We do many things in our life which are not really logical or rational. But we still continue to do. We are carrying some of the old defective software in our brains from generations. We are unconscious about many of these thinking fallacies (errors/myths/misconceptions). Even if we are conscious about some of these errors we don’t want to challenge them because either we want to “align socially” or avoid pain of thinking and change.
- “Because everyone is doing xyz… so that means it should be good” – Irrespective of whether it is good for you or not
- “We have already invested and waited long.So lets wait for some more time” – Even though you know you have very less chance of making good returns
- “You should respect him for his age” – Even though you know he does not have any better qualities than you
- “First daughter is goddess Lakshmi and if you get second daughter then you get sympathy as a gift from people” – by logic you should have double Lakshmi and more luck. This is India spl edition ;).
We become unknowingly victims of these errors. By becoming conscious and knowledgeable about these errors we can eliminate most of the crap from our lives and hopefully live a happy and productive life.
I notice many such thinking errors and biases every day.
1. DO YOU REALLY LIKE MONA LISA PAINTING?
15 years back I went to Paris on some work assignment. As part of the weekend visiting ritual we went to Paris Louvre Museum to see some things. Before one room, lot of people (from many countries) were rushing and pushing to take pictures before Mona Lisa painting.
I never heard about Mona Lisa painting before that. From little distance, I was looking at the picture and I could not understand what is there in the picture. It was not like a Ravi Varma’s painting. I asked my friend what is special about this? He said “this is very famous ..Mona Lisa..take the pictures fast…”. I asked one more question and then I realized he also does not know much about it. I think many visitors does not know either. But everyone is very excited because it is “famous”…
This is called “Social Proof” – “Also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation”.
Many decisions in our life are influenced by Social Proof. Starting from selecting education degree, career, marriages, how many kids to have, where to invest, what coffee brand to buy to why you hate certain country or like certain leader, etc. It really does not matter which coffee brand you buy. But it really matters in all important life decisions and day to day living.
Biggest beneficiaries of social proof are Marketers. They make you believe that everyone is buying certain product so you should also buy. Otherwise you feel that you are missing some thing.
Start think about all the decisions that are having influence of social proof. Start cutting them down so that you can take better decisions.
2. WHY YOU ALWAYS THINK YOU ARE RIGHT?
We may be divine kids or god sent angels. I think we are nothing but set of beliefs, habits, likes and dislikes. Most of these we form at early age – your core personality gets defined. And we refine only few things later in life. And for rest of the life we see every thing from these “lens” and then define good vs bad. And you will justify why you are right.
This is called ” Confirmation Bias”. This is the mother of all fallacies. Confirmation bias – ” also called myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses”.
But ” Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored” – Aldous Huxley.
When you continue to operate in your confirmation bias and not open to accept the nature laws or facts then you will end up in pain. Later in the life (at highest point) this will be called as “Self Realization”. Sooner you accept the facts and reality then better it would be for you.
Confirmation bias happens in every walks of our life. All major catastrophic events in the history were due to some individual’s confirmation bias. Conflicts in religions, business, relationships, politics and every where is because of confirmation bias.
What can you do? Write down all your existing (old?) beliefs on your life, business, health, society, specific countries, Swamiji, people, parents, marriages, kids, friends, etc. And test some of your key beliefs against real evidence and facts. If you have open mind and courage then you can see what you are missing. More importantly you can indirectly help solve many BIGGER problems around us. Otherwise, we continue to live under confirmation bias and assuming problem is some where else.
3. WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING IN THE NEWS?
Let’s say you see a news headline – “Tomorrow there will be major storm” vs “Weather will be very beautiful tomorrow”. Which one will you pay more attention? Most probably first one unless, you are a self realized yogi or Buddhist monk.
Just from the latest India’s loss on Pakistan, 20x more social media and news content was generated than any of the previous wins on Pakistan. When stock market touches high people don’t talk much about it. But just imagine what happens when it crashes. Mort funny thing is because of too much of this practice people have hard time to express any thing good . Ask 5 people tomorrow – “How are you?”. Look at their eyes. And see how much time they take to say “I am really doing good”.
This is not your personal problem . It is coming from our animal survival instincts. Negative things supposed to protect. But our brains continue to operate even in this mode even though there is no real need. This is called “Negativity Bias”.
Most people do not have real real problems. But Negativity bias is creating an illusion for you to think this way. This is the one which is not allowing you make changes in your life, experiment and have fun. We need to tell our brains that we are not living in a jungle and no tiger is behind us.
Negativity bias is killing the joy of life. Get over it sooner.
4. ARE YOU HIDING BEHIND AUTHORITY & AGE?
5. WHY WE SHOULD TALK ABOUT FAILURE STORIES?
We mostly hear all great success stories. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Uber, Bahubali, the guy who made millions from a start-up and a stock which returned 150% return. What about the number of failures ( in thousands or more) we don’t get to know and talk about?. Why we don’t like to talk about them? This because of “Survivorship bias”.
Survivorship bias is a logical error where you are only interested to know about success stories while ignoring all the failure stories conveniently. Survivorship bias take place every where. Motivational speakers distort more by talking about all great success stories. In media, you will see these every day. Analysts exclude the failure companies from their analysis and show you a rosy picture. Because we only like to hear what we like.
Isn’t focusing on success stories will give you better motivation, blah ,blah?. May be. But these can make you less rational .
Looking at the failure stories equally. This will help in three ways.
- You assess things rationally
- It will give more accurate estimate for success
- It will make you less disappoint as you the probability of success
Most importantly, when we talk about failures equally, people will be less scared to death to take on risks. It is not the failure that kills people. But the society around you. Start talking freely about failures also so that you can more risks with ease.
6. WHY YOU STILL WATCH THE MOVIE EVEN THOUGH IT
I am sure you have an experience of going to a movie which turned out as bad one. Did you walk out of the theater as soon as you realize this?. Most probably not !!.
What about the food you have ordered that is not tasting good? But, you still try hard to finish it. Right?
Are you ready to sell off your investment which you know is not going to yield better returns any time?. What about continuing in the same organization even though you know you are not going to progress/enjoy?
All the above are due to “Sunk Cost Fallacy”. Somehow human beings got this interesting discomfort on “not wasting” mentality.
Even though your movie is not good you will continue because you have an internal fear of “wasting money/effort,etc”. So you continue with it. But you could use you this time for something else which might give better return.
We continue with many things in life (Investments, businesses, career, relationships, etc) just “because you have already spent some thing” (money or effort).
When we apply rational thinking we realize that the sunk cost is some thing that is gone and will never come back. And by holding on to the same thing, we lose many things which are far more valuable in the future.
7. IF ONE DAUGHTER IS GODDESS LAKSHMI & LUCK THEN WHY IT IS NOT DOUBLING WITH TWO DAUGHTERS?
Before our first baby was born, many of our relatives and close people have done an excellent prediction that I will get a baby boy. People in my place used to tell me my son would carry my family name. Not really sure, what this means even till date. Anyway, my first kid is a baby girl. I am absolutely fine with any one. But most people around me are not fully fine with it. But anyway, they decided to give a chance to me. So they said “You are very lucky you got a girl who is equal to goddess Lakshmi”.
In between first and second kid most number of predictions, deals with all kinds of gods (not by me) and discussions took place. Fast forward.. My second daughter was born. Now I could see black and white pictures, low pitch wishes and sorry faces. This is called “Gender Bias”. I was wondering what happened to goddess Lakshmi and luck. If the logic is true then every thing should be double. We say some thing but we actually mean some thing else most often.
Even after so many years ,I still get to to see and feel sorry expressions. In this whole episode we as parents, never had any problem. But rest of them seem to have more problem as if they are going to take care of my kids. This is not a story about my kids. It is the story that most parents with two daughters would have gone through this, especially in India.
If you reflect back – 1) You would have lost most precious time in “managing” other people sympathy instead of happily spending time your kids 2) In reality no one has any clue which gender will be more beneficial (we are already into some business model.!!) . 3) At the end you will realize “it does not matter”.
In this whole social hypnosis process some parents also get sucked in. After all episodes, self supporting statements comes out. ” All the famous people like Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Kamal Hassan, Rajinikanth, some Sr executive in your company and some ”xyz” has two daughters” or ” Daughters are better nowadays” or ” I have two beautiful daughters (why to mention beautiful??)
All of you who have two kids – You don’t need to give any justifications. Next time raise your pitch and head and happily say you have TWO DAUGHTERS !!.
And most importantly don’t say goddess Lakshmi or luck to any one who got a daughter. And don’t show your sorry face and sympathy to any one who has two daughters.
Please forward this to any one who has daughters. Most importantly please share this with some one who is waiting for boy after a first daughter. They may need help. So please share !!.
We live with many biases every day . Most of these are unconscious and irrational. But we continue to live without challenging these fallacies. Some times we call these as “traditions”. On the outset, you may think that these are some kind of cognitive biases not related to you. But, if you really take a deep dive then you will realize how much negative impact they would have created in many areas of YOUR life. Most importantly these are very unproductive.
In our evolutionary process, some areas of thinking has not been upgraded in our brains. We need to consciously challenge our brains to shake its old thinking.
We just talked few (& very important) biases/fallacies in our series. Here are the seven biases we discussed.
- Social Proof
- Confirmation Bias
- Negativity Bias
- Authority Bias
- Survivorship Bias
- Sunk Cost Fallacy
- Social Hypnosis/Gender Bias
These are just few among the many biases. If you are hooked on to this topic, then I suggest you read “The Art of Thinking Clearly” by Rolf Dobelli. In this book 99 fallacies are described. You will be amazed to learn how much our thinking has been cluttered by these biases.
“Intelligent men do not decide any subject until they have carefully examined both or all sides of it. Fools, cowards, and those too lazy to think, accept blindly, without examination, dogmas and doctrines imposed upon them in childhood by their parents, priests, and teachers, when their minds were immature and they could not reason.” ― James Hervey Johnson