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the problem is your brain

Over the last year, I’ve become more interested in neuroscience — especially as it relates to health.  Here’s an interesting article from Business Insider that draws research from Psychology Today.


4 Problems With Our Brains That Cause Us To Make Dumb Decisions

We humans do many stupid things. But sometimes it’s not our fault, it’s just how our brains naturally function.

Psychology Today and PsyBlog write about four things humans are inclined to do that cause us to make poor decisions.

1. We treat inferences as facts

Inferences are conclusions we draw from observations. The problem is that observations aren’t always spot on.

Have you ever met someone, internally decided you weren’t a fan, then realized you actually could benefit from them? Maybe they were someone high up in your industry you didn’t recognize, or someone who works for a company you just applied to. Either way, you just lost out.

To beat this instinct, always dig for more facts before making judgments. You know what happens when you assume…

2. Polarized Thinking

What’s the first thing that pops in your head when you hear the word “left?” Most people instantly think “right.”

That’s because humans have a tendency to view things as extremes; we see the world in black and white rather than shades of gray. We’re naturally drawn toward one side or another, which can make us bad at compromising.

Psychology Today’s solution? “Be alert to polarized wording, framing, and thinking, especially when processing political arguments and debate.”

3. Intensional Orientation

LisaMarie Luccioni of Psychology Today defines intensional orientation as, “viewing people, objects, and events in terms of labels rather than how they actually exist or operate.” In other words, people stereotype.

She likens this to teachers grading papers. If a teacher sees a student’s name before grading a paper, he or she may be biased when reading it. This student got an A on her last test, her paper must be good.

To solve this problem, Luccioni says to “react to current merits of work.”

4. Reading is believing

When you read something, like a provocative headline, your brain is automatically programmed to believe it, even if it isn’t true.

“Believing is not a two-stage process involving first understanding then believing,” writes Jeremy Dean of PsyBlog. “Instead understanding is believing, a fraction of a second after reading it, you believe it until some other critical faculty kicks in to change your mind.”

The next time you read something that sounds a little outlandish, take time to absorb it and then question the material.