You are not so smart
The book, You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself by David McRaney, is an easy read. It reviews many cognitive biases and compares what we innately think compared to what we really do. This material is familiar if you read similar type of books such as Think fast and think slow or authors such as Dan Ariely.
- Cognitive biases are predicable patterns of thought and behavior that lead you to draw incorrect conclusions.
- Heuristics are mental shortcuts you use to solve common problems. They speed up processing in the brain, but sometimes when you think so fast you miss what is important.
- You can’t prime yourself directly, but you can create environments conducive to the mental states you wish to achieve.
- When you explain why you feel the way you do, or why you behaved as you did, take it with a grain of salt.
- In [science], you move closer to the truth by seeking evidence to the contrary. Perhaps the same method should inform your [opinions] as well.
- When you learn something new, you quickly redact your past so you can feel the comfort of always being right.
- You are always looking back at the person you used to be, always reconstructing the story of your life to better match the person you are today.
- It’s simply easier to believe something if you are presented with examples than it is to accept something presented in numbers or abstract facts.
- You use the availability heuristic first and the facts second. You decide the likelihood of a future event on how easily you can imagine it, and if you’ve been bombarded by reports or have filled your head with fears, those images will overshadow new information that might contradict your beliefs.
- The less you know about a subject, the less you believe there is to know in total - Amateurs are far more likely to think they are experts than actual experts are.
- Remember the unfair nature of the world, the randomness of birthright, means people often suffer adversity and enjoy opulence through no effort of their own.
If you think the world is just and fair, people who need help may never get it.
- When someone believes you are a certain kind of person, you tend to live up to those expectations - If you want a better job, a better marriage, a better teacher, a better friend - you have to act as if the thing you want out of the other person is already headed your way.
- The self that makes decisions in your life is usually the remembering one. It drags your current self around in pursuit of new memories, anticipating them based on old memories. The current self has little control over your future.
- The current self is happy when experiencing things. It likes to be in the flow - The remembering self makes all the big decisions. It is happy when you can sit back and reflect on your life up to this point and feel content. It is happy when you tell people stories about the things you have seen and done.
- When you conjure an attribution for someone else’s actions, you consider consistency.
- You can’t check for consistency with your waitress or the people on the subway. You can’t tell if the person on the shooting rampage was being consistent - When you can’t check for consistency, you blame people’s behavior on their personality.
Here are the biases he discusses:
MISCONCEPTION: You know when you are being influenced and how it is affecting your behavior.
TRUTH: You are unaware of the constant nudging you receive from ideas formed in your unconscious mind.
MISCONCEPTION: You know when you are lying to yourself.
TRUTH: You are often ignorant of your motivations and create fictional narratives to explain your decisions, emotions, and history without realizing it.
- Confirmation Bias
MISCONCEPTION: Your opinions are the result of years of rational, objective analysis.
TRUTH: Your opinions are the result of years of paying attention to information that confirmed what you believed, while ignoring information that challenged your preconceived notions.
- Hindsight Bias
MISCONCEPTION: After you learn something new, you remember how you were once ignorant or wrong.
TRUTH: You often look back on the things you’ve just learned and assume you knew them or believed them all along.
- The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy
MISCONCEPTION: You take randomness into account when determining cause and effect.
TRUTH: You tend to ignore random chance when the results seem meaningful or when you want a random event to have a meaningful cause.
MISCONCEPTION: You procrastinate because you are lazy and can’t manage your time well.
TRUTH: Procrastination is fueled by weakness in the face of impulse and a failure to think about thinking.
- Normalcy Bias
MISCONCEPTION: Your fight-or-flight instincts kick in and you panic when disaster strikes.
TRUTH: You often become abnormally calm and pretend everything is normal in a crisis.
MISCONCEPTION: You know why you like the things you like and feel the way you feel.
TRUTH: The origin of certain emotional states is unavailable to you, and when pressed to explain them, you will just make something up.
- The Availability Heuristic
MISCONCEPTION: With the advent of mass media, you understand how the world works based on statistics and facts culled from many examples.
TRUTH: You are far more likely to believe something is commonplace if you can find just one example of it, and you are far less likely to believe in something you’ve never seen or heard of before.
- The Bystander Effect
MISCONCEPTION: When someone is hurt, people rush to their aid.
TRUTH: The more people who witness a person in distress, the less likely it is that any one person will help.
- The Dunning-Kruger Effect
MISCONCEPTION: You can predict how well you would perform in any situation.
TRUTH: You are generally pretty bad at estimating your competence and the difficulty of complex tasks.
MISCONCEPTION: Some coincidences are so miraculous, they must have meaning.
TRUTH: Coincidences are a routine part of life, even the seemingly miraculous ones. Any meaning applied to them comes from your mind.
- Brand Loyalty
MISCONCEPTION: You prefer the things you own over the things you don’t because you made rational choices when you bought them.
TRUTH: You prefer the things you own because you rationalize your past choices to protect your sense of self.
- The Argument from Authority
MISCONCEPTION: You are more concerned with the validity of information than the person delivering it.
TRUTH: The status and credentials of an individual greatly influence your perception of that individual’s message.
- The Argument from Ignorance
MISCONCEPTION: When you can’t explain something, you focus on what you can prove.
TRUTH: When you are unsure of something, you are more likely to accept strange explanations.
- The Straw Man Fallacy
MISCONCEPTION: When you argue, you try to stick to the facts.
TRUTH: In any argument, anger will tempt you to reframe your opponent’s position.
- The Ad Hominem Fallacy
MISCONCEPTION: If you can’t trust someone, you should ignore that person’s claims.
TRUTH: What someone says and why they say it should be judged separately.
- The Just-World Fallacy
MISCONCEPTION: People who are losing at the game of life must have done something to deserve it.
TRUTH: The beneficiaries of good fortune often do nothing to earn it, and bad people often get away with their actions without consequences.
- The Public Goods Game
MISCONCEPTION: We could create a system with no regulations where everyone would contribute to the good of society, everyone would benefit, and everyone would be happy.
TRUTH: Without some form of regulation, slackers and cheaters will crash economic systems because people don’t want to feel like suckers.
- The Ultimatum Game
MISCONCEPTION: You choose to accept or refuse an offer based on logic.
TRUTH: When it comes to making a deal, you base your decision on your status.
- Subjective Validation
MISCONCEPTION: You are skeptical of generalities.
TRUTH: You are prone to believing vague statements and predictions are true, especially if they are positive and address you personally.
- Cult Indoctrination
MISCONCEPTION: You are too smart to join a cult.
TRUTH: Cults are populated by people just like you.
MISCONCEPTION: Problems are easier to solve when a group of people get together to discuss solutions.
TRUTH: The desire to reach consensus and avoid confrontation hinders progress.
- Supernormal Releasers
MISCONCEPTION: Men who have sex with RealDolls are insane, and women who marry eighty-year-old billionaires are gold diggers.
TRUTH: The RealDoll and rich old sugar daddies are both supernormal releasers.
- The Affect Heuristic
MISCONCEPTION: You calculate what is risky or rewarding and always choose to maximize gains while minimizing losses.
TRUTH: You depend on emotions to tell you if something is good or bad, greatly overestimate rewards, and tend to stick to your first impressions.
- Dunbar’s Number
MISCONCEPTION: There is a Rolodex in your mind with the names and faces of everyone you’ve ever known.
TRUTH: You can maintain relationships and keep up with only around 150 people at once.
- Selling Out
MISCONCEPTION: Both consumerism and capitalism are sustained by corporations and advertising.
TRUTH: Both consumerism and capitalism are driven by competition among consumers for status.
- Self-Serving Bias
MISCONCEPTION: You evaluate yourself based on past successes and defeats.
TRUTH: You excuse your failures and see yourself as more successful, more intelligent, and more skilled than you are.
- The Spotlight Effect
MISCONCEPTION: When you are around others, you feel as if everyone is noticing every aspect of your appearance and behavior.
TRUTH: People devote little attention to you unless prompted to.
- The Third Person Effect
MISCONCEPTION: You believe your opinions and decisions are based on experience and facts, while those who disagree with you are falling for the lies and propaganda of sources you don’t trust.
TRUTH: Everyone believes the people they disagree with are gullible, and everyone thinks they are far less susceptible to persuasion than they truly are.
MISCONCEPTION: Venting your anger is an effective way to reduce stress and prevent lashing out at friends and family.
TRUTH: Venting increases aggressive behavior over
- The Misinformation Effect
MISCONCEPTION: Memories are played back like recordings.
TRUTH: Memories are constructed anew each time from whatever information is currently available, which makes them highly permeable to influences from the present.
MISCONCEPTION: You are a strong individual who doesn’t conform unless forced to.
- Extinction Burst
MISCONCEPTION: If you stop engaging in a bad habit, the habit will gradually diminish until it disappears from your life.
TRUTH: Any time you quit something cold turkey, your brain will make a last-ditch effort to return you to your habit.
- Social Loafing
MISCONCEPTION: When you are joined by others in a task, you work harder and become more accomplished.
TRUTH: Once part of a group, you tend to put in less effort because you know your work will be pooled together with others’.
- The Illusion of Transparency
MISCONCEPTION: When your emotions run high, people can look at you and tell what you are thinking and feeling.
TRUTH: Your subjective experience is not observable, and you overestimate how much you telegraph your inner thoughts and emotions.
- Learned Helplessness
MISCONCEPTION: If you are in a bad situation, you will do whatever you can do to escape it.
TRUTH: If you feel like you aren’t in control of your destiny, you will give up and accept whatever situation you are in.
- Embodied Cognition
MISCONCEPTION: Your opinions of people and events are based on objective evaluation.
TRUTH: You translate your physical world into words, and then believe those words.
- The Anchoring Effect
MISCONCEPTION: You rationally analyze all factors before making a choice or determining value.
TRUTH: Your first perception lingers in your mind, affecting later perceptions and decisions.
MISCONCEPTION: You see everything going on before your eyes, taking in all the information like a camera.
TRUTH: You are aware only of a small amount of the total information your eyes take in, and even less is processed by your conscious mind and remembered.
MISCONCEPTION: In all you do, you strive for success.
TRUTH: You often create conditions for failure ahead of time to protect your ego.
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
MISCONCEPTION: Predictions about your future are subject to forces beyond your control.
TRUTH: Just believing a future event will happen can cause it to happen if the event depends on human behavior.
- The Moment
MISCONCEPTION: You are one person, and your happiness is based on being content with your life.
TRUTH: You are multiple selves, and happiness is based on satisfying all of them.
- Consistency Bias
MISCONCEPTION: You know how your opinions have changed over time.
TRUTH: Unless you consciously keep tabs on your progress, you assume the way you feel now is the way you have always felt.
- The Representativeness Heuristic
MISCONCEPTION: Knowing a person’s history makes it easier to determine what sort of person they are.
TRUTH: You jump to conclusions based on how representative a person seems to be of a preconceived character type.
MISCONCEPTION: Wine is a complicated elixir, full of subtle flavors only an expert can truly distinguish, and experienced tasters are impervious to deception.
TRUTH: Wine experts and consumers can be fooled by altering their expectations.
- The Illusion of Control
MISCONCEPTION: You know how much control you have over your surroundings.
TRUTH: You often believe you have control over outcomes that are either random or are too complex to predict.
- The Fundamental Attribution Error
MISCONCEPTION: Other people’s behavior is the reflection of their personality.
TRUTH: Other people’s behavior is more the result of the situation than their disposition