When the brain crashes: cognitive distortions

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When the brain crashes: cognitive distortions
When the brain crashes: cognitive distortions

If you think that prejudices are unusual for you, then you are probably subject to them. If you think that cognitive distortions (that is, systematic errors in thinking) are not about you, therefore, one of these distortions is sitting in you - called "naive realism": the tendency to perceive your opinion as objective, and the opinion of others as full of cognitive distortion. What mistakes of thinking are there? There are a lot of them - psychologists identify more than a hundred. We will tell you about the most interesting and the most common ones.


The same paradox is known to veterinarians who bring cats that have fallen from a height. At the same time, animals that fell from the sixth floor or higher are in much better condition than those who fell from a lower height. One of the explanations sounds like this: the higher the floor, the more likely that the cat will have time to roll over on its paws, in contrast to animals falling from a small height. However, this opinion hardly corresponds to reality - the movements of a cat flying from a great height will be too uncontrollable. Most likely, in this case, the survivor's mistake also takes place: the higher the floor, the more likely the cat will die and simply will not be taken to the hospital.

Black bag and stock traders

But everyone probably knows about this phenomenon: it consists in expressing unreasonable sympathy for someone just because that someone is an acquaintance. In social psychology, this effect is also called the "familiarity principle." There are many experiments dedicated to him. One of the most interesting in 1968 was conducted by American psychology professor Charles Getzinger in his auditorium at Oregon State University. To do this, he introduced the students to a novice student, dressed in a large black bag (only legs were visible from under it). Getzinger put him at the very last desk in the class. The teacher wanted to find out how the students would react to the man in the black bag. At first, the students looked at him with dislike, but over time it grew into curiosity, and then into friendliness. Other psychologists conducted the same experiment: if students are shown a black bag over and over again, their attitude towards it changes from worse to better.

The "familiarity principle" is actively used in advertising and marketing: the more often a particular brand is shown to the consumer, the more trust and sympathy it evokes. Irritation is also present at the same time (especially if the advertising turned out to be too intrusive), however, as experiments have shown, most people still tend to rate such a product as the best in comparison with an unadvertised product. The same is seen in many other areas. For example, stock traders most often invest in companies in their country just because they know them, while international companies may offer similar or even better alternatives, but this does not change anything.

Less is more

This thinking error is called the "less is better" effect. Its essence is simple: in the absence of a direct comparison of two things, preference is given to an object of lesser value. For the first time, research on this topic was carried out by Professor of the Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago, Christopher C. In 1998, he presented a group of subjects with things of different value. The task is to choose the most desirable gift for yourself, while the items were shown separately and without the possibility of comparing them with each other.

As a result, Xi came to interesting conclusions. It turned out that people perceived an expensive $ 45 scarf as a more generous gift, as opposed to a cheap $ 55 coat. Ditto for any category of things: seven ounces of ice cream in a small cup filled to the brim, versus eight ounces in a large one. A 24-piece tableware set versus a 31-piece set and a few broken pieces; a small dictionary versus a large one in a worn-out cover. At the same time, when “gifts” were presented at the same time, such a phenomenon did not arise - people chose the more expensive thing.

There are several explanations for this behavior. One of the most important is the so-called contradictory thinking. Research has shown that bronze medalists feel happier than silver medalists, because silver is associated with the fact that a person did not receive gold, and bronze is associated with the fact that they received at least something.

Belief in conspiracy theories

A favorite topic of many, but few people realize that its roots are also in the errors of thinking - and several. Take, for example, projection (a psychological defense mechanism when the inside is mistakenly perceived as outside). A person simply transfers his own qualities, which he does not realize, onto other people - politicians, military men, businessmen, while everything is exaggerated dozens of times: if we have a villain in front of us, then he is phenomenally smart and cunning (paranoid delirium works in approximately the same way).

Another factor is the phenomenon of escapism (the desire of a person to escape into a fictional world of illusions and fantasies). Reality for such people is, for some reason, too traumatic to accept it as it is. Strengthens belief in conspiracy theory and the fact that it is extremely difficult for many to perceive the phenomena of the outside world as random and independent of anything, most tend to give such events a higher meaning ("if the stars light up, then someone needs it"), building a logical chain. This is easier for our brain than "keeping" in itself a huge number of disparate facts: it is naturally unusual for a person to perceive the world in fragments, as evidenced by the achievements of Gestalt psychology.

It is very difficult to convince such a person that there is no conspiracy. After all, this will lead to an internal conflict: ideas, thoughts and values that are opposite in meaning will collide with each other. An adept of conspiracy theories will not only have to abandon his usual train of thought, but become an “ordinary” person who is not initiated into “secret knowledge” - hence, lose some of his self-esteem.

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