Most people can’t rethink the way they think. So they keep thinking with the same patterns.
That’s a premise of Think Like a Freak, the most recent book by the authors of Freakonomics —a book that aspires to help people improve how they think. The first piece of advice is simple to state, but hard to retrain your brain to do.
Rule #1: learn to admit when you don’t know something.
People who can’t do this (and there are many) are completely blocked from learning many useful new things.
And this rule applies to well informed folks just as much as anyone.
For example, a study showed that highly educated experts tend to predict wrong over 50% of time in their fields of expertise.
Despite this mediocre track record, the experts still tend to be massively overconfident.
Pretending we know things is about protecting our reputation, even to the point of promoting it over the collective good.
That’s a super-lethal combination: cocky and wrong.
Especially bad if you’re in a position to make decisions about other people’s safety and well-being.
If people are bad at understanding the external world, they’re often even worse when it comes to understanding themselves.
One reason is we’re oblivious to the effects of our “moral compass.”
Our moral compass is great for feeling an allegiance to some abstract duty, but it also distorts our ability to perceive things as they really are.
We incline to fitting facts to our worldview.
And guess what?
Righteousness is not a good foundation for unbiased evaluation.
Not only do most people not want to change the way they think, there is evidence that the human brain often tries to avoid thinking at all.
Few people think more than two or three times a year, said author George Bernard Shaw who then added: “I made an international reputation for myself by thinking two or three times a week.”
If you want to change the way you think the first step is to study the little voice in your head.