3 Lies We Tell Ourselves

There are lots of questions you may ask yourself and hope to get an answer. Questions my be practical or general in nature, still what we want is some answers, or rather some sense. Why? Because everyday life just seems so hectic and chaotic, but there must be some sense in it, does it?

Yet, we as people can’t comprehend true nature of our cognitive system that forces us to seek understanding and get it so wrong each time.

Recently, I have started reading a book by Daniel Kahneman Thinking, Fast and Slow that deals with ways we understand and make judgement and estimations of past and future events. It has been an exciting read and I can recommend it sincerely.

Title of the book references two systems of human mind: Fast one, which is impulsive, automatic, fast and based on information that mind has acquired about the situation. Slow references the other one, which is more work intensive, can override Fast system and acts as a control for possible errors in judgement. We apply Slow system in times of cognitive efforts like analysis, mathematics, thinking about problems in more in-depth way.

Slow system, consumes more energy and is more tiresome. Naturally, we tend to rely on Fast thinking, which is less draining and less imposing to the brain.

These two systems are no separate centers in our minds, they are just symbolic representations of processes that occur in our minds to which author has assigned names to explain his ideas better.

Now to the lies we tell ourselves.

1. I know what is right

Often we are presented with the problem to which we can give instant solution. We call it intuition, or a hunch, feeling, sense of what is right. Often we behave according to these solutions or intuitive hunches. Stereotyping is one of the results of this kind of thinking. This thinking is the result of Fast thinking and it is a result of analysis of information that is presented to us without additional analysis.
This is normal, since we don’t want to exhaust ourselves with unnecessary thinking, but this can lead to wrong conclusions in the end.

One of the characteristics of Fast system, is that it takes in the account only available information. It cannot imagine alternatives or analyse situation with information that is not present. So it makes hasty judgment. Out of these information, it constructs most tightly knit story to tell itself to explain the given information.

So, tendency of Fast system is to make up narratives that explain the world around us, based on the information we have. That is way the story as a vehicle is so powerful, because it engages reflexive, impulsive part of our mind.

2. I can change my mind if I hear the arguments

We often think that given the arguments, we can easily change our minds. Still we are constantly proven that we are all keeping with our old behaviour, based on our world outlooks and concepts.
This is because argumentation and analysis takes time and mental energy, while our Slow thinking system is pretty lazy. If we can skip it and still fit it in previously established narrative, we won’t change it.
Then again, we have decided on the basis of the information we had, so any additional information would act as an element that contradicts our perception, so we tend to ignore it.

Best example could be made for the state of the economy today. Everyone sees that current free market capitalism is not working and that it has its flaws, but people in charge are not ready to deviate from it. They still think of their old ways and rely on hunches, intuition, educated guesses about the future. It is hard to sit and analyse the performance of whole global economic system and make sense of it all.
So we cling to what we know, our experience that shows us that eventually, some economic measures work out fine and there is no need to change anything. We have a sense of story and context that was built by the Fast system, and it is staying.

3. I can come to the truth myself

World is a messy place, with no real sense or order. Things happen because of lot of different reasons, on which we know nothing or little about. Confidence is a feeling that we get from making some sense of the world and believing in that story. Yet, this is a mirage and the truth is evading.
Sense that we can get to the truth is self-projecting mirage because our mind is constructing and reconstructing stories and narratives on its own based on information it has. Truth is something we can strive for, but never achieve.

So what does all this mean?

  1. We often react impulsively and base or actions on feeling and hunch. We rely on stories to understand the world
  2. Our thinking is based on information we have, so we have to be critical and think hard when making choices or planning for future
  3. Confidence is overrated and usually misplaced. Less confidant person usually knows more but has not yet constructed overall picture of the situation.

In terms of branding this would mean that we have to communicate in simple, easy to understand stories and narratives about the brands. Communicate only necessary information to strengthen the overall narrative we wish to promote. Simplicity, consistency and efficient communication can go a long way.

I'm currently working as an Account Planner in Direct Media. I'm interested in leveraging brand stories through digital media and helping brands fulfill their potential.

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