When we say our actions are a result of only our own decisions, we lie a bit. Our brain is constantly tricking us, impairing our perception of reality.
This syndrome is named after a real experiment: if you place a frog into a pot with water of a comfortable temperature and start slowly heating it, the frog will exhaust itself trying to stabilize its own body temperature and won’t be able to jump out when the water’s boiling. If, however, you place it in boiling water, it’ll jump out right away.
It’s the same with humans: when we find ourselves in a nuisance, we prefer to suffer little inconveniences until they drain us to the limit. Difficult relationships and joyless work are both traps we herd ourselves into with our reluctance to change things.
Our brain tends to cling to old beliefs and neglect new and verified data. A classic example: for centuries, people believed the Earth was flat (and there are still such individuals even today). It was just more comfortable to think about it like that.
Many of us are highly conservative in our everyday lives. We find it hard to say goodbye to obsolete information or even feelings that have grown stale.
When everything’s going down the drain, we often don’t want to know too many details of our troubles — like the proverbial ostrich that hides its head in the sand. We ignore information that upsets us, preferring not to think about the problem. For example, we’re glad the teacher hasn’t checked the exam papers yet because we don’t want to know the result. What if it’s bad?
This may sound paradoxical but the inability to see cognitive biases in ourselves is a bias too. The blind spot effect is just that. People tend to see others’ behavioral issues while being blind to their own faults, even the most obvious ones. Studies have shown that every person has experienced this effect at least once.
We often overrate the value of available information, especially when making decisions. For instance, a person defending their bad habit would say they know someone (maybe not even personally) who smoked 3 packs of cigarettes a day and lived to 100. The brain rules out the possibility of such an example being unique, if not altogether fake. The person automatically applies a good example to their own circumstances and doesn’t worry a bit.
When we get the hang of something new, our idea of our own talent becomes biased, resulting in inflated self-esteem. That’s why newbies give “valuable“ advice to more experienced colleagues while not seeing their own mistakes. Upon gaining experience, the realization of how much there’s yet to learn dawns on them, and self-perception changes its sign to ”minus.”
A study has shown that if you put people before a choice either to reduce a small risk to zero or to dramatically cut a huge one, the majority would choose the former — even if it’s counterproductive. Nullify the low risk of air crashes or radically decrease the enormous number of car accidents? The zero risk is often more appealing to our brain.
Observations show that a caught crab can only crawl out of a bucket alone. When there are other crabs inside, they start dragging the escapee down.
Society is just the same. People subconsciously don’t want someone around them to change their life for the better because they themselves will look worse by comparison. For example, when a member of a group says he or she wants to go to the gym, the rest try to talk them out of it (“You’re great as you are!“ ”Why do you need to do that?” etc) because they don’t want them to succeed.
This effect is as strong as it is potentially dangerous: it makes dubious information appealing to the public. The reason is charisma. Most people trust the words of an eloquent speaker, often failing to notice breaches in logic or even false information. Words of more competent but less convincing people, at the same time, seem less important. That’s why sects and fake science are so popular even today.
Imagine you’re in a new relationship, you feel infatuated with your new partner, and these feelings are easily confused with love. Your brain pictures your future wedding, and you fantasize about how beautiful your life together will be. However, when the initial passion between you goes away, you may well feel disappointed that your partner is not living up to your previous expectations of a “beautiful life.” The same goes for everything you anticipate too much: the more you wait for something, the more excited you feel about it in advance, and the less happy you are when the wait is finally over.