We like to think that we are able to make the right decisions. But the truth is that we often do it badly. Why do we make the wrong decisions and how can this be changed.
“Why did I marry a man I don’t really love?”, “Why did I buy this beautiful compact car when you have four kids and I need a bigger car?”, “What was I thinking when I bought these horrible jeans last fall? “.
These are just a few of the questions we can ask ourselves throughout our lives, trying to understand when something went wrong and why we made a bad choice.
The first step to making better decisions is to understand what prevents us from choosing what really suits us.
We tend to look for others to blame them for our bad decisions. We blame the circumstances in which we were forced to make decisions, or the people who forced us to make choices.
But the reality is that most of the time our brain deceives us and leads to wrong choices. Because every decision we make is determined by how we interpret, analyze and process information.
Decision making is a cognitive process. And when it becomes too complex, our brain looks for ways to take it faster and with less energy loss.
Our choices are also often influenced by what psychologists call cognitive biases. Prejudice is a tendency to think in a certain way, which can reduce the ability to think soberly and act rationally.
Here are some ways in which the brain and ourselves can deceive ourselves and make wrong decisions.
Cognitive bias “anchoring”
This cognitive bias describes people’s tendency to rely too heavily on the first information offered anchor when making decisions.
For example, if you buy a used car and you are told that its price is $ 10,000, then prices lower than the original set will seem more acceptable to you, even if they are still higher than the real cost of the car.
This is also evidenced by the experiment of researchers. They asked participants to turn the wheel of fortune, where there were numbers from 0 to 100.
They were then asked to guess how many countries in Africa belonged to the United Nations. Those who dropped more on the wheel of fortune generally assumed that there were many African countries in the United Nations, while those who dropped fewer mostly called fewer.
This cognitive bias is skillfully used by salespeople and marketers.
When they offer sales and promotions, they first show you the price you could pay without the stock – your anchor – and then say that the new price is much better than the anchor.
Framework restriction effect
The decisions we make are strongly influenced by how we are presented with choices.
The same choice, presented in a positive or negative way, will affect us differently and, as a consequence, the decision we make.
For example: you are offered two drugs for weight loss. Product A guarantees that you will lose 3 kilograms, and product B claims that 60% of people lose 5 kilograms, and 40% do not lose weight at all. Most likely, you will choose product A. Because so you are sure that you will definitely lose weight.
When we like an idea or concept to be true, we believe in it no matter what. Often we make the first assumptions about a situation or subject, and then go in search of information and research to prove that our beliefs are correct.
This forces us to focus on things that confirm our preconceived beliefs and ignore information that contradicts them.
This is a particularly dangerous prejudice because it can lock us in our thoughts and we will not notice what the world is telling us.
Anxiety exacerbates this effect. For example, people with hypochondria will search the Internet for things like “fever, a symptom of leukemia.”
The first result obtained by Google will be a list of symptoms of leukemia, including fever. So a confirmatory bias will not allow a person to see other information.
You compare poorly
How do you know you paid a good price for a tablet? Or how to find out that the price you paid for a liter of milk in the grocery store was fair?
Comparison is one of the main tools we use in making decisions. You know the usual price for a dozen eggs or butter, so you compare offers to find the best price.
We assign value depending on how the items are compared to other items.
But what happens when you make bad comparisons? Or when the elements with which you compare your options are not representative or not equal? Consider, for example, how far you are willing to go to save 700.
If you were told that you could save 700 on an item for 2,000 by going to a store that is 5 kilometers away from the one you planned to visit, you would probably do it.
But if you were told that you could save 700 on a subject for 280 thousand , would you waste time saving money?
People are less likely to go further to save on more expensive goods. Why? This is the same 700.
In such cases, you simply fall victim to a false comparison. Because you compare the amount you save with the amount you pay, 700 seems to be a much bigger savings on a 2000 item than on a 280 thousand item.
You may be too optimistic
People tend to have an innate optimism that can interfere with making the right decisions.
When people are told that the risk of something bad happening is lower than they expected, they tend to adjust their predictions to match the new information they have learned.
When they find that the risk of something bad happening is actually much higher than they thought, they tend to simply ignore the new information.
For example, if a person predicts that the probability of dying from cigarette smoking is only 5%, but then he is told that the real risk of death is actually about 25%, he is likely to ignore the new information and stick to his initial estimate.
In part, this overly optimistic view of things stems from our natural tendency to believe that bad things happen to other people, but not to us.
When we hear about something tragic happening to another person, we often look for the causes of this problem in the person’s actions. The tendency to blame victims protects us from having to admit that we are just as prone to tragedy as everyone else.
It is difficult to avoid the pitfalls of the mind because they are unconscious processes.
In addition, many of these prejudices have some value. They help us make decisions faster, take risks and take advantage of opportunities.
Because we cannot completely avoid cognitive biases, we can limit their negative effects.
So what can be done?
How to deal with cognitive bias
Acknowledge that you have cognitive biases
This is important in order to recognize typical decision-making behavior.
Then we will be more careful about decision-making processes, asking ourselves if nothing distorts our view of things.
Ask for another opinion
Another point of view may give you additional or contradictory information that will help you look at things from a different angle.
Try to refute, not confirm your opinion
When collecting information about something, try to google the opposite of your assumptions. Or try a separate study instead of looking for an answer to your hypothesis.
Define criteria and set priorities
Make a list of at least five factors or criteria when comparing two choices.
For example, you want to buy a new phone. Choose 5 criteria that are important to you, such as design, battery life, camera quality, price.
If you are concerned about social status, also indicate this.
Then systematize these criteria according to your priorities and compare options.
Ask yourself: what if?
Try to build scripts. What can happen if I choose X?
Questions can help you predict potential consequences. This will increase your awareness of the results and will probably lead you to a better choice.