Category Archives: bias

Thought: Deliberate and deliberated

1Take a look at the face of the woman on the left. What do you see?

It should be immediately apparent to you that the woman is on the verge of exploding with anger. Possibly also in the process of exchanging some choice words.

Now look at the following problem 17 x 34.

This bound to take some thought. You are immediately aware that this is multiplication problem. But in order to work it out mentally or with pen and paper, requires considerable mental effort.

The above 2 examples are from the book “Thinking, fast and slow” by Nobel laureate, Daniel Kahneman. Kahneman refers to the former mode of thinking as using System 1, which is fast, automatic and immediately apparent. The latter mode, which requires deliberate thought requires the use of System 2, and involves effortful mental activity.

While System 1 mode of thinking is both intuitive and fast and is our evolutionary response to quickly responding to many things. On the other hand System 2 is methodical is slow and has to be worked out,

System 1 & System 2 are constantly at work with System 1 aiding any work done by System 2.  This post is not a review about the book itself. However, I would like to use the above discussion for another related aspect of the way we conduct our lives.  Here is another interesting example

A bat & ball cost $. 1.10. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

If your answer was 10c then you were wrong. With a pen and paper or with a little conscious thought you will realize that the bat would need to cost $1.05 and the ball 5c.

So this is what I would like to focus on. We as human beings are lazy thinkers. We rush to conclusions without much thought.  We fail to work System 2 appropriately, instead take the easy course of taking the immediate response of System 1.

Here are some examples where we would be much better off if we spend a little extra time pondering before we make a decision or come to a conclusion.

For e.g. when we learn a new skill for e.g. to play a musical instrument, painting or even taking a new role at your office. There are typically 3 stages in learning. Initially you will have a steep learning curve when you will be forced to exercise System 2.  In the 2nd stage you would have acquired the skill and you will be able to go on autopilot without much work for System 2. Usually once people reach this stage they get used to comfort of the learned ease and just plateau at this point. If you really want to improve then in the 2nd stage if you make a conscious effort to learn where your shortcomings are you can move from the average to an expert.

Other instances where lazy thinking is in full force is when we jump to conclusions based on inbuilt biases and opinions. We never take a moment to reflect. We intensely dislike someone based on our System 1’s evaluation and we continue to dislike the person. If only we set our System 2 in motion and tried to understand why we hate somebody we may realize that there was no basis for the hatred.

 

While System 1 is there for a reason it does not make sense to use System 1 for all situations in our life. We need to get out of our lazy thinking style and take a more active role not only in our lives but also in our thought!

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Six techniques to better navigate through life

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Whether by an accident of nature or by design, we have arrived on this pale, blue planet of ours. You have arrived at this page by another accident or by intention. Regardless we still have a lifetime ahead of us.

 

Here is a post that gives 6 key strategies that will enable you to lead a more complete and fulfilling life.

 

Problems are a reality of life: This is the first and foremost fact that one needs to understand. Life’s problems are real. Accept it. Everybody from Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa or Buddha has had their share of problems. There are no exceptions. The sooner we realize this fact the better is our chance of handing our life better. While everybody has problems, the real difference comes in how we handle issues in life. Some get cowed down by problems, some constantly complain, and while others sit down to deliberate the best strategy to handle the problem. Instead of fretting and fuming, we could better use our energies in attacking and resolving the issue. We need to set the steps in motion and get on with life.

 

Accumulate small victories over time: It is necessary that we constantly and continually attain small victories. For this we need to set ourselves small, realistic goals and go about achieving them. This is particularly important for those who are low on confidence, have a defeatist attitude or even those who have an intact self-esteem. The Tao-Te-Ching gives the example of water being able to erode the hardest rock by constantly flowing over it. The erosion happens in infinitesimal amounts but over time can break through mountains.  We need to build our edifice of self esteem one brick at a time. This will enable us to take on larger tasks as we progress in our confidence

 

Envision a goal that is larger than yourself: To lead a fulfilling life we need to have a goal in life that is larger than ourselves. Simply wanting to be a CIO of an organization,a talented musician or  a great cricketer in 10 years time would not suffice. It would be too pedestrian. Your goal in some way should elevate and ennoble you. Rather your goal should be to reach a position where your influence in some way changes the life of many for the better. Other goals would be to become writer who can entertain and relieve boredom, a social worker who can alleviate the suffering of people or a blogger who can incite critical thinking. Your goal should have some qualifying aspect which you can relate to in a deep way. Viktor Frankl in his book “Man’s search for meaning” discusses how prisoners in the concentration camp were able to avoid death since they had an ennobling purpose in life.

 

Once you have your purpose it is essential that you work towards it. This has to happen consistently. You have to pursue your purpose with unshakeable fervor. It is likely that you will achieve your goal if you pursue it with steadfastness.

 

Delve into your past: In this world nobody is poor. We are all rich in a way. We are rich with our own experiences. Dive into your past. Look at your past accomplishments, your failures and your non-starters. What can you learn from your experience? As somebody said “Failures are failures, only if you don’t learn from them.”

 

Pause and reflect: Every now and then we need to come to a complete halt in life. We need to come to a absolute standstill. We need to enjoy the silence of stillness. We need to look inward at our desires, wishes, hopes, fears and thoughts. We have to see ourselves for what we are and what we stand for. This we can only do,  when we come to an absolute stop. This pause in life is necessary to make course corrections in life. In this silence we can understand our weaknesses and plan our future direction better. We can come to terms with our problems in life. We can better understand our prejudices and biases. This meditative silence is the best time when we can take stock of our personal, professional and social lives and make the necessary adjustments. Making this pause in our daily lives is extremely important in our fast paced lives these days

 

Sleep and exercise: Finally we need to make sure that we spend adequate time in exercise and sleep. The importance of physical exercise is vital to life. As we grow older, exercise takes on added importance. Spend the time outdoors in a brisk walk at least a few hours per week. Besides exercise ensure that you get adequate sleep. It really makes no sense to be miserly in the hours of sleep. A sleep refreshed body and mind can work far more efficiently.

 

These are some techniques that will help you navigate through life better. Consistent application, patience and a visualization of a larger goal can make life more meaningful and enjoyable.

 

Escaping the bias trap

When we are born we are free of any preconceived notions. Out thoughts and opinions are untrammeled by any fixed ideas. As we grow older we add a lot of baggage to ourselves and form ideas, judgments and opinions about people, places and things. In fact our lives happen in reverse. We are born into this world as beautiful as a butterfly. However we slowly age inside a cocoon of preconceived notions, opinions and biases. Whenever we are witness to any action or words from any individuals we quickly pigeon hole it based on our existing judgment on the individual or thing. The problem is we are lulled into believing what are initial reactions are. To break out of this trap we need to start questioning everything that we come across.We have to be critical in the way we think and have to exercise our reason. We need to avoid lazy thinking where we abandon reason and quickly jump to conclusions based on our past understanding of things or opinions of others.

Most of us, by default are lazy and for this simple reason don’t like to put the mental effort to reason.We just find it easier to bring forth preconceived notions and assumptions. In fact we just see what our self-adorned blinkers allows us to see. Most of the time we don’t even realize that our reactions are based on past judgments and may no longer be valid.Given a choice of conscious deliberate thought versus
taking recourse to existing prejudices or assumptions, it is the latter that usually succeeds. Firstly it is less effort and secondly the images we hold within us are pretty strong and definitely can withstand any superficial level of questioning.

However one should take the effort to shatter any existing ideas, notions or assumptions and consciously deliberate on what is the right path to action. All our decisions should be able to withstand our own questioning and should not be just based on our initial reaction.

Living fully in the moment

A common thread in all of human existence is the fact that we all perceive the arrow of time move forward only. We also have the same resource at our disposal, which is the present moment. How we utilize this moment is up to each one of us. How should we live in this moment?

An ideal way to approach life is take life moment by moment. We should live fully in the present and absorb what life has to offer us. We should not judge or form opinions as things happen to us. We should free ourselves of past programming.  We should receive what life has to offer us at that particular instant and move on to the next instant.  We should focus our attention in doing our best and achieving perfection in everything we do at any point in time.

But the way we react to each instance is based on our past conditioning. We are filled with opinions and biases. We judge everything that happens to us based on some of our past experience. We spoil a perfect moment in life because we tend it color it with our past experience in life. Sometimes we react in life in the present moment with hopes and expectations of something in the future.

Why cannot we just handle the present moment with the respect that it deserves? Why cannot we be free of past conditioning? Why should we color our actions in the present with expectations of future reward?

The ideal path forward in life is to take each moment in life as it is. We should just absorb and assimilate what comes to us. We should be an observer to all that happen to us. It is not that we should be passive. Rather we should be an active observer assimilating things. We should do things proactively in the instant.

We should not let our reactions in the present moment color something in the future. In other words we should not feel hurt later if someone criticizes us now, nor should we let praise make us proud at a later instant. We should be completely free of reactive behavior based on events in the present instant.

We should devote our complete attention to the instant, absorbing and observing things as they happen to us.  We should move with enthusiasm and vigor from moment to moment. This is an ideal way of living,

Delusions

Human beings are the only creatures who are capable of completely deceiving themselves. Our mind can create a web of lies and so completely fool us that we will not know what is right and what is wrong.

Take for example the mindless bomb blasts in Mumbai today. What can one think of the perpetrators of such a cruel act. What must be going through the minds of these people.

Clearly these terrorists must harbor a lot of hatred for all mankind in general. How can they justify the loss of lives. I am certain that they must be justifying their deeds by thinking that to achieve their goal they have to sacrifice lives. They must be rationalizing their actis by arguing with themselves and completely fooling themselves of what is right or what is wrong,

What propels them to commit such acts? Do they think of lives lost, the people injured? Do they realize that they will be putting a lot of people in pain. Do they choose to ignore all of this and subjugate all human suffering to their cause whatever it might be.

Are the terrorists incapable of feeling or is their mind so warped that they cannot comprehend tenderness and love.

They must be utilizing their reason for all the wrong purposes.

When people do not pursue their lives by following true north principles of love, compassion, kindness are bound to be led astray by their mind.

The mind can become the vessel for dialbolical deeds accompanied by thoughts justifying and reasoning the devilish act.

The mind of these terrorists must be devoid of any possible human trait.

May they wake up to good sense and truth. May these people see the innocent smile a child. May they realize the joy of happiness gained by making others happy.