Saturday, September 8, 2018

Humans make bad decisions -- But don't judge

I was driving along on a congested highway and I saw cars cutting in front of the line, making the same exit I was trying to get off, blocking much of the traffic. Approaching the exit, a large SUV drove up and aggressively drove into my lane to exit the highway.

I blasted my horn and shouted vulgarities at the driver and even flashed my high beams at him. "What an inconsidered person!"

The next day, I was riding my large motorcycle into Malaysia and as I was going through customs, I realized that the lanes were too narrow for my motorcycle. As I could not get pass, I had to reverse out, I blocked the path for many motorcycles and some of them horned at me. Many people looked angry and probably thought I was a jerk. But I kept thinking. "It is not my fault. The lanes were poorly designed and I could not pass."

This actually has a name. Fundamental Attribution Error

The Fundamental Attribution Error is our bias to judge other people differently from how we judge ourselves.

When things go poorly. When we screw up, we tend to believe things happened because of circumstances outside of our control. However, when others fail, we tend to think it is a result of poor choices or someone being a bad person.

I have done this countless times. When I saw a person rebuilding a shop at the base of a landslide -- after a landslide. I tried to tell him that there is no vegetation on the hill and the landslide will push his shop off a cliff again, but he insisted that this place was the easiest place to build as it is flat and has no vegetation on it. I was thinking why can't people think? But could it be the case of lack of choice?

In religion, I often hear stories about priests and abuse in church on the news. Christians are perfectly fine with an imperfect system. I have read about news where a Muslim man raped a teenager, and is forced to marry her and the solution seemed fine with other Muslims. Buddhists monks seemed to get the support of other Buddhists in their countries when they are oppressing people of other religions, and in come cases, incite violence and anti-Muslim riots.

It seems that their acts can be forgiven by their gods, but when it comes to consenting adults having sex, they want to legislate what adults of the same sex do in their bedrooms.

On Social Media, You are either judged or you are invisible.

Many people like to judge others. It can be seen on various posts online. We give ourselves and our friends the benefit of the doubt but not others who do similar things.

When we succeed, we believe it is our hardwork and talent, and when we see others succeed, we sometimes believe it is pure luck or that person is connected in some way...

So why are we wired to make bad decisions and what can we do about it?

Turns out that confidence boost can benefit us and may even serve an evolutionary purpose. Researchers believe it may help us take on beneficial risks as we change our perception of what we’re capable of.

For example, a study of unemployed college grads found those who credited their successes to themselves, were more likely to find a job than students who tended to blame themselves for failures. The researchers’ believe students who viewed things in a more self-serving way were more motivated and optimistic about their futures.

We need to;

1) Embrace the luck of the die.

Yes, sometimes luck play a factor. People do win the lottery. The winning odds are mind blowing, and most of all, you have NOTHING to do with it.

We need to be grateful that good things happen to us, and not that we deserve it sometimes. This same attitude regarding the role chance plays in all our lives can help us cultivate a more unbiased point of view.

2) Build empathy by engaging with others.

When we have zero information and no knowledge about something, our biases and what we read / learn in books, etc. kicks in and we judge based on our biases.

Seeing a woman get into an accident, we make quick judgements based on her sex and not the events that lead up to the accident.

We need to engage with more people and travel and learn about other cultures. Practicing empathy has been found to reduce the fundamental attribution error. Pretending you are in the shoes of the person you are likely to blame makes us less judgmental.

3) Assholes exist.

Well sometimes, people are brought up wrong. And humans are brought up to have fundamental attribution error. It helped in our survival to bolster our confidence and reputation. However, in modern society, this cognitive bias can hurt us and others more than it serves us.

And on Social Media, extreme cognitive biases may be seen as racist or "bully" and one could lose their jobs because of one stupid post which we may regret for a very long time.

But take note. We may be assholes, but we have the ability to evolve and do better. If you get angry without all the information next time, give others the benefit of the doubt and seek out why by putting yourself in their shoes, even if it takes a little effort.

Of course assholes exists, but you don't need to be one sometimes.

-- Robin Low

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