More Thanh Words

"My name is Thanh and I'm a Blogger". Now that I have admitted to that, I can say that I'm a stereotypical "geeky" Engineer who enjoys sci-fi books and movies and into all things technological. I also love music and have a passion for FOOD. I'm a social person and like to talk to people. I hate people who are fake or overly aggressive. If you're also into some serious discussion, with a pinch of sarcasm and a dash of real emotion, then please read on.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Too Clever By Half

I read this great article called Too Clever By Half about the tricks that our brains play on us. Regular readers will know that I am constantly intrigued about how the brain operates and have myself written numerous posts that cover some of the topics in this article.

The first point in the article is about "The Paradox of Choice". What this means is that although humans love variety, having too much choice is a bad thing. When given too many options, humans actually can't make a decision and are always wondering what they missed out on. I can totally relate to this. When I was in Hong Kong, there were so many restaurants offering all types of cuisine that I liked that in the end I couldn't choose and didn't know what I wanted to eat. When I did end up eating something, I sometimes wasn't too happy with my choice. In Melbourne, you have to make a conscious decision to go eat somewhere and when you get there, there is no choice, so you're happy with whatever you order.

"Optimism Bias" is when we think that the risks that apply to others don't apply to us. Just because that idiot in the other car shouldn't be talking on the phone doesn't mean that we can't handle talking and driving. I have to say that this has happened to me. I do the mobile thing where I think others are stupid for talking on the phone while driving yet I do it myself and don't think anything of it. I think that our self perception of ourselves is too high for our own good in most cases.

"Judging Risk" is something that modern humans are not very good at. Evolutionary genes means that we're still scared of lions since they can kill us, but don't even blink when going to drive a car, which kills far more humans each year than lions do. I wrote a post about acceptable risk when I had a similar conversation with a friend. I think you have to stop sometimes and reassess risks of activities that are dangerous but we just take for granted in this modern world.

"If it feels good, do it" is a mentality that most of take nowadays. Overindulging in lollies for example, is a sure fire way to take the enjoyment out of it. It also leads to a lot of people with problems, such as weight problems. All the contestants on the Biggest Loser must suffer from this "If it feels good, do it" mentality.

"I'm right, you're biased" is a common theme that we can all relate to. We pick up on other people's bad habits but fail to see our own. We think that we are doing the most work in a team, but fail to see work that other people do. I think we need to constantly look at things from other people's perspective to make sure we are seeing the whole picture.

"Status anxiety" is when our benchmarks are constantly being raised because we need to do better than the next person. I've written about how things always seems better for others than ourselves in thispost.

Finally, "The impact of external events" talks about the old adage of whether we will be happier if we are rich. If you win lottery, apparently your happiness levels return to normal after a while. We are not good at predicting our future feelings as we underestimate the human ability to adapt. I wrote a post about what I wanted out of life and one thing I touched on was having more money and getting out of the rat race. I guess I still think that if I was richer I would be happier. I guess I won't know until I actually am rich.

So from these many examples, you can see how our minds are such tricky things. To finish off, you might like to read my posts about the subconscious mind and the wonders of the mind.


Blogger mishmash said...

I especially relate to 'the paradox of choice'. On a minute scale, I face this problem when I'm ordering something to eat. Since I have a reputation for being ultra indecisive (because I seem to think whatever I won't choose will be better) I follow this pact: if in doubt, order chicken. Seriously, whenever I have rebelled against that pact, I've never seemed to enjoy my meal. Or perhaps that's a pyschological thing - conditioning my mind to believe that chicken is the greatest. Now that's a trick our brain plays on us, in itself.

p.s. sorry for waffling!

1/31/2007 10:55 PM  
Blogger thanh7580 said...

We all face this paradox of choice in all aspects of our lives Mish. Sometimes the decisions are small and sometimes its large. Generally I'm not too bad, but occasionally when I want more than one thing and can't afford both is when I start having decision problems.

You sound like a friend of mine. She's hardly ever happy with whatever food she orders. Then she looks at others food and goes, "Next time I will order what you order". But when she does order the same as someone else, she still thinks the other people's food is better. Next time I will tell her to order chicken!

I waffle a lot too. Some Belgian waffles with ice cream would be nice right now, mmmmmm.

2/01/2007 6:34 PM  
Blogger Superb said...

I agree with many of them. Paradox of choice I can relate to like mish, sometimes i can sit there just wasting time cos I can't (or maybe cos I don't want to) make a decision. Something i'm working on :)

Optimism bias applies to me too I think hehehe, I tend to think that I live in a world where things always work out. Maybe they do?

And as for the lion example, I gotta say, I think its a bit unfair, cos I mean, how often are we ever around lions?

Anyways, a good read, Thanh

2/02/2007 2:01 AM  
Blogger thanh7580 said...

I think we all have that paradox of choice problem. I certainly have it sometimes.

We might not be around lions that often Trev, but yet we are still scared of them. That's what that one is about, that we judge risk incorrectly. We might a lion is a bigger risk that say the car that you drive everyday. Car crashes kill way more people each year than lions but yet we still happily get into a car without any fear at all

2/05/2007 7:21 PM  

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