critical thinking, decision making, psychology, cognitive stuff and the brain


The ever-popular pop-novel, BLINK by Malcolm Gladwell surmises that decisions and mental processes that rely on intuition are often correct and decisions made based on snap judgements are often as good or better than those that rely on planning and detailed considerations.

I don’t doubt that intuition can lead to good results or good decision making but relying solely on the method or even suggesting that it is better than careful analysis is down right shameful.

The reason being is that the human mind is susceptible to influences, even deception-from both within and from external forces. Some of these stem from heuristic and biases and include things like anchoring and availability, others are what are called psychological influences that include principles like consistency, reciprocation, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity (as outlined by Dr. Robert Cialdini).

In the future I will touch base in greater detail on the items listed above but will for now give a few short examples to give the reader a sense of how easily we can be influenced.

An example of anchoring. Studies that shown that when students were asked 1) how happy are you? 2) how often are you dating? the correlation was relatively low (somewhere near .11). but when the questions were reversed the correlation was above .50.

An example of availability. After 9/11 how likely did you feel that a terrorist attack was likely? The majority believed that it was more likely after 9/11 occurred, not based on facts or terrorist intelligence but simply because the event was recent.

An example of consistency. The more people you tell that you will accomplish a goal, the more likely you will achieve it. For example, quitting smoking, your need to appear consistent will likely influence the odds of remaining smoke-free.


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