- Mental Health
4 Ways our Mind is Trying to Make us Look Like Idiots
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.
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...
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.