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How you fool yourself

By August 19, 2017December 10th, 2019mindset, psychology

The human mind is prone to misjudge many things in very predictable ways.

We now know this from many years of rigorous psychological research.

Even scientists dismiss findings of how their own minds operate.

Everyone (even data-obsessed researchers) think they know themselves very well.

But the fact is we don’t know ourselves near as well as we think. This has been proven time and time again.

When it comes to assessing cause “out there in the world,” we can usually trust our judgment.

But causation isn’t easily discerned when operating in our own minds.

Let’s consider our strong tendency to believe that “what’s focal is causal.”

This tendency is why earlier humans believed the planets revolved around the Earth, not the Sun. We live on the Earth, and we are hyper-focused on events here.

Early on we assumed (and then unquestioningly believed) the Earth was the center of the of our planetary system.

So, even when we’re assessing cause “out there in the world” we misjudge. That’s because of the “what’s focal is causal” misperception.

It’s very hard to detect this tendency on your own.

Scientific research repeatedly confirms it.

But so what?

When truth conflicts with subconscious beliefs it ricochets off our minds like small pellets off a car windshield.

We have trouble understanding the subconscious part of our mind.

So we have trouble accepting it’s the cause of many decisions and beliefs.

Freud was the first modern thinker to stress the power of unconscious thinking processes.

Other psychologists have studied human conditioning as well. But, again…so what?

Most people, even those who are deeply aware of the power of conditioning, under appreciate its power.

Why is this?

Well, primarily because we resist believing that subconscious beliefs shape our decision-making.

We think that we have total free will. We don’t want to accept that conditioning erodes most that (supposed) free will.

Even when given unassailable proof of unconscious conditioning we refuse to believe it affects us.

Even hyper-rational scientists dismiss the power of the subconscious. They dismiss it as summarily as an atheist dismisses the notion that God is a causal force in human affairs.

Even though science has unassailably established the power of the subconscious on our decision-making

Let me introduce Exhibit A:

Richard Feynman was a fiercely independent-minded scientist. He was rigorous in seeking the truth, and had little patience for people who weren’t as rigorous as him.

But when it came to appreciating the power of the human unconscious he was as blissfully ignorant as everyone else.


Read my old blog post to find out (if your subconscious will permit you).

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