Challenge Yourself, Challenge Your Perceptions, Challenge Your Beliefs

As society becomes more complex and interrelated, cognitive errors become ever more costly. These errors transcend our entire society, affecting analytic processes in medicine, intelligence, law enforcement, and the business community.

Studies have concluded that problems with the delivery of health services, for example, are due to flaws in how physicians process data. Studies have demonstrated that 80 percent of cases of misdiagnoses causing serious harm to the patient can be explained by a cascade of cognitive errors: as many as 15% of routine diagnoses are incorrect, and autopsies show a 10% to 15% error rate on medical diagnoses.

Most people are predictably irrational because of inherent and acquired biases and mindsets. While no one can eliminate these non-rational barriers to reasoning, any more than a zebra can change its stripes, understanding how they work can help us reduce the harm they do.

Perceptions of what we call the real world are comparable to how a pilot perceives the world when flying an aircraft using instruments in cloudy weather. Frequently, a people rely on perceptions (a “gut” or “intuitive” feeling) despite what the “real” world is telling them. A pilot trusts their flight instruments, instead of trusting their innate instinct, to maintain an upright attitude. To do otherwise invites disaster. Instrument flight is equivalent to critical thinking. A pilot relies on flight instruments for orientation and the correct perception of his flight attitude.

A mindset is the refining of accumulated knowledge about a subject into a single meaningful framework through which people view the world. It is a merger of all biases about a particular subject.  “People acquire mindsets about everything that they encounter in their lives, be it their friends, relatives, neighbors, countries, religions, TV programs, authors, political parties, businesses, government agencies, etc.  Now their mindset is neither good nor bad, however, it is unavoidable and resists change.

Mindsets are immensely powerful which enable people to make very fast judgments about complex problems. They are indispensable to cope with the events of everyday life. The flip side of a mindset is its extraordinary power to distort the perception of reality. People are not aware of their existence or of their effects, good or bad on analysis, conclusions and recommendations.  These very rapid judgements in many cases come at the cost of rational thought.

Knowing that these errors exist are the first step in correcting them.  You can check yourself in three areas of thinking here on this page.