4 Weird Ways Your Brain Stops You From Making Great Decisions
Your brain is undoubtedly a brilliant and amazing thing and I certainly make sure I take mine with me wherever I go. However, in an attempt to save our most precious resource, that of energy, our brain develops cognitive biases and shortcuts in our thinking called heuristics.
For the most part these biases do not represent a major issue, but on occasions they can cost us time, money and energy if we are not aware of them. Here are four common ones that I can guarantee will have caught you out on more than one occasion and more importantly, how to avoid them in the future.
1. Sunk Cost Fallacy
Sunk cost fallacy is most often attributed to the financial investment sector in which an investor makes a poor decision purchasing stock. Then, rather than accepting his mistake, he continues to compound the error by chasing those losses and buying more in the hope it will rise again and he will recoup his money.
Sunk cost fallacy can be transferred to many areas of your life. Pouring time and energy into a project that deep down you know cannot truly succeed, is this bias at it’s finest.As is staying in an unfulfilling career because you spent a lot of time and money studying at college. The feeling that it would be a waste by abandoning your career and pursuing something you truly love is sunk cost fallacy.
Even staying in a relationship that you know really died years ago can be attributed to this bias if you are reluctant to let all the emotional investment go.Again it’s a question of being honest with yourself no matter how bad it makes you feel. You have to ask yourself the tough questions. Am I living my values? Am I doing what I love? Am I truly happy? And if not, how can I make that happen?
2. The Halo Effect
There was an advertising campaign recently that showed Leonardo DiCaprio holding a well-known Swiss watch around his knuckles. He wasn’t even wearing the watch properly, just holding it in a very atypical and somewhat unusual way.Is Leonardo a watch expert? Or was he a jeweler prior to becoming an actor? No, he’s been an actor since a very early age, but for advertisers it really doesn’t matter because of the halo effect.
If you like MrDiCaprio your brain will jump to the (possibly) erroneous conclusion that not only can he act, but as such he must possess a fine taste in time pieces.This can show in other, more sinister areas of your life. Let’s suppose you are female and meet a nice well dressed, good looking and charming guy at a bar. He is very generous and buys you drinks and regales you with interesting and amusing stories.
You are now much more likely to trust him, even though in reality he has done zero to earn that trust.Nothing concrete has happened for him to have deserved your trust other than the halo effect. Your brain presumes because he possesses certain attributes you admire, then he must possess others too.The latter example can be rather alarming and requires critical judgment.
Just because somebody acts well, dresses well and/or tells interesting stories means absolutely nothing other than at that time they are acting well, dressed well and telling interesting stories.And even though you may think you are immune to the cunning ploys of advertisers using popular celebrities to get you to buy your product, you really are not unless you seriously question your own judgment.
3. Post Purchase Rationalization
You decide you want to improve the quality of your life and as such decide to purchase a very expensive online self development course that runs into many thousands of dollars.Even if that course sucks and three months down the road there has been little or no change in the quality of your life, it is highly unlikely you will admit that to yourself, let alone anybody else.
To do so would create a devastating negative feeling in your brain brought on by the knowledge you have been duped and your status has been lowered.Your brain will do whatever it can to avoid a feeling of reduced status, including lying to you and insisting you really did get your money’s worth.
Marketers know this, and they also know that they can offer money back guarantees that few people will take them up on for this very reason.Be honest with yourself. Don’t look for reasons to support the inherent belief that you made a great decision. Look for reasons why that may not be the case. Then if you find them and there is a money back option, take it and don’t look back.
4. The Availability Heuristic
A weird thing happened in the UK in the 1988. BBC Radio 1 decided to celebrate their 21st Anniversary by asking their listeners to vote for the greatest single ever produced.There was a boy band at the time called, Bros who had released a mere 3 singles in a short-lived career. Yet two of them made the top 5 of the list and only Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen stopped them from claiming the title of greatest single of all time. (Successful in life)
The fact that you probably have no idea who Bros were tells you all you need to know about the availability heuristic.For the most part the human mind gives more credence to recent events than those further back in time. It also gives a heavier priority to things it is consistently reminded of. The fact that Bros were getting heavy airplay and were currently riding high made people think they were better than they were. It’s doubtful if that vote were taken now they would make the top 500.
Do you know more people die from airplane parts falling out of the sky and hitting them than do from shark attacks? The problem is, shark attacks make great TV news stories so we presume they are more common than they really are because we hear about them more often.When the Ebola outbreak first made news there were hundreds of people canceling trips to South Africa and other southern African countries for fear of contracting the disease. It seemed not to matter that it’s almost 4,000 miles from Guinea where the outbreak started. (Improve Your Life)
People were scared, and the heavy reporting created an availability heuristic in which they lost all sense of reason.The media feeds you a constant diet of bad news, but before you get fearful do the math. Most people don’t get murdered, even in the most violent areas of the most dangerous cities. Plane crashes are phenomenally rare. Terrorists are responsible for a minuscule amount of deaths each year and you’re more likely to die from bee sting than the bird flu. So try and chill!
Tim Brownson is a Certified Life Coach, Life Coach Trainer, NLP Master Practitioner and International Best-Selling Author. If you would like a copy of his book 70 Amazing Facts About Your Brain and The Greatest 50 Motivational Quotes of All Time, as well as others,
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