Humans are smart, granted, but we are wildly imperfect. We tend to fall into mind traps which weaken our intellect and secretly affect our decisions.

The human brain is able to perform more than a thousand operations per second. This means that its power is still greater than that of any computer invented to-date. But this does not mean that our brain does not have limitations or mind traps. A simple calculator can perform calculations much more precisely and faster, and our memory is often unreliable.

Mind traps which trick our consciousness

In addition, we tend to fall into traps of our own consciousness, which, time and again, lead us to questionable choices or result in making biased decisions. In this article, we will discuss seven of these common mind traps or, scientifically speaking, cognitive distortions.

1. Confirmation bias

We like to agree with people who agree with us. That is why we often visit forums where people sharing our political views tend to congregate. We communicate with people, whose tastes and opinions are similar to ours. We despise individuals, groups or sites which provoke us to doubt our established beliefs. Psychologist B. Skinner called this phenomenon a “cognitive dissonance.”

This selectivity leads to a so-called “confirmation bias.” We often subconsciously perceive only information that “feeds” into our existing opinions, ignoring or rejecting anything that conflicts with these opinions and threatens to undermine the familiar image of the world around us. The Internet, by the way, only reinforces this tendency.

2. Affiliating with a group

The phenomenon of affiliating ourselves with a group is similar to confirmation bias, which was discussed above. This has to do with our innate need for belonging somewhere and “being a part of a group.”

Oddly enough, this need is related to the hormone oxytocin, also known as the “love molecule”. This neurotransmitter helps us to build strong ties with each other.

On the other hand, it results in an opposite effect towards those who exist outside of our “circle”. It makes us suspicious, frightened, and even arrogant towards unfamiliar people.

3. Player’s prejudice

This is a tendency to attach great importance to events which have already happened when we become confident that they can somehow influence our future. A classic example is the coin toss. If five consecutive tries show tails, the probability that the next try will result in a head becomes likely according to the way we think. In fact, the probability is still 50/50.

The mind trap is called “positive expectations” and is typical for gamblers. They think that after a couple of losses, luck has to be on their side, and the next game will bring them a huge jackpot. The phenomenon called a “strip of luck” works in the same fashion.

 4. Post-shopping rationalization

Any one of us can recall at least one case when, after buying something useless, non-working or prohibitively expensive, we tried to convince ourselves that the purchase was still worth it.

This is known as “post-shopping rationalization”, an example of distorted thinking built into our consciousness which can make us feel a little better after doing something obviously stupid.

5. Neglecting probabilities

Few of us are afraid to get in a car, but most of us can admit feeling anxious when climbing on board an aircraft. Flying, which is, unarguably, a completely unnatural state for humans, is commonly associated with danger.

At the same time, almost everyone knows that the probability of dying in a car accident is many times greater than dying in a plane crash. Statistically speaking, the chances of dying while traveling by car are 1/84, while by plane – 1/5000

And yet, our brain refuses to accept this relationship. The same phenomenon makes us afraid of dying at the hands of terrorists, and not think about more immediate dangers, such as falling down the stairs or being accidentally poisoned, for example.

6. Selective observation

Selective observation is when we suddenly start to notice something in our surroundings which is completely new to us. We think that this “new experience” started pursuing us at a certain point, while in reality it simply escaped our attention earlier.

7. The negativity effect

People have a tendency to pay more attention to the bad news, and it does not necessarily concern only those suffering from psychological issues. Scientists believe that we subconsciously perceive bad news as more important to us. In addition, the bad news instills more confidence in us, perhaps because the good news often seems to be too suspicious or boring.

You can avoid these mind traps

We must pay close attention to the failings of the mind. Mind traps can convince you to give up, guard yourself too heavily or even, on the flip side, make risky choices.

But if we use simple logic, we can avoid these tricks of our consciousness. The human mind is amazing and there’s no limit to what we can achieve as human beings.



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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Rob V.

    I was taught that “cognitive dissonance” is the ability to enjoy something which you fundamentally disagree with, like an anti-Semitic finding a Jewish comedian hilarious. Or I guess rather, it’s the ability to hold two conflicting opinions about the same concept, object or person.

    I watch a lot of QI, which is the only reason this term has been introduced to me.

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