8 traps that our minds fall into

In the science of consciousness, there is the concept of "cognitive distortion" - repeated errors in thinking that all people have. Some of these mistakes are not harmful at all (and you can even say that they are useful), but many lead to inaccurate judgments and the fact that we do not think rationally.

We argue to win, not to get to the truth

Everyone knows the phrase attributed to Socrates that "truth is born in a dispute." But the very idea of ​​a dispute did not arise at all for this: scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber put forward a theory (it is called the argumentation theory of reason) that in the course of the development of human society, people learned to argue and reason in order to gain power over each other. Modern people also depend on this: we continue to argue, even when all the facts are against us, because this is a tool of manipulation.

Mercier and Sperber believe that the ability to reason, ask questions, and offer answers was not born to find the truth. We have learned to reason in order to convince others - and to be more attentive when others try to convince us. When you once again google confirmation of your words in a dispute and find nothing, think about it: perhaps you are simply wrong and do not want to admit it. It's just that in ancient times, losing an argument meant lowering your chances of survival, which is why our brains work like that.

We do not understand the probability

The human brain has great difficulty in assessing the likelihood in everyday situations. A classic example: we are not afraid to get into the car, but many of us are very afraid of airplanes. At the same time, almost everyone knows that the chance of dying in a car crash is much higher than that of crashing on an airplane, but our brain does not agree with this. Although statistically the chance of dying in a car is 1 in 84, and in an airplane - 1 in 5, 000, or even 1 in 20, 000. This is called probability denial, a cognitive error that often leads to the fact that we exaggerate the risk of harmless things and not enough we are very much afraid of really dangerous ones. In addition, here emotions often interfere with consciousness: it is believed that the more emotions are associated with an unlikely event, the more likely it seems to us.

We have double standards in relation to other people

In social psychology, there is the concept of "fundamental attribution error." It sounds complicated, but it actually means a simple thing: we tend to judge others and not delve into circumstances and justify ourselves. We explain the mistakes of other people by their personal problems and peculiarities, and we justify our behavior and mistakes by external circumstances. Let's say your colleague is very late for work, and even came drunk - this is horror, he is an uncontrollable alcoholic! And if you are late and come drunk - well, you are having a difficult period in your life, and you needed to be distracted.

This mistake sometimes leads to the fact that we believe that everyone has the same circumstances, and therefore tend to judge others. Therefore, for example, there is a phenomenon of fat shaming: people tend to condemn fat people. For those who have never had problems with being overweight, it seems that the circumstances are the same and people are simply too lazy to lead a healthy lifestyle; they do not take into account parenting, metabolism, amount of free time, personal choices, or other factors. It's crazy to think that everyone has the same circumstances, but everyone does it.

We trust people within our group more

A common idea in sociology: we divide all people into groups and most of all we love those who fall into the same group with us, say, work colleagues or friends, or even people with the same skin color. This is in part due to the hormone oxytocin, the "love molecule." In the brain, it helps us connect with people within our group. But oxytocin, unfortunately, works in the opposite direction: we are afraid of all people outside the group, we treat them with suspicion and even despise them. This is called "in-group favoritism" - we overestimate the capabilities and value of our group at the expense of people we know less well. This social phenomenon appeared in ancient times, when humanity was divided into tribes.

We are happy to follow the crowd

As the famous experiments of Solomon Asch showed, everyone has a tendency to conformity. Ash showed people a picture with four lines and asked which one of them coincides in length with line X. We all see that this is line B. Ash put fake neighbors to people who all called the wrong line C - and a third gave in to the wrong option imposed the majority. A person is inclined to believe in something with a high probability, if other people already believe in it. From this emerge social norms and forms of behavior that spread within the group. The tendency to agree with the majority is why sociological polls cannot be trusted, their results affect how people think, who are then interviewed.

We perceive all numbers and values ​​in relation to others

This is the so-called "anchoring effect" - we compare any new information (first of all, numbers) with the existing one, and the information that we heard first affects us the most. Let's say a person comes to be hired and discusses a possible salary with the employer: the one who gives the first number will set the tone for the whole conversation. A framework will appear in the heads of both interlocutors, which will somehow be based on the first digit - any response proposal in their heads will be compared with it.

Marketers are very fond of using the anchoring effect: say, when we go to a clothing store, we compare the difference in price between items - but not the price itself. Therefore, some restaurants include very expensive dishes on the menu so that cheaper ones look attractive and reasonable next to them. Also, when we are offered three options to choose from, we usually choose the middle one - not too cheap and not too expensive; this is why fast food usually has small, medium and large size drinks.

We see coincidences and frequencies where there are none

The famous Baader phenomenon - Meinhof: sometimes we suddenly notice things that we did not notice before (especially if they began to have something to do with us), and mistakenly believe that these things have increased. A classic example: a person buys a red car and suddenly begins to see red cars on the street all the time. Or a person comes up with some important figure for himself - and he suddenly begins to think that this figure appears everywhere. The problem is that most people just don't realize that this is a mistake in thinking - and believe that some things do happen with a greater frequency, which can be very confusing to them. Therefore, we see coincidences where they do not exist - our brain begins to fish out non-existent algorithms and repetitions from the surrounding reality.

Our brain thinks that we are other people in the future

Studies show that when we think about ourselves in the future, the parts of the brain that are responsible for how we think about other people are activated. In other words, if you are asked to imagine yourself 10 years from now, your brain is imagining some kind of incomprehensible stranger. This leads to what is called hyperbolic discounting (yes, another cumbersome phrase): we hardly think about the benefits for ourselves in the future - and we want to receive benefits as soon as possible, albeit smaller. Let's say you are more likely to eat something unhealthy to get instant gratification, instead of thinking about your health in the future. Consciousness lives in the present moment, so we put off all the unpleasant for later. This phenomenon is of particular concern to doctors (for obvious reasons) and economists (we are poor at spending money wisely and saving it for later). One food-related study illustrates this thinking error well: When people plan to eat for a week, 74% choose fruit. And when they choose what to eat right now, 70% choose chocolate.