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Real World Examples of How Heuristics Have Been Used Against Us

Real World Examples of How Heuristics Have Been Used Against Us

How is it that we make up our minds to do something? How much thinking is there really involved in making a decision? Heuristics  provide a number of interesting explanations for how we avoid normal, rational thinking when we are confronted with information.
Most of us have probably wondered why certain contracts or legal documents are so very long and hard to read. Many assume that the lawyers authored these documents simply to confuse us mere mortals who cannot read legal texts, and while this may be true in some cases, there is another reason: they want to appeal to our heuristic decision making.

What is Heuristic Decision Making?

Heuristics is originally a Greek word that means to find. Heuristics are unconscious ways that we process information more quickly than if we were to think about it consciously.  The brain takes mental shortcuts to save time by thinking logically about things. There are many different ways (cognitive biases) that our brains have developed during the history of mankind to manage information in a faster way than rational thinking. The vast majority of our daily decisions are taken up by heuristic decision making.

Landing Pages

Just like the aforementioned legal contracts, sales pages are often very long and contain a variety of elements whose purpose is to convince us to buy the product by appealing to our heuristic decision making.

Length and Volume

The reason that sales pages are often very long and contain a lot of material–such as information in bullet form, pictures and lots of recommendations of satisfied customers–is in the hopes that you, as a consumer, will think:

Ah, if this much is written about the product, and if this many people (experts) recommend the product, then it must be good.”

landing page

    Of course this doesn’t work with all consumers, and there is no completely superior outline for how the optimal landing page should look, but it’s obvious that this longer version works well. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be used so frequently.

    Ultimately, length or volume are not indicators of the quality of the information, but it’s easy for us to get automatically tricked by our heuristic decision making to believe just that. It’s not that our brains are evil and are trying to fool us, but simply that they make this tradeoff of accuracy to save time.

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    Nazi Germany

    Heuristic decision making has always been an important part of politics and throughout history, there have been many tricks to convince the crowds. Various means of manipulating the media have existed for as long as civilization has existed.

    A less known part of the Nazi Party propaganda strategy was in the design of the vote ballots for the Austrian union with Germany in 1938. The circle to vote “YES” was considerably larger than the circle to vote “NO“.  Due to its size, we unconsciously attribute more importance to the bigger circle and are more drawn towards it.

    An overwhelming majority of the Austrian population voted for the reunification with Germany.

    Stimmzettel-Anschluss

      Today, this kind of trickery is banned in political contexts in most countries.

      Speeches and Presentations

      Just like the example with the landing pages, we are often influenced by the length of the speech or the reputation of the speaker. These things really have nothing to do with the content, yet through heuristic decision making, we think they do.

      Suppose you are sitting in a meeting and listening to a speaker who talks about a topic that you know nothing about.

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      Even if the speaker doesn’t really say anything particularly clever, after a while, you will start to have a certain amount of confidence in him given that you do not know anything about the subject.

      Just the fact that the speaker is able to talk about something in a certain amount of time (say 20 minutes) in a coherent manner gets your heuristic decision making to conclude that the speaker probably actually does know what he’s talking about, and that the content probably actually is clever, though perhaps you cannot understand its meaning. Furthermore, if the speech was really as bad as you suspected at first, wouldn’t you have just left?

      In both of the above cases you are post-rationalizing to find a reasonable explanation for what is happening right now.  Another way of putting it is that your brain is trying very hard to avoid cognitive dissonance. In the first case you rationalize the situation by thinking:

      “Well, if this guy who is speaking can go on for 20 minutes he probably knows what he is speaking about, even if I don’t.”

      And in the second case you are likely rationalize by means of wanting to keep your self-image intact:

      “I wouldn’t listen to bad speeches or waste my time with stupid people, that’s not who I am. Therefore the fact that I have sat here for a long amount of time has to mean that this speech is good. Otherwise I would have left–wouldn’t I?”

      In both of these cases, your brain is trying to piece together the reality of the current situation by means of explaining the past in a not so accurate manner.
      In this second case, maybe you even begin to perceive the speaker as an expert in his field, which brings us to the next example.

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      Authorities and Experts

      It is a well-known fact that we often rely on experts’ or authorities’ opinions instead of thinking for ourselves. It is not a coincidence that Nike sponsors Tiger Woods or that a stock plummets when its management and other insiders inexplicably sell their own shares.
      Nor is it a coincidence that people in the financial industry dress very nicely and talk in terms that are difficult for a lot of ordinary people to understand. This is done deliberately to be perceived as experts.

      If the average person knew that most financial advisors are actually glorified salespeople that rarely beat the index and usually just place your money in an index fund and takes a percentage cut for it, they would not choose to invest their money with them.

      experts and authorities

        From a logical perspective, it is not surprising that we trust the experts in a particular area given that they have probably thought a lot more about the subject than we have. The experts have most likely evaluated the different options better than we could do with our limited knowledge on the subject.
        For us, it’s about saving time or to avoid doing something we think is boring. We simply do not have the time or inclination to think about everything ourselves.
        Relying on experts or authority figures need not be a bad thing at all, but it’s important for us to be aware of how much we rely on others and in which situations we are inclined to do so. Ultimately, by relying on experts or authorities we are hitchhiking by means of their intelligence, and we become very susceptible to influence.

        Computer Programs and the Internet

        How often do you actually review the terms of a downloaded computer program, a phone app, or some Internet service?

        Probably not very often.

        You just want the program to work immediately and you feel that you cannot be bothered reading through the fine print: whether the program gets access to your personal information or is allowed to monitor your web behavior only plays a minor role in your decision–you don’t have time or energy to think about that.
        Maybe you’ve checked one of those boxes where you, without thinking about it, have relinquished ownership of your soul to the creator of the computer program.

        Conclusion

        We are getting bombarded with more information, choices, and offers than ever before in history, and it’s unlikely that this trend is going to slow down in the future.

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        At the same time we are becoming increasingly specialized, and specialization comes at a price–we have to spend our time and energy on only a few areas of knowledge. This forces us to trust in specialists of other areas instead of learning these things for ourselves.

        This is a good thing viewed from a global market perspective, but it is very harmful to the single individual because he will not be bothered to make fully informed decisions.

        We don’t have the time to evaluate all alternative in today’s information society.  This means that we are less likely to increasingly rely on heuristic decision making to save time.

        What role do you think that heuristic decision making will play in the future of mankind?

        Will its use increase or decrease?

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        Last Updated on July 12, 2021

        100 Incredible Life Hacks That Make Life So Much Easier

        100 Incredible Life Hacks That Make Life So Much Easier

        Want to learn some quick and easy life hacks that are easy to do, low cost and saves you time?

        By tweaking little things in your daily life, it can make your life much more convenient!

        Here’re 100 of the most practical life hacks so you can just pick up any of them right away!

        83 tie a small piece of bright colored fabric

          84 write random letter

            85 use a rubberband

              86 dorm smell bad

                87 lean your phone on your sunglassess

                  89 how to waterproof your shoes

                    90 take a picture of the name card

                      91 iron inside out

                        92 old newspaper

                          93 tumble try shoes

                            keep a card like this

                              SONY DSC

                                94 soap bar

                                  95 make a hole

                                    96 drop the battery

                                      97 use a coozie

                                        98 when taking a picture

                                          use a clean dust pan

                                            try a pants hanger

                                              use your cellphone light

                                                use a spring from an old pen

                                                  quick and easy iphone speaker

                                                    user binder clips

                                                      wrap a wet paper towel around your beverage

                                                        put pancake mix in a ketchup bottle

                                                          clean out an old lotion bottle for your beach

                                                            use a muffin tin to serve condiments at a bbq

                                                              doritos are great for kindling

                                                                use nail polish to identify different keys

                                                                  use a hanging shoe rack to store cleaning supplies

                                                                    freeze grapes to chill white wine without

                                                                      use paper clips to organize your cables

                                                                        almost finished your jar of nutella

                                                                          sick of having a box full of tangled

                                                                            unroll the rim to increase the capacity

                                                                              cut open toilet paper rolls and use as a cuff

                                                                                remove the stem from strawberries

                                                                                  turn an old bottle into a simple little cord holder

                                                                                    for iced coffee and iced cappuccino, use frozen coffee cubes

                                                                                      how to fold a fitted bed sheet

                                                                                        tired of snoozing past your alarm

                                                                                          place a rubber band around an open paint can to wipe your brush on

                                                                                            ut a wooden spoon across a boiling pot

                                                                                              use bread clips to save flip-flops

                                                                                                take pictures of friends holding items

                                                                                                  how i always know which headphone is the left one

                                                                                                    put a stocking over the end of a vacuum

                                                                                                      How to make sure you drink enough water

                                                                                                        user a can opener to open blister

                                                                                                          good sandwich guide

                                                                                                            turn your muffin pans upside down

                                                                                                              50 pounds of groceries and living on the 5th floor

                                                                                                                the right way to make a blt

                                                                                                                  add one teaspoon of baking soda

                                                                                                                    38

                                                                                                                      hair straighteners equals to collar irons

                                                                                                                        stack your clothes vertically to see them all

                                                                                                                          the right way to make cookies in the summer

                                                                                                                            how to clean a blender

                                                                                                                              the right way to eat a popsicle

                                                                                                                                use bread clips to label and organize power cords

                                                                                                                                  to get the built up residue off of your shower head

                                                                                                                                    user a hair clip to orgainize long wires

                                                                                                                                      a frozen saturated sponge in a bag

                                                                                                                                        rub stuck zipper teeth with a graphite pencil

                                                                                                                                          use a soda pop tab

                                                                                                                                            50

                                                                                                                                              51 How to multiply large numbers in your head.

                                                                                                                                                52 How to open a bottle if you dont have a corkscrew.

                                                                                                                                                  rub a walnut on damaged wooden furniture

                                                                                                                                                    kids fall out of bed

                                                                                                                                                      use toothpaste to clear up hazy car

                                                                                                                                                        58

                                                                                                                                                          59 keep pizza out while driving home

                                                                                                                                                            60 put your straw through the tab to keep it from rising

                                                                                                                                                              hold oreos with a fork so your fingers

                                                                                                                                                                Never lose your remotes again

                                                                                                                                                                  hiding your emergency money

                                                                                                                                                                    use a bread tab to hold your spot on a roll

                                                                                                                                                                      if you are at a hotel and run out of chargers

                                                                                                                                                                        keep a square of cardboard in a ziplock bag

                                                                                                                                                                          If you need to pee or smoke at a bar

                                                                                                                                                                            drill holes in the bottom of your garbage

                                                                                                                                                                              use an accented letter as your passcode

                                                                                                                                                                                use a squeeze ketchup bottle top with your shopvac

                                                                                                                                                                                  do something unusual when locking the door

                                                                                                                                                                                    when heating leftovers space out a circle in the middle

                                                                                                                                                                                      dont burn yourself in those hard to reach candles

                                                                                                                                                                                        put a small amount of water in a glass when you microwave your pizza

                                                                                                                                                                                          75 use a piece of paper to organize

                                                                                                                                                                                            use half a pool noodle

                                                                                                                                                                                              pencil case to store cables

                                                                                                                                                                                                78 clothespin to hold nail

                                                                                                                                                                                                  79 make blts

                                                                                                                                                                                                    80 take a picture of your fridge

                                                                                                                                                                                                      81 fill plastic water bottles

                                                                                                                                                                                                        82 right ways to eat chips

                                                                                                                                                                                                          99 if your plug keeps failing

                                                                                                                                                                                                            100 put the banana on the wire

                                                                                                                                                                                                              88 before you throw away a post it

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Source: Reddit LifeProTips

                                                                                                                                                                                                                There you go, 100 awesome life hacks that you can try right now to make your life a lot easier!

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