I see 4 fundamental flaws in how people think. This is where you begin to start thinking critically about the world.
Flaw 1 – A False dichotomy:
People think in ‘Or’.
Things are Black or White,
It’s Nature or Nurture,
It’s democracy or dictatorship,
It’s good or bad,
It is right for you or wrong for you,
People don’t often see a multi-faceted world. It is often that something can have 2 or more states at the same time. For example, a person can have 4 different professional skills. That person does not HAVE to be one of the 4 things. A movie isn’t good or bad. It can be broken down into a million small units that can be evaluated. IQ is not genes or upbringing, it’s both. Sexual preferences, both. Certain food items are not bad or good. See them in the right context – they will both be good or bad, or in between, depending on the context! But, black or white is easy to communicate and easy to conceptualize. That is why people adhere to that anyway.
A dichotomy in thinking and opinions reduces everything to something lesser than it is. It kills the context and specific interactions in how the world works.
Flaw 2 – Correlation is not causation:
Just because 2 things happen together does not mean one caused the other.
Correlation means: 2 or more things occur together. Like your breaths and the suns rays in some parts of the world. Think of it, bad events take place all the time, there is almost always a president in a country. Does that mean that the president causes the bad events? Sometimes, not always.
Causation means: something is necessary to make some event happen. Like power supply is NEEDED to make a light bulb shine.
So you washed your hair with a shampoo and your hair looked great. Imagine, I am that guy. A hot girl asks me out right after I step out fresh with sexy curvy hair. I can make this error by saying that my shampoo played a role in getting the girl. No. There is no causal link established.
There is often a myriad of missing elements in between 2 things that correlated. Hunt for those. And, you’ll realize that there are so many variables to consider that correlation stops seeming like causation then.
Superstitions can be born this way. Wore a particular colored underwear for an interview and you did well? Raise your hand, how many of you have repeated that underwear (or other clothing items) on the next interview??
Special note: Correlation and causation become the same thing in special contexts- like how the brain learns. Sometimes neural circuits cause other circuits to fire and facilitate a behavior just because they happen together often. Read more about it here.
Flaw 3 – Anecdotes:
Stories are just stories, not hard evidence.Stories are just stories, not hard evidence. The world needs to work on scientific evidence, not anecdotes. Click To Tweet
When did stories become reliable evidence? Stories are stories. They are told, retold, paraphrased, misinterpreted, embellished, misrepresented for a lot of reasons. Yet, people add a lot of
Furthermore, stories are accounted as per the biases and perspectives of the beholder. That alone makes it an unreliable depiction of the truth. So why do people believe stories more than hard evidence? (scope for discussion????). But that’s not the aim here.
People do believe stories, often more than facts. Be it the efficacy of a doctor, the living conditions at a certain destination, health risks of certain substances, etc. How to succeed at something? How to get more likes on Facebook, etc. anecdotes get more value than empirical evidence. Weird world.
Two things that confound this problem:
The confirmation bias: People look for evidence that corroborates their own beliefs about something. It’s the meanest bias. Read more here.
The survivorship bias: People form impressions based on stories that survive to be told. Stories that don’t spread also have value. Looking only at surviving or success stories skews our perspective. Try listening to failure stories, they are a hidden treasure of insight. Read more here.
Flaw 4 – The Majority is correct:
Well, many of us act like it, but pretend not to believe it!
I agree, people are quite sharp today and realize that majorities often make mistakes in representing something. Democracy anyone???
But, social psychology shows that people tend to follow the actions of other people even though they think that conformity is going to lead to something harmful, conformity is the strongest incentive between money, morality, and functionality!
People like to follow people, even though they are wrong, and they know it! So ideas can spread like wildfire, opinions can change overnight, and unnecessary useless things like the brand of cat food a celebrity uses and how that celebrity once got drunk and forced their partner to eat it in some weird kinky game become headlines.
Memetics, the spread of information between people, as Richard Dawkins said, is very volatile.
People cause the spread of things and I have come to believe that people can make ‘anything’ a ‘thing’ just by being people.I MEAN, WE DID SURGERY ON A GRAPE. WE DID SURGERY ON A GRAPE. WTH? We can make anything a thing. We cause the spread of information that the majority reflects. The majority can be wrong, beware. Click To Tweet
An ending note: It’s easier to be wrong together than right alone, that’s what probably goes in that big head of a network we call humans!
So yeah, 4 flaws about humans that also make up what we call the human experience! Fascinating creatures we are. These are the flaws you should avoid to improve critical thinking.
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Hey! Thank you for reading; hope you enjoyed the article. I run Cognition Today to paint a holistic picture of psychology. Each article is frequently updated with new research findings.
I’m an applied psychologist from Pune, India. Love sci-fi, horror media; Love rock, metal, synthwave, and pop music; can’t whistle; can play the guitar.