B1 Intermediate UK 2108 Folder Collection
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It can be hard to make rational sense of the world.
But is your brain your own worst enemy?
Here are four of the many ways your brain's processing shortcuts
are playing tricks on you.
Welcome to cognitive bias.
Understanding a bit about it could change the way you see the world.
So here goes.
A recent peer-reviewed scientific study found caffeine consumption
is strongly linked with developing cancer.
On this scale,
to what extent do you agree or disagree
with the findings of this study?
Relax,
this study is fake.
However, your answer will be directly influenced
by the amount of caffeine you drink.
Cognitive bias number one...
Self-serving bias is your brain's
strong natural tendency to interpret information in such a way as
to unduly favour itself.
In this experiment,
caffeine drinkers rated the study's validity consistently lower
than non-caffeine drinkers.
Subjects with a negative personal stake in the outcome of research
were less convinced by the data.
How irrational.
Your brain will reject perfectly viable information
simply because it has negative implications
for your personal beliefs and behaviours.
Likewise, it will tend to eagerly accept information
with positive implications,
even if that information is flawed or inconclusive.
So why does your brain do this?
Self-serving bias protects one's fragile ego from threat and injury.
That last group presentation you gave was either a success,
thanks to your brilliant work.
Or was a failure, thanks to everyone else.
You gotta look after that ego.
OK, a new thought experiment.
Look at this parking.
What do you think of the red car's driver?
If you thought poorly of the driver's character,
you have performed cognitive bias number two.
This is your brain's attempt to explain behaviour
by placing undue emphasis on internal characteristics of the person,
rather than external factors.
Consider that just moments ago,
these cars were parked in a way
that left the red car's driver with little option.
Does that change your opinion?
Fundamental attribution error is often performed when driving.
I'm speeding because I'm in a rush,
whereas, they're speeding because they're an inconsiderate maniac.
Your brain has limited capacity to interpret the world.
It can observe the badly parked car
and understand that someone put it there,
but that's it.
To theorise about the historical arrangement of the cars,
or the situational needs of the driver
is a complex and potentially unending use
of finite cognitive resources.
On to the next one.
Here's a famous experiment by Peter Wason.
Play along at home.
Subjects were given a three number sequence,
told that it follows a simple rule, and asked to figure out the rule.
They were allowed to suggest their own number sequences
and told to continue until they were confident
that they had cracked the rule.
Were you thinking of a sequence like this?
This follows the rule.
And another, something like this?
This also follows the rule.
So, what is the rule?
It's to multiply by two, right?
Well...no.
Your brain just performed another cognitive bias,
The actual rules is any sequence of numbers in ascending order.
So what went wrong?
Your brain landed on its first hypothesis, multiply by two,
from there, every suggested number sequence was used
to confirm that initial hypothesis rather than actually test it.
A rational approach would be to attempt to disprove this hypothesis
by suggesting other number sequences that didn't follow it.
But, your brain isn't rational.
It has a tendency to search for, interpret, favour and recall
information that confirms its pre-existing beliefs,
numbers or otherwise.
Confirmation bias is based on limitations
in the brain's ability to handle complex tasks,
and the shortcuts that it uses as a result.
The brain finds it really difficult
to test alternative hypotheses in parallel.
It's good, but it's not that good.
OK,
so you've learnt a few cognitive biases,
you're now prepared to combat them in your own brain.
After all, knowing is half the battle, right?
Well, not exactly.
That's cognitive bias number four.
The action figure and TV character, G.I. Joe,
famously said, "Knowing is half the battle."
When it comes to cognitive bias, he was well out.
Knowing is one thing,
but habits, situations and other processes still rule the roost.
Self-awareness wont beat it.
You may know a badly parked car does not make a bad person,
but you'll still feel negatively towards them.
You may know your brain will take shortcuts to confirm the hypotheses
it already holds,
but it will still take those shortcuts.
You may know that your brain will protect your ego at every turn,
but the ego security will still be out in force.
So knowing about cognitive biases is way less than half the battle.
Even knowing the G.I. Joe fallacy about knowing about cognitive biases,
is still way less than half the battle.
Funny how your brain can pontificate about its own limitations
but do almost nothing about them.
But, in the true spirit of cognitive bias
you will be able to point it out in others.
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Four ways your brain is playing tricks on you | BBC Ideas

2108 Folder Collection
Tracy Wang published on February 19, 2020    Tracy Wang translated    Evangeline reviewed
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