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Post No.: 0911predictably


Fluffystealthkitten says:


People are frequently predictable even when trying to do something unpredictable or unexpected! When setting multiple-choice questions, most people set a ‘true, false, true, false’ sequence, which they assume is more random – when true randomness has more streaks than people intuit. Or they place most of the correct answers in the middle of options lists instead of in the first or last positions.


Humans tend to assume they’re each more unique than similar to each other, and more free than other animals in the animal kingdom. But every human is a part of the human species and therefore share common innate human instincts and intuitions with each other.


These evolved instincts and intuitions work sufficiently well to keep people alive and healthy most of the time, yet they can predictably fail in particular circumstances. Even when we know that we’re seeing a visual illusion or that visual perception is full of ambiguity (e.g. the ‘inverse-optics problem’ when converting between a 2D retinal projection and an optical projection from the 3D world) – we still cannot help but be taken in by the illusion or the expected way of seeing something. We still make the same mistakes. (Check out some cool op art. For more about illusions, see Post No.: 0773.)


‘Seeing is believing’ is a powerful intuition. It helps us (especially youngsters) to learn about the world. But this heuristic is occasionally fallible. ‘Not seeing is not believing’ also means that we can dismiss the tons of invisible (to the naked eye) greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere. Our perceptions and in turn beliefs can thus predictably betray us.


The same with predictably falling for cognitive illusions like forming over-generalisations, perceiving patterns in random noise, seeing things as black-or-white, or thinking everything that’s obvious with the benefit of hindsight should’ve been obvious beforehand.


We typically think we’re in full control of our own preferences and are always rational with our decisions, but we’re being influenced or nudged by things in our environment constantly. Sometimes this is intentional and for our benefit (e.g. architecture that encourages more healthy living) or someone else’s (e.g. marketing that encourages us to buy more needless stuff).


We acknowledge our physical limitations and so accommodate for them by building staircases and gadgets – so perhaps we need to allow more nudges or interventions that benefit us when it comes to overcoming our cognitive limitations? Well we seem to be okay when for-profit corporations surreptitiously manipulate us by arranging that shelf or placing that advert in a particular way, getting us to spend on freemium games (‘coercive monetisation’, especially to adolescents with their immature pre-frontal cortices) or when they only offer certain options and restrict others.


People generally predictably follow the crowd, like believing that tanned skin is more attractive, or alternatively less attractive, depending on the prevailing culture. (Some light-skinned people are racist about dark-skinned people yet want to have tanned dark skin themselves(!)) Rationalising things is another predictable behaviour though, so people will rationalise that looking tanned achieves a healthier, more glowing skin tone and covers any skin blemishes. Yet if the culture suddenly valued a lighter skin tone, people will rationalise that looking paler achieves a healthier, more youthful, ‘more pure’ skin tone that highlights one’s blushing cheeks and beauty spots! So we’re good at giving rationalisations for our personal decisions when the real reasons for them are something else, as evidenced when our rationalisations change if the herd shifts direction and a culture changes. We’ll not admit that we’re predictably following the crowd, by predictably coming up with rationalisations that make us feel more individual. Some people can even manage to convince themselves that diagonally-cut sandwiches really do taste better than straight-cut ones, when it’s just their pretensions! (This is a problem because when it comes to the environment, triangular-prism packaging uses more material than rectangular-prism packaging for packing the same volume.)


People often don’t have a true idea why they desire the things they do and behave the way they do. People in their day-to-day lives don’t realise how much they’re behaving not according to strict free will and rationality but according to human instincts largely evolved and more optimally suited to ancestral environments than the modern environments of processed foods, pornography, instant gratifications, capitalism and seeming abundance.


Myopic instincts get hijacked. We can chase riches but sacrifice our happiness as a result of neglecting our health and relationships. We can desire delicious foods and drinks to the point of prematurely dying from over-nutrition. We assume resources will last fur-ever because what we see right now is that there’s plenty.


The more one learns about humans, the more one, at a macro level at least, sees them as more akin to zombies! Only (predictably) bias stops each person from realising they’re just following what they were evolved to think and do; unless they question their instincts.


If you think you’re unique, you’re not thinking uniquely! Okay not everybody all of the time but do you assume you’re above average in many desirable traits like morality and intelligence? (Even if we know more than someone else, what we know could be a load of ****!) Do you think you’re less conformist, corruptible or gullible and you’ve never fallen for marketing baloney or cons? If you choose to play gambling games, do you think you have a better chance of winning than others? If you haven’t had these yet, do you think that things like cancer or mental illness won’t happen to you?


Do you jump to conclusions based on how someone looks or moves? Do you assume you’re a better judge of character than most? (Have you considered whether someone you’ve just met was just having a bad day or nervous rather than aloof about meeting you?) Do you compare to the worst people in the world if you do something wrong in order to justify that what you did wasn’t so terrible, yet don’t compare yourself to the best in the world before patting yourself on the back if you do something amazing? Do you bemoan that an old friend hasn’t contacted you in a while when you haven’t contacted them in a while either? Do you think you would’ve acted differently if you were born in or were found to be in someone else’s shoes?


Do you predictably automatically side with members of your own kin when the evidence is ambiguous? Are you ever surprised when you meet people from other cultures and they seem very nice? (Well that reaction is because of biases in thinking that your own family, nationality or ethnicity holds the highest standards for civility.) Do you say ‘they’ if the team you support loses but ‘we’ if this team wins? Do you assume that if someone from your ingroup does something despicable then it’s just a case of ‘a few bad apples’ or perhaps they’re ‘not truly one of your kind’ or you just shrug it off, yet if someone from an outgroup did something similar then they’re all evil people? Do you like to highlight the atrocities and animal species decimations committed by other nations while ignoring those committed by your own (for the sake of trophies more than to fight starvation too)? Do you basically think members of your ingroup are better people and more valuable to save than members of outgroups, who also tend to be scapegoated for anything bad? Do you dislike things that are associated with anyone you hate if those things aren’t associated with anyone you don’t hate? Do you value people differently if they’re far away compared to if they were face-to-face and you know their names?


Do you think things are usually unfair for you, while you ignore, minimise or forget the lack of fairness others face? Do you assume you’re busier than others and do more of the household chores, pay more of the bills, etc. than your partner, or assume you have/had it worse whenever others explain their pains? Do you assume the grass is greener on the other side? Do you think all your achievements and money were hard-earned with skill whilst those of others came easier to them with luck? Do you blame others or your tools whenever things go wrong, yet bask in personal glory whenever things go right? (Why not credit your tools whenever things go right? Blaming external people or things helps to preserve one’s bias that one is above average.)


Do you tend to avoid searching for or reading information that may disprove your current worldviews, or read them with an immediate cynicism that you wouldn’t when reading confirming information? Do you always believe your beliefs are backed by the science while opposing sides are the ones that have been indoctrinated or brainwashed by falsehoods? (Even some Christians believe that science is on their side with ‘creation science’.) Do you often attack the person rather than their arguments if they oppose your arguments? Do you believe you have the straightforward answers to complex long-running problems that even thousands of experts on the subject haven’t solved?


In uncertain situations, do you wait to see what other people do first before you do something? Do you feel safer and more empowered within a group of like-minded individuals? Have you ever said you’re not a fussy eater or racist but…? Do you feel a sense of disgust even when merely considering consuming unusual things (to you) that aren’t unethical and won’t cause you harm? Do you tend to stick with what you know and are good at, and avoid things that may showcase your deficiencies?


Don’t you curate your social media profile and pages to portray the image you wish to portray over sharing every truth about you? Do you feel like you’re at the centre of the universe and as if everyone is focusing on you and your gaffes? (When really everybody is thinking the same about themselves!) Do you think humans should be prioritised over other life on this planet?


Do you presume ‘everybody does it’ if you do something miscreant, yet presume your ideas are rare if you do or think of something good or clever? (We seldom wish to deliberately find out if our ideas are truly original in case we discover they’re not too.) Do you ever predictably first attempt to rationalise away your malpractices, like expressing ‘they made me do it’ or ‘I’m sure they would’ve done it (to me) too’? (This is why self-regulation cannot always be relied upon.) Do your behaviours always match your proclaimed attitudes? Do you think other people’s fuzzy farts are smellier than yours?!


…You’ll hardly be the only one though, and that’s the point. The benefits of knowing thyself are to guard yourself better from such traps.


Everybody has done embarrassing or shameful things – the main difference is that some get caught while others don’t. Everybody occasionally lies, and if you deny it then you’re lying right now or fooling yourself! We make excuses for our own misdeeds or believe it’s okay as long as we don’t get caught, yet negatively judge others who get caught doing the same things. Bias can even reshape our memories. Some imaginations can even be mistaken as genuine memories.


We often tell others they should’ve done something that we ourselves wouldn’t have realistically done if we were in their exact same predicament. Hypocrisies are common. (One of mine is criticising the realism in movies, yet when someone else does it, I tell them it’s just a movie!) We’re oblivious to our own self-serving biases yet are able to see the self-serving biases of others – that’s precisely a symptom of self-serving biases! We like to preserve our current beliefs and perceptions of ‘always being right’ by rationalising and interpreting things in our favour.


Shape-shifting cats are superior to humans though… But I suppose that’s just predictably my own bias(!)




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