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4 Ways our Mind is Trying to Make us Look Like Idiots

Updated on June 5, 2011
Our head is compiled of a VW Beetle, Shark and Blackboard, amongst other items.
Our head is compiled of a VW Beetle, Shark and Blackboard, amongst other items. | Source

The human mind is possibly the most intricate and complex computer in the world, capable of tasks that just far outreach the possibility of modern day technology. Possibly one of the most amazing tasks it performs is 'common-sense'. A real-time ability to judge situations and have foresight into the consequences of multiple actions and reactions.
Perhaps that's why pilots are must trusted than computers to fly planes, no computer programme can account for a Pilots judgement and experience in the field of Avionics.

The genius Albert Einstein said that "Common Sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by the age of 18"

Naturally though, it sometimes goes wrong. We make the wrong decisions, or take the wrong actions and in the end, we just end up looking like douche-bags.

"Ha, like giving a homeless man money will end poverty."
"Ha, like giving a homeless man money will end poverty." | Source

The Nirvana Fallacy

What is it? "The Nirvana fallacy is where our mind decides not to do something in particular, because it doesn't live up to the image in our minds of a completely unrealistic, perfect alternative." I've actually written about this, briefly, before in my Hub about Procrastination.
Chances are though that you've probably committed this little error in judgement a million times today.

Imagine this; you decide you need to go on a diet, and start exercising. You start...For about five minutes, then you realize that jog that took you 5 seconds didn't instantly make you look fabulous. You get tired, and out of breath, and never try it again, because it didn't yield satisfaction instantly. Maybe you did start losing weight, but only half a pound a week or so. Your mind would just say "Hey screw this, it ain't worth the agro". Or something like that.

Ever known someone, hey maybe it's you, who just doesn't go out. Who doesn't apply for jobs because "I don't want to do any of these, I'm waiting for the right one to come along!" The Nirvana Fallacy is one of the main causes of procrastination, I mean, why bother doing something when it either doesn't yield results straight away, or the results are very minor.

But it gets worse, it doesn't just apply for ourselves. Anything anyone is doing that seems a lost cause because the results aren't perfect is mocked by our mind. It's like our mind is saying that anything which isn't completely perfect just isn't worth doing! "Hey, you're saving your pennies? Like they'll add up to be worth anything!"

One day the people who made the little changes will rule the world, whilst we're all sitting in our parents basement, waiting for that right job to come along.

The Regression Fallacy

What is it? The Regression Fallacy is where the human mind, which is hard-wired to see patterns, is put off doing something trivial because of an unrelated event which happened the last time they did a certain thing.

Okay, does that make sense? No? Well the most common form of the Regression Fallacy is superstition. The idea that certain objects and/or actions will bring good and bad luck.
As humans, we're hard-wired to see patterns. It's what helped us become such good killers and rise to the top of the food chain. We knew where to hunt for food, and what to hunt. What to use as a weapon, and how to use it, etc. Today it's unlikely that you'll have to nip down to the ol' watering hole to catch a mammoth for tea, but it is pretty likely that you'll still have to recognize patterns to survive. Don't cross the road infront of a bus. Don't punch a guy with a knife. Don't go to the bad end of Town and protest your love of Upper-Class Literature, Rolex Watches and the Twilight films.

But it stills screws us over. I'm sure at some point you've worn a pair of undies and found £10 on the floor. Then you claim "These must be my lucky pants" ignoring the fact that you got sacked whilst wearing them, or crashed your car, etc. We still choose to wear these old pairs of underwear simply because we believe it'll bring us good fortune.

Politicians and media-personalities can make an entire career exploiting the Regression Fallacy. You elect a new Governor/President/Prime-minister, and suddenly the country is doing better financially. The only recent change is the new governing body, so instantly you think of this person as a god like figure, and they'll continue to do well throughout their careers, despite never actually lifting a finger.
The opposite is also true, and in reality fluctuations in a countries status are perfectly natural and bound to happen. Go figure...

Had I been driving, they would have won 12 World Records.
Had I been driving, they would have won 12 World Records. | Source

The Historians Fallacy

What is it? The Historians Fallacy is the way our mind looks back at mistakes other people made and thinks of them as ridiculous, even though you would probably have done the same.

Now, we've all been there. We've been egged on by some friends to do something stupid (YouTube is full of this stuff), like ride our bikes through a loop of flaming death, or drink Coke and eat Mentos at the same time. Then after waking up on the floor everyone tells you how stupid you were and how ridiculous the idea was.
This doesn't just apply for friends either, films and TV too. We've all laughed at TV Heroes who made a mistake and been convinced that in their shoes we would have made the right decision. We wouldn't have let Kaiser Soze leave the Police station, we wouldn't have invaded Iraq, and we certainly wouldn't have married Sarah Jessica Parker. But the problem is, we can't put ourselves in the other person's shoes, and our decision to laugh and call them an idiot just stops us from learning from their mistakes. As George Santayana said "Those that cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it", but with a twist. We remember the past but what they did just looks silly when we look back upon it.

If you were Dave Kujan you would have let Verbal/Kaiser Soze leave, if you were Arnold Schwarzenegger you would have done the maid and fathered a child and if you were Matthew Broderick you would have married Sarah Jessica Parker and made Inspector Gadget.

Our appeal to Probability

What is it? We all know what probability is people! Our minds aren't good at calculating it either. If something has a one in a million chance of happening, we tend to believe it will. We surround ourselves in Murphy's Law. "If something bad can go wrong, it will." Which is one reason why people have so many phobias, such as of flight.
On the flip-side, this is also the reason why we buy so many lottery tickets, and scratch-cards. If someone has to win, you might as well be the lucky guy!

Everyone seems to take this idea to the next level. Hundreds of thousands of people a year quit their jobs to find their true calling, blissfully unaware that, well this probably won't happen. Either that or the reality isn't as brilliant as once seemed. Thousands of girls grow up knowing they're going to be the next super-star, and boys believe they're going to be a pro-athlete, or a race-car driver. The reality of the situation is that only a hand full of them will ever actually get the chance.

Just look at Las Vegas, billions has been poured into that one city, in hopes that whoever goes there will strike it rich, and definitely won't have to sell their bodies to pay for the flight home. What people don't realize is however, if everyone struck it rich, Las Vegas wouldn't be as glamorous as it is today. Most gamblers start their addictions with a big win, but end up pouring more than they won into their addictions.

Religion plays a big part of believing probability. People with religious beliefs are told to live a sin-free life and will be rewarded. As a result during the big game, the pastors team will win, but then what will happen if Pastors are fans of both sides? And why is a Pastor gambling anyway?

Films of recent years haven't helped either. Most sporting films are about the underdogs, who nobody believed in except a strict but kind hearted coach who gave it their best shot and died just before the big game, then win to everyone's surprise. It leaves everyone with a belief that if they do something, they'll win, even though the other side has much more experience and could kick your ass. Then again, nobody would want to watch a film about a team of super-talented smug people wailing on a team of delightfully hopeful amateurs.


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    • Ryan-Palmsy profile image

      Ryan Palmer 6 years ago from In a Galaxy far, far away

      It's absolutely massive really, I don't actually think anyone will be able to replicate it! Or will ever be able understand it fully. It's just far too complex.

    • Katharella profile image

      Katharella 6 years ago from Lost in America

      @Anton: Interesting since the medications that can keep the brain working to keep a person alive longer, help their bodily functions to keep working long after they've not been able to speak a full sentence.

      @Ryan: I like your mom's thinking as well. If things didn't happen for a reason, sometimes people would not have reasons to go on. "If" is a really big word for two letters huh! Like.. while I was so angry and sad that my mother died, later I was given a strange sense of peace that she had to die first, because my sister died 2 years later, and I don't believe she could have withstood that mental anguish.

      The brain holds a lot of things I think are just too complex to really understand.

    • Ryan-Palmsy profile image

      Ryan Palmer 6 years ago from In a Galaxy far, far away

      Hi AntonOfTheNorth! Sorry it's taken a while to reply, I've been very busy!

      That's an interesting thought, and it sort-of makes some sense, but in the whole, the activity of our body (i.e. pain) takes place within the brain, not in the certain parts of our body. I'm not gonna claim to be a brain scientist! I'm not exactly a genius, so you're probably right, but there are my thoughts on it all! :)

    • profile image

      AntonOfTheNorth 6 years ago

      An offer:

      Current 'wisdom' from brain type scientists have come up with a concept I find interesting.

      'Mind' is no longer considered an object, but an activity.

      In essence, mind is the activity of brain, just like circulation is an activity of heart, or movement is a an activity of muscle.

      This changes quite a few concepts. Mind is not only an intellectual process, but an emotional one, a product not only of pattern recognition, but also one of feeling.

      We make the choices that feel right to us at the time. (Almost all the time) When we convince ourselves to do something that our 'feelings' don't wish to do, it is perhaps because we have identified the difference between our immediate emotion and our general well being.

      In the exercise example, we use the mind activity to motivate us through the short term barrier (exercise is uncomfortable) to the long term goal (I feel better when I'm in better shape)

      Emotions are a much more powerful motivator than pure thought. This is why so many people engage in short term pleasure to their long term detriment.

      Anyway, point being, mind is not only an activity of brain, it is an activity of body as well.

      Just a thought.


    • Ryan-Palmsy profile image

      Ryan Palmer 6 years ago from In a Galaxy far, far away

      I'm really glad you're happy Kath! It's pretty lucky you found him! As long as you're happy inside that's what counts :) Me and my girlfriend met and did some pretty silly things, like stay out the whole night, where nobody knew where we were! But we're still together and happy and that's what counts! :)

      My mum always says, everything happens for a reason, and whether or not that is true, it's a pretty awesome thing to believe in!

    • Katharella profile image

      Katharella 6 years ago from Lost in America

      Yeah some people believe that if you're thin you're healthy! I seriously don't know what people think.. so many things could be wrong.. like physical pain, a disease! Just so many things.

      I cannot remember his name, but there was a weight lifter who was pressing a LOT of weight once and it burst a blood vessel in his head and killed him on the spot! So even being physically healthy can have it's downfalls!

      Oh he doesn't live up to being a twice used douche lol. Yeah, he had to go, but I learned a lot from that relationship, and I let it go on a bit after I knew it was going to end because there were things that needed to be taken care of, that were! The thing is, that ended 3 years ago and I heard through the grapevine (small towns you know) that he's never been as happy as he was when we were together, and he's refusing to even believe or let anyone speak to him that I have anyone else! So, he's in his own misery! His friends don't cuddle him to sleep that's for sure. lol.

      I'm 5'5" and I still like my ideal weight to be about 140. Which by the book says 125! But I feel lanky and just don't feel good about myself at that weight, so I won't let myself go under 140. The guy who I am with now, knew me at age 20, when I was about 115-ish, then time went by, we broke up over something stupid and I got married, and divorced, so my name changed. But we both looked for each other, only he didn't know my name changed and neither did a mutual friend so the strange thing was that I bumped into the mutual friend and she said he'd called a few times over the years looking for me but neither of them knew my name changed OR that I left the state! So when she told me that, I finally did some searches and I found him. I sent a letter and said "yeah if you're married or have a girl then please just ditch this I'll not interfere in your life"... OMG he was overjoyed to say the least! He said he'd never gotten over me, EVER, that he really tried to love his other girlfriends, but NEVER COULD! He said I was all he ever wanted for 30 years! So we've decided to spend time getting to know each although when we talk it was like we never missed a beat. But because he's still back home and I'm in the south now, and I had NO PLANS WHATSOEVER on getting together with ANYONE! I mean, seriously I was planning on life alone!! Just, DONE with male drama! Well, I told him I'm not that tiny thing with a "top of my head pony tail" anymore, so I sent him photos of the me I am! He said I was still the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen in his life and while we're wrapping things up in what we already had going on in our life, he wants marriage and a life with me. What was funnier, he said "remember you wanted me to grow my hair, well now I don't have hardly any and I don't see you holding that against me" which I wouldn't because his hair doesn't make him.. HIM. I was his everything when we were 20, and we still even spat like we did then only laugh about it now. :) Ah, the things age teaches you. Had we stayed together we might not of made it ya know! I think things are meant to be how they're meant to be and we can't control that. And thanks.. it sure feels better!:)

    • Ryan-Palmsy profile image

      Ryan Palmer 6 years ago from In a Galaxy far, far away

      A lot of people have a misconception that being thin makes you healthy, I knew one guy who could eat and eat and eat, but never put on weight. Everyone assumed he was healthy, but he really wasn't!

      That guy sounds like a douche! Good job that ended then! There are some people who just love women to be extremely thin! I'm not sure why though!

      Well I'm glad you're in a better relationship now Kath! Better than some guy who only goes for looks, not everything else! LOL

    • Katharella profile image

      Katharella 6 years ago from Lost in America

      Thank you! Yes you are so right! The last guy I dated we were watching tv and a girl in a bikini was on, and he said "wow she's hot" I said "thanks, I needed another kick to the old self esteem 'chip another piece of the heart' (that was my way of saying you're on your way out) but I can SEE HER RIBS" He said "I think that is HOT" .. I said, well, you're both sick then! Needless to say you can see where that went LOL I have a hub on swimsuits I did awhile back, and while there are some thinner women there, there's also some not so boney ones! And it was nice that someone hit the poll that I had changed their minds on women, they didn't have to be rail thin to be beautiful! So I was glad of that.. I didn't want it to be all over weight women, but SUPER plus size not zero size!

      I'm glad the guy I'm with now just wants me to be healthy! And HAPPY.. Plus he'll eat all the food so I don't have to worry about that lol.

    • Ryan-Palmsy profile image

      Ryan Palmer 6 years ago from In a Galaxy far, far away

      It is the right direction! Unless you're dangerously underweight or something. Almost all exercise is so beneficial, it's a shame that so many people actually just give up without even thinking about the health benefits, let alone the benefits to your physique.

      Women are very self-conscious, but I don't think men are entirely to blame...I've told my girlfriend so many times, I'd rather her be curvy than far too skinny! Women in Hollywood aren't particularly attractive sometimes, It's horrible being able to see every bone sticking out, that ain't attractive! Curves are the way forward! As long as you're healthy anyway!

    • Katharella profile image

      Katharella 6 years ago from Lost in America

      You're welcome! The thing is, yeah people do give up if they don't see results quick! In reality, there ARE quick results, but WE SEE OURSELVES EVERYDAY so we don't notice them. It's when you don't see someone for a few months it's noticeable!

      I was once being monitored by my health insurance, and the day before my appt, it was my sons "treat day" he wanted to take cookies! ugh.. so I baked the cookies and there were more than his 30.. maybe about 10 extra.. and well, yeah I ate them! LOL.. Well knowing I was going to be weighed that night.. oh boy did I exercise that night! Until I couldn't MOVE. The next day expecting to get on the scale and be yelled at.. well I was waiting.. and she said "GREAT, you lost 1lb!" I said, yeah but one pound isn't anything.. she said YOU DIDN'T GAIN ANY NOR DID YOU STAY THE SAME, THAT'S THE RIGHT DIRECTION :) So, although I never did that again LOL it did make me realize then that you just don't give up and YOU'LL see it soon enough. Girls are more weight conscious cos of the "hollywood image" makes us feel not good enough. Men don't help! lol. But really, I find that it's all in how a person carries themselves and self esteem too. But it's always good to keep the blood going through those veins and not let things inside slow down! It's also good for your bones! That's why I never did running it's hard on the chin bones.

      Trust me, as an older woman, you get in that gym and you stay with it.. even if it's once a week it's something.. keep muscle mass in your legs just on AGE alone. It'll keep you from needing that help when you're older.. I PROMISE :)

    • Ryan-Palmsy profile image

      Ryan Palmer 6 years ago from In a Galaxy far, far away

      @ Jack - The brain doesn't technically produce cells, it is an organ which contains them...Also if spirituality is to be believed, (I'm not debating it's existence or non-existence) then technically the spiritual element to our bodies which produces said intelligence would also be a thing, as everything has mass. So it's just as likely that the brain could produce intelligence in that scenario.

      @ Kath - Awesome! Hey you managed to go through it, which most people don't! I've known far too many people who give up at the last minute, it's such a shame really!

      I'm glad you liked the article! Thanks for commenting btw!

      One of my friends recently made a similar mistake, she went to the gym but focussed mainly on muscle exercises, then wondered why her weight was going up! I explained it to her and she chose to focus on Cardio Vascular instead :)

      Speaking of which, I really need to visit the gym again, it's been far to long!

    • Katharella profile image

      Katharella 6 years ago from Lost in America

      Apostle, you could have your brain removed and see how well the rest of your body responds to any other stimuli before it withers way and is nothing.

      Ryan, I loved this hub (Almost threw up at the mention of SJP tho) in any event, I see exactly what you're saying. A few years back when I was in the North I really wanted to fit into a pair of jeans someone gave me. Oh just sooo close! Well, my friend invited me to go to the gym with her as her "guest" so I was up for it. I powered up my iPhone and put the music on, and while she was doing both cardiac and weights, I was just hittin' the treadmill. (which prompted me to buy one) Well, a few weeks later, I was excited as I FIT into those fab jeans! She however was saying "I don't get it, we both go, work out the same amount of time, and my clothing still fits the same! It's just not fair." Then I reminded her, while I was only losing weight, she was too, but she was gaining muscle mass, and it just felt like she wasn't losing weight. She couldn't get it! "Kathy you fit into those jeans you couldn't get over your hips 3 weeks ago, you only went because you were bored" LOL which was true! I had to convince her, her mind was thinking WRONG about the whole process. STOP thinking about that, and let's just keep going! Well, soon, the jeans were too big for me, BUT, she came running to my room and said "LOOK MY JACKET.. I CAN BUTTON IT".. Then she knew, it was a whole mind over matter, and not to give up! Had we stopped because the jeans then fit, and she was discouraged, neither of us would had the victory we sought. All three of the things you mentioned came into play with that scenario.

      The mind is the most complex computer in existence. Once more, they are growing computers with maggots because they always have a perfect on/off heartbeat that is perfectly in sync with the on/off pulse of a computer. Very interesting subject. V-up great! :)

    • Apostle Jack profile image

      Apostle Jack 6 years ago from Atlanta Ga

      The mind do not perform those tasks.The brain is matter and cannot produce spiritual activity,such as i have name.

      The brain produce cells,neurons,elements and atoms to the body which are material functions.How do they connect to produce our behavior and choice in life?Intelligence is spiritual and is not the source from a material function.

    • Ryan-Palmsy profile image

      Ryan Palmer 6 years ago from In a Galaxy far, far away

      Intelligence - Our mind is like a computer, it takes in information and stores it, then makes connections between the information we already have stored and have just learned which increases our understanding of the subjects etc.

      Personality - Our mind creates our personality by changing the way we interact with other people and can learn from others. For example if you meet a person who loves to joke, you will automatically process this and may also become more "jokey" as a result.

      Speech - is produced by the mind as our mind regulates the air-flow through our larynx and creates audible sounds which are known as speech.

    • Apostle Jack profile image

      Apostle Jack 6 years ago from Atlanta Ga

      How can the mind produce intelligence,personality,and speech?


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