Here are 21 of the most common thinking errors (video)

Originally published at: Here are 21 of the most common thinking errors (video) | Boing Boing


I was happy to see the shoutout to Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. I really enjoyed that book. Each chapter sort of experiments on the reader. Though an easy read, it is “heavy” in that way. I found that I had to take it very slowly, go in with an open mind, and be honest with myself and my reactions. I still found I couldn’t read more than a chapter at a sitting. I felt after a while that I couldn’t think anymore, couldn’t trust my own decision-making…and right about then, the author threw in a chapter that dealt with, “Okay, that was a lot. What do we do with it?” Maybe it’s a testament to my averageness, but I felt it was kind of thrilling to experience words on a page, written by a stranger in the past, predicting my thoughts.


I found the Ziegarnik effect interesting…especially with respect to my ADD child who can’t seem to finish assignments and gets totally stressed out when they get behind. They want to finish what they started before moving on to the next assignment, but if they get stuck everything grinds to a halt…

(not sure I’m interpreting the effect entirely correctly…)

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rational thought is an obvious illusion that we cling to despite all evidence from biological nervous systems showing otherwise. Our decision-making processes aren’t being “hijacked”, they are inherently irrational whether we deny it or not


Times have changed as well. These days, more than most of us can remember at any time in the past, politics and ideology are a matter of life and death. For some members of the community, these things just hit too close to home for “combatant but ultimately enlightening” discussion.


One would certainly like to know the evolutionary advantage of these effects.
If we are meant to ‘surmount’ them, sheer force of will will never work as well as understanding and integration.

I’m not an expert in this stuff, but I remember reading that some of it seems to be related to simple energy conservation. Other effects are because the approximation is faster.

On the first link, some of these “cognitive illusions” have been found to occur less often when blood sugar is high, such as after consuming a sugary drink. This would apply some pressure to adopt methods of thinking that were “good enough” to improve chances of survival without adding the caloric burden that would lower chances of survival.

The other is what’s behind the “fast and slow”’part of the book title. The model (untrue, but functional enough to act on) is that your “gut instinct,” the “fast” response is the one more likely to be affected by these effects. The fast response is sometimes linked to fight/flight type survival responses, but is also what lets us make the thousands of decisions that we make each day to navigate life.

One of the goals of the book is to guide the reader to recognize when the stakes are higher, the evolutionary pressure doesn’t apply, or a known “illusive” pressure is present. In those cases, slow down and consider the more deliberate response.

My personal take is that the brain is an amazing correlative engine, but that it takes additional effort to eliminate spurious correlations and to establish causal relationships.

Again, not an expert and from memory and personal understanding. I’m sure someone with experience in the field can correct me.

This is more of a data presentation error, but I can’t find a better place to post it:

Look closer… The St. Louis Fed is deservedly taking a lot of flak for this, but instead of correcting it, they are doubling down:


But, but, putting it all on one axis made it so that all the other lines were trivial.

Oh, wait, you mean that’s the real story here? But that’s not the story we want to telllllll…


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