“One man’s death is a tragedy, but a million deaths is a statistic.”
How Our Brain Lies
Today I want to talk about how your brain plays certain tricks on you. How you tend to be more biased towards yourself. By keeping a lookout for these little tricks you can catch yourself being biased and illogical in some situations. Learning about the mind is part of developing yourself. These ideas come from Dan Airy, the author of The Upside of Irrationality and Predictably Irrational. With that in mind let’s get started.
The Most Important Person in the World
Do you know what the most important word in the whole world is? You don’t!? Well take a wild guess, I’ll wait…
It’s Matt. The most important word in the world is Matt.
I know, it seems so obvious now. Clearly everyone’s favorite word is my name. Everybody’s favorite word is their own name. We humans are naturally a bit self-centered. We kind of have to be in order to walk around with some sense of confidence. In everything we do, whenever we have the chance we often value what we do more than what others do.
The effort we put into a task often relates to the amount of pride we get from it. In the 1940s cake mixes were first introduced to the market. It was doing a lot worse than expected. The problem was that people did not like to tell their friends that they used a packaged mix. Their sense of pride was taken away so people didn’t buy. This all changed when Pillsbury took the dried egg out of the recipe and told the consumers to add the egg in themselves.
Sales skyrocketed. Keep in mind this happened by reducing the quality of the product. They basically gave the consumer less and the consumers bought more! What people are interested in is not how long it takes to make a recipe or even how good it is. People are more interested in the pride they feel in making it. They want to gloat to their friends and impress everyone that they made an awesome cake.
Other companies also take advantage of this fact. Custom teddy bears, custom cars, custom pizza, custom everything! It really shows how biased we are towards ourselves.
Not only that but we always assume that everything we own is automatically better than everyone else’s. My dog is better than your dog. My child is better than your child. My 36 inch TV is better than your 36 inch TV! Although we never explicitly say it we’re all thinking it. It’s human nature.
Why People Don’t Donate to Large Causes
More often than not people are completely moved when a little girl falls down a well but remain more distant about the murder of thousands of people. There is actually a good explanation for this one. There are two reasons for this.
The first reason is what’s called the identifiable victim effect. When we see somebody’s biography, picture and know their name we have a lot more empathy for that person than a broader statistic. As humans we tend to relate better to one person and thus feel more obligated to help.
Another reason is vividness. If someone told you they broke their hand you would probably feel bad for him but won’t think about it again. But if that same person walked you through the entire process of how a hand breaks in vivid detail – The snapping of the bones, the excruciating pain that occurs, the completely contorted state the hand was in; you are much more likely to empathize with that person. Same as with a broader perspective we do not know the details of each person in a catastrophic event. It is much easier to learn the details of a single person’s accident than it is on a wider scale.
People are not designed to care about events which happen far away. The only reason why we are able to do that is because of technology.
You Can Build a Habit of Outbursts
Say that you are not often a road rager but somebody cut you off on the road and you just lost it. You were driving to work and you had that fit of rage towards another driver. But that’s all behind you now – You wouldn’t hurt a fly once you get out of the vehicle right? Sorry, wrong. Even after that short burst of anger has faded in your car you may be developing a bad habit without even realizing it.
We tend to look at ourselves in the past to determine how we should act. Our brains have poor memory when it comes to remembering our emotional states. How did you feel last week at around 2:00pm? You probably remember what you did and not how you felt. We remember our past actions more than our emotional state.
So the next time you get behind that wheel and someone cuts you off your brain will think back to that moment when you rolled down your window and stuck your head out there and yelled obscenities at him. Your brain will take that cue as a good reason to do the same thing. Much like how peer pressure affects us because we figure out how to act by taking cues from how other people act we also take cues from our past selves.
So the next time you feel that you are in a fit of rage remember that this can turn into a deadly rage habit. It is better to calm down and not let your rage get the better of you.
Have a great day!
Do you do any of these? Which one of these surprised you? Let me know in the comments below!