March 15, 2018

You Don’t Know What You Want

The problem is that the human brain is a “meaning machine,” and it will make sense out of literally anything put it front of it.

Earlier today I watched psychologist Petter Johansson TED talk on “choice blindness”— a phenomenon where we convince ourselves something is what we want, even when it isn’t.

Johansson poses the question, “do you really know why you do what you do?” And even as we all will swear up and down “yes” in response, he proves we rarely do.

He describes two experiments he ran in which participants were asked to rate their preferences between two things, and then asked to explain why.

Seems simple enough.

Except that as part of the experiment, he reversed their preference, presenting the opposite selection back as though they’d chosen it, without telling them. And the crazy thing was: when asked, they’d still “explain” why it was their preference.

In other words: we have no idea what we want. We are inherently fickle and easily swayed.

So when it comes to “looking inside ourselves” for an answer, the reality is: that answer will never be there.

“A lot of what we call self-knowledge is actually self-interpretation. So I see myself make a choice, and then when I’m asked why, I just try to make as much sense of it as possible when I make an explanation. But we do this so quickly and with such ease that we think we actually know the answer.”

And the reverse side of this coin? Confirmation bias, of course: once we make a selection, we’ll do most anything to rationalize it. Which is why action will always trump analysis, even — especially — when it comes to “figuring out what we want.”

Read more at https://medium.com/@krisgage/you-have-no-idea-what-you-want-757567375d31

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