5 Common Mental Errors

Here are five common mental errors that sway you from making good decisions.

Excerpt from James Clear.

1. Survivorship Bias.

Survivorship bias refers to our tendency to focus on the winners in a particular area and try to learn from them while completely forgetting about the losers who are employing the same strategy.

2. Loss Aversion.

Loss aversion refers to our tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses over acquiring gains. Research has shown that if someone gives you $10 you will experience a small boost in satisfaction, but if you lose $10 you will experience a dramatically higher loss in satisfaction. Yes, the responses are opposite, but they are not equal in magnitude.

3. The Availability Heuristic.

The Availability Heuristic refers to a common mistake that our brains make by assuming that the examples which come to mind easily are also the most important or prevalent things.

For example, research by Steven Pinker at Harvard University has shown that we are currently living in the least violent time in history. There are more people living in peace right now than ever before. The rates of homicide, rape, sexual assault, and child abuse are all falling.

4. Anchoring.

Perhaps the most prevalent place you hear about anchoring is with pricing. If the price tag on a new watch is $500, you might consider it too high for your budget. However, if you walk into a store and first see a watch for $5,000 at the front of the display, suddenly the $500 watch around the corner seems pretty reasonable. Many of the premium products that businesses sell are never expected to sell many units themselves, but they serve the very important role of anchoring your mindset and making mid-range products appear much cheaper than they would on their own.

5. Confirmation Bias.

Confirmation bias refers to our tendency to search for and favor information that confirms our beliefs while simultaneously ignoring or devaluing information that contradicts our beliefs.

Changing your mind is harder than it looks. The more you believe you know something, the more you filter and ignore all information to the contrary.

Most people don’t want new information, they want validating information.

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