Why is it that we don’t always think logically or rationally? Regardless of the decision- something as small as choosing the best route to get to work in the morning, to more serious, potentially life-altering choices, we often find ourselves making silly mistakes because we just aren’t thinking critically. This is largely in part because we don’t see the world the way it is, we see it the way we are. We make decisions in the context of our own paradigms, and our own biases and beliefs are constantly operating beneath the surface.
While there are many ways in which we can make a wrong decision and go down the wrong path, but there are three big ways that we can mess up a big decision as explored in this video.
- Confirmation Bias. We tend to form opinions based on our own beliefs, and then we look for evidence to support those beliefs. Think back to the 2016 election– Hillary supporters looked for information that painted her in a positive light as well as information that painted Trump in a negative one. Trump supporters did the same thing, just reversed. We only look for data that supports our position, which ultimately limits our objectivity.
- Gambler’s Fallacy. We misread the odds of a situation actually happening, not taking into account the idea of statistical independence. For instance, flipping a coin 20 times and getting heads every time seems like it would be very rare; however, on every flip, you have a 50% statistical chance of the coin landing on heads.
- Escalation of Commitment. This can be summed up as not being able to let something go. We often feel compelled to throw good money, time, and effort at something, when in reality, it isn’t worth it. We have a hard time recognizing that it’s time to pull the plug, whether it be on a project or a relationship. We continually try to justify and rationalize our decision to not end something, just because we’ve already committed so much to it, and this can become a huge waste of your time and resources.
Now, you may have read all of these and thought to yourself “I don’t do that.” That in itself is an issue — illusory superiority: feeling like you’re above making these same mistakes. A great example of illusory superiority is if you ask people to rate their driving ability. 90% of people will say that they’re a great driver, because we tend not to believe our own faults.
Luckily, much like driving, critical thinking is a skill that you can improve upon. By constantly examining the way you think and thinking about why you think that way, you’ll slowly start to realize your own biases and assumptions and how they affect your motivations and actions. For a structured way to improve your critical thinking skills, check out this video.