Yourself

Do you know who you really are? Ever since you were young, you have been conditioned to be one way or another. It may be weird just to spend a day being your spontaneous self, but sometimes it is the only way that you can learn how to be yourself.

4. Appreciate Who You Are

No matter how weird you are, appreciate yourself! Each person is unique, and everyone has at least a little weirdness in themselves. Appreciate your weirdness and let it out.

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5. Be Confident with Who You Are

Do you ever doubt yourself? Doubting yourself can be very easy if you are constantly comparing yourself to others and wondering “What if?”

Instead of doubting yourself all the time, you should be confident with yourself and who you are. Showing confidence in yourself and your decisions will also show to others that you know what you are doing.

6. Forgive Yourself

Forgive yourself for thinking negatively. Forgive yourself for talking, without thinking twice. Forgive yourself for being rude to your superiors, your friends, your parents, or your siblings.

Don’t think negative thoughts about yourself for taking wrong steps or making wrong decisions. This kind of thinking puts your focus on the problem and not the solution. It’s better to say good things about yourself than to say negative things. Always saying positive things about yourself is a sign that you have forgiven yourself.

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These tips will be helpful for you: How to Forgive Yourself and Move Forward for a Happier Life

7. Stop Being Negative About Yourself

Do you look at everything as a glass half full or a glass half empty? It can be easy to be negative about yourself. When it comes to being happy, it is vital that you learn how to be yourself and to be more positive.

8. Find a Hobby That You Love

Everyone has something that they live for or that they love to do. Figure out what you love to do and make a hobby out of it. Doing what you love can make you much happier.

9. Learn from Your Mistakes

You can really learn more about yourself when you make a mistake. Here is Why You Should Be Proud of Making Mistakes.

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Mistakes in your life do not always need to be seen negatively. Think about what went wrong, learn from it, and move on.

10. Strive for What You Want to Accomplish

Being yourself does not have to mean that you have to be stuck in status quote. Aim for what you want to achieve and strive for that accomplishment. You can improve yourself while still remaining true to yourself.

More Tips About Staying True to Yourself

Featured photo credit: Adrien King via unsplash.com

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