3 Most Common Mental Errors That Sway Us From Making Best Decisions

I like to think of myself as a rational person, but I’m not one. The good news is it’s not just me — or you. We are all irrational, and we all make mental errors.

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For a long time, researchers and economists believed that humans made logical, well-considered decisions. In recent decades, however, researchers have uncovered a wide range of mental errors that derail our thinking. Sometimes we make logical decisions, but there are many times when we make emotional, irrational, and confusing choices.

Psychologists and behavioral researchers love to geek out about these different mental mistakes. There are dozens of them and they all have fancy names like “mere exposure effect” or “narrative fallacy.” But I don’t want to get bogged down in the scientific jargon today. Instead, let’s talk about the mental errors that show up most frequently in our lives and break them down in easy-to-understand language.

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Here are three most common mental errors that sway us from making best decisions.

1. Survivorship Bias.

Nearly every popular online media outlet is filled with survivorship bias these days. Anywhere you see articles with titles like “8 Things Successful People Do Everyday” or “The Best Advice Richard Branson Ever Received” or “How LeBron James Trains in the Off-Season” you are seeing survivorship bias in action.

Survivorship bias refers to our tendency to focus on the winners in a particular area and try to learn from them while completely forgetting about the losers who are employing the same strategy.

There might be thousands of athletes who train in a very similar way to LeBron James, but never made it to the NBA. The problem is nobody hears about the thousands of athletes who never made it to the top. We only hear from the people who survive. We mistakenly overvalue the strategies, tactics, and advice of one survivor while ignoring the fact that the same strategies, tactics, and advice didn’t work for most people.

Another example: “Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg all dropped out of school and became billionaires! You don’t need school to succeed. Entrepreneurs just need to stop wasting time in class and get started.”

It’s entirely possible that Richard Branson succeeded in spite of his path and not because of it. For every Branson, Gates, and Zuckerberg, there are thousands of other entrepreneurs with failed projects, debt-heavy bank accounts, and half-finished degrees. Survivorship bias isn’t merely saying that a strategy may not work well for you, it’s also saying that we don’t really know if the strategy works well at all.

When the winners are remembered and the losers are forgotten it becomes very difficult to say if a particular strategy leads to success.

survivorship bias (Common Mental Errors)

2. Loss Aversion.

Loss aversion refers to our tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses over acquiring gains. Research has shown that if someone gives you $10 you will experience a small boost in satisfaction, but if you lose $10 you will experience a dramatically higher loss in satisfaction. Yes, the responses are opposite, but they are not equal in magnitude. 

Our tendency to avoid losses causes us to make silly decisions and change our behavior simply to keep the things that we already own. We are wired to feel protective of the things we own and that can lead us to overvalue these items in comparison with the options.

For example, if you buy a new pair of shoes it may provide a small boost in pleasure. However, even if you never wear the shoes, giving them away a few months later might be incredibly painful. You never use them, but for some reason you just can’t stand parting with them. Loss aversion.

Similarly, you might feel a small bit of joy when you breeze through green lights on your way to work, but you will get downright angry when the car in front of you sits at a green light and you miss the opportunity to make it through the intersection. Losing out on the chance to make the light is far more painful than the pleasure of hitting the green light from the beginning.

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3. Confirmation Bias.

The Grandaddy of Them All. Confirmation bias refers to our tendency to search for and favor information that confirms our beliefs while simultaneously ignoring or devaluing information that contradicts our beliefs.

For example, Person A believes climate change is a serious issue and they only search out and read stories about environmental conservation, climate change, and renewable energy. As a result, Person A continues to confirm and support their current beliefs.

Meanwhile, Person B does not believe climate change is a serious issue, and they only search out and read stories that discuss how climate change is a myth, why scientists are incorrect, and how we are all being fooled. As a result, Person B continues to confirm and support their current beliefs.

Changing your mind is harder than it looks. The more you believe you know something, the more you filter and ignore all information to the contrary.

You can extend this thought pattern to nearly any topic. If you just bought a Honda Accord and you believe it is the best car on the market, then you’ll naturally read any article you come across that praises the car. Meanwhile, if another magazine lists a different car as the best pick of the year, you simply dismiss it and assume that the editors of that particular magazine got it wrong or were looking for something different than what you were looking for in a car. 

It is not natural for us to formulate a hypothesis and then test various ways to prove it false. Instead, it is far more likely that we will form one hypothesis, assume it is true, and only seek out and believe information that supports it. Most people don’t want new information, they want validating information.

confirmation bias (Common Mental Errors)

Where to Go From Here

Once you understand some of these common mental errors, your first response might be something along the lines of, “I want to stop this from happening! How can I prevent my brain from doing these things?”

It’s a fair question, but it’s not quite that simple. Rather than thinking of these miscalculations as a signal of a broken brain, it’s better to consider them as evidence that the shortcuts your brain uses aren’t useful in all cases. There are many areas of everyday life where the mental processes mentioned above are incredibly useful. You don’t want to eliminate these thinking mechanisms.

The problem is that our brains are so good at performing these functions — they slip into these patterns so quickly and effortlessly — that we end up using them in situations where they don’t serve us.

In cases like these, self-awareness is often one of our best options. Hopefully this article will help you spot these errors next time you make them.

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Voting rights, LGBT rights, marijuana, and immigration: The night in ballot measures

State passes largest expansion of voting rights in decades as Massachusetts affirms transgender protections.

Four more states voted on the legalization of marijuana.

It’s not all about the red v blue. In dozens of states, voters cast ballots on Tuesday on issues ranging from voting rights and climate change to gun control and taxing tech to fund homeless services. Four states will see voters weigh in on the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, while Massachusetts voters will have a chance to reaffirm (or reject) a measure protecting the rights of transgender people.

We’ll be updating this story all night as the results come in, so stay tuned …

Voting rights

Last-minute lawsuits, long lines, voter roll purges, and inconvenient polling places – Americans’ ability to exercise their right to vote has been under pressure since the supreme court invalidated parts of the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

Five states had voting rights issues on their ballots tonight, including Florida, where voters chose to restore the franchise to 1.5 million people who were convicted of felonies and have completed their sentences. Activists who fought to pass Amendment 4 cheered the victory, which represents the largest expansion of voting rights in decades.

Maryland approved a measure that will expand voting rights by allowing same-day registration, and Nevada enacted automatic voter registration when drivers have contact with the department of motor vehicles.

Meanwhile, North Carolina and Arkansas both passed constitutional amendments requiring voters to provide photo IDs to vote – measures that generally have the effect of restricting the voting rights of the poor and elderly.

Tech tax for the homeless

A controversial measure that will levy a tax against the largest businesses in San Francisco to fund housing and services for the homeless has passed. The 0.5% gross receipts tax on companies with revenues over $50m had touched off a battle between the city’s tech billionaires, with the Salesforce CEO, Marc Benioff, publicly feuding with Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and other tech titans who complained the tax was unfair.

Another California housing measure, Proposition 10, which would have allowed cities to enact rent control measures, failed.

Transgender rights

Actor Laverne Cox poses with supporters of a 2016 Massachusetts law that protects transgender people from discrimination.
 Actor Laverne Cox poses with supporters of a 2016 Massachusetts law that protects transgender people from discrimination. Photograph: Josh Wood for the Guardian

A Massachusetts civil rights law came under attack this year with Question 3, which sought to repeal the 2016 state law banning discrimination against transgender people. But voters rejected the measure, making Massachusetts the first state to affirm transgender rights in a statewide vote.

Reproductive rights

It was a tough night for reproductive rights, with voters in two staunchly Republican states approving measures to restrict abortion. Alabama passed a constitutional amendment to recognize the “right to life” of fetuses and deny public funding for abortion. West Virginia also passed a constitutional amendment declaring that the state does not protect the right to abortion and restricting public funding for the procedure. A similar measure prohibiting public funding of abortion was rejected by voters in Oregon.

Marijuana

Legal weed continues to spread across the US, as four more states voted on legalization. Missouri voted to legalize medical marijuana, and Michigan voted to approve recreational use of the drug. North Dakota, which allows medical marijuana, rejected legalization for recreational purposes. We’re still awaiting results from Utah, where a measures legalizing use for medical purposes is leading the polls.

Immigration

Thirty years after Oregon passed a sanctuary law, barring state and local law enforcement from using public resources for immigration enforcement, voters in the state rejected an attempt to repeal the measure.

Criminal justice

Voters in Louisiana elected to require a unanimous verdict from a 12-person jury for a felony conviction. Juries in the state had previously been allowed to convict with 10 out of 12 votes, a remnant of Jim Crow-era laws that disproportionately affected African Americans.

Minimum wage

It’s not quite $15 an hour, but hundreds of thousands of workers in Arkansas and Missouri will get raises after voters in the two states approved increases to the minimum wages. In Arkansas, the rate will increase from $8.50 to $11 an hour by 2021; in Missouri the wage will ramp up from the current $7.85 to $12 an hour by 2023.

Fossil fuels

A renewable energy measure has failed in Arizona.
 A renewable energy measure has failed in Arizona. Photograph: Sergio Flores/Getty Images

Efforts to curb America’s addiction to fossil fuel consumption saw little success at the ballot box on Tuesday. In Arizona, a well-funded campaign to require electric utilities to get half their power from renewable sources by 2030 was rejected by voters, and in Colorado, a measure to place restrictions on where new oil and gas wells can be located failed to pass.

Missouri and Utah voters also rejected increases on gasoline taxes. Another major environmental initiative – a carbon emissions fee in the state of Washington – is currently trailing. California voters did manage to reject an attempt to repeal the state’s most recent gas tax increase.

Gun control

Washington state enacted tough new gun control laws, increasing the minimum age for purchasing a gun to 21 and establishing background checks and waiting periods.

Animal rights

Chicken farms must convert to cage free in California.
 Chicken farms must be cage-free by 2022. Photograph: Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images

In a blow to factory farms, California’s Proposition 12 passed, establishing minimum space requirements for farm animals. The measure also requires that all egg-laying hens be raised “cage-free” by 2022.

Medicaid expansion

Four states voted on the expansion of Medicaid coverage to more low-income residents, a key aspect of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, that many Republican state governments rejected. So far, voters in Nebraska and Idaho have approved the expansion, and the measure is leading in Utah. In Montana, voters are facing a slightly different question: whether to maintain the Medicaid expansion beyond 2019 and fund it through a tobacco tax. That race is still too close to call.

Tampon tax exemption

And in one small victory for women, Nevada voted to exempt feminine hygiene products from state and local sales taxes.

5 THINGS MOST AMERICANS DON’T KNOW ABOUT THEIR COUNTRY AMERICA

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Imagine you have a brother and he’s an alcoholic. He has his moments, but you keep your distance from him. You don’t mind him for the occasional family gathering or holiday. You still love him. But you don’t want to be around him. This is how I lovingly describe my current relationship with the United States. The United States is my alcoholic brother. And although I will always love him, I don’t want to be near him at the moment.

I know that’s harsh, but I really feel my home country is not in a good place these days. That’s not a socioeconomic statement (although that’s on the decline as well), but rather a cultural one.

I realize it’s going to be impossible to write sentences like the ones above without coming across as a raging prick, so let me try to soften the blow to my American readers with an analogy:

You know when you move out of your parents’ house and live on your own, how you start hanging out with your friends’ families and you realize that actually, your family was a little screwed up? As it turns out, stuff you always assumed was normal your entire childhood was pretty weird and may have actually fucked you up a little bit. You know, dad thinking it was funny to wear a Santa Claus hat in his underwear every Christmas or the fact that you and your sister slept in the same bed until you were 22, or that your mother routinely cried over a bottle of wine while listening to Elton John.

The point is we don’t really get perspective on what’s close to us until we spend time away from it. Just like you didn’t realize the weird quirks and nuances of your family until you left and spent time with others, the same is true for country and culture. You often don’t see what’s messed up about your country and culture until you step outside of it.

And so even though this article is going to come across as fairly scathing, I want my American readers to know this: some of the stuff we do, some of the stuff that we always assumed was normal, it’s kind of screwed up. And that’s OK. Because that’s true with every culture. It’s just easier to spot it in others (e.g., the French) so we don’t always notice it in ourselves.

So as you read this article, know that I’m saying everything with tough love, the same tough love with which I’d sit down and lecture an alcoholic family member. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It doesn’t mean there aren’t some awesome things about you (BRO, THAT’S AWESOME!!!). And it doesn’t mean I’m some saint either because god knows I’m pretty screwed up (I’m American, after all). There are just a few things you need to hear. And as a friend, I’m going to tell them to you.

And to my foreign readers, get your necks ready, because this is going to be a nod-a-thon.

A Little “What The Hell Does This Guy Know?” Background: I’ve lived in half a dozen states in the US, primarily in the deep south and the northeast. I have visited 45 of the US’s 50 states. I also lived abroad for several years, primarily in South America and Asia (with various stints in Europe). I speak three languages. I’m married to a foreigner. So I feel like I have a good perspective on the US from both the inside and outside.

(Note: I realize all the things on this list are generalizations and I realize there are always exceptions. I get it. You don’t have to send 55 emails telling me that you and your best friend are exceptions. If you really get that offended from some guy’s blog post, you may want to double-check your life priorities.)

OK, we’re ready now. 10 things Americans don’t know about America.

1. FEW PEOPLE ARE IMPRESSED BY US

Unless you’re speaking with a real estate agent or a prostitute, chances are they’re not going to be excited that you’re American. It’s not some badge of honor we get to parade around. Yes, we had Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison, but unless you actually are Steve Jobs or Thomas Edison (which is unlikely), then most people around the world are simply not going to care. There are exceptions of course. And those exceptions are called English and Australian people. Whoopdie-fucking-doo.

As Americans, we’re brought up our entire lives being taught that we’re the best, we did everything first and that the rest of the world follows our lead. Not only is this not true, but people get irritated when you bring it to their country with you. So don’t.

2. FEW PEOPLE HATE US

Despite the occasional eye-rolling, and complete inability to understand why anyone would vote for George W. Bush (twice), people from other countries don’t hate us either. In fact — and I know this is a really sobering realization for us — most people in the world don’t really think about us or care about us. I know, that sounds absurd, especially with CNN and Fox News showing the same 20 angry Arab men on repeat for ten years straight. But unless we’re invading someone’s country or threatening to invade someone’s country (which is likely), then there’s a 99.99% chance they don’t care about us. Just like we rarely think about the people in Bolivia or Mongolia, most people don’t think about us much. They have jobs, kids, house payments — you know, those things called lives — to worry about. Kind of like us.

Americans tend to assume that the rest of the world either loves us or hates us (this is actually a good litmus test to tell if someone is conservative or liberal). The fact is, most people feel neither. Most people don’t think much about us.

Remember that immature girl in high school, how every little thing that happened to her meant that someone either hated her or was obsessed with her; who thought every teacher who ever gave her a bad grade was being totally unfair and everything good that happened to her was because of how amazing she was? Yeah, we’re that immature high school girl.

3. WE KNOW NOTHING ABOUT THE REST OF THE WORLD

For all of our talk about being global leaders and how everyone follows us, we don’t seem to know much about our supposed “followers.” They often have completely different takes on history than we do. Here were some brain-stumpers for me: the Vietnamese were more concerned with independence (not us), Hitler was primarily defeated by the Soviet Union (not us), there is evidence that Native Americans were wiped out largely by disease and plague BEFORE Europeans arrived and not just after, and the American Revolution was partly “won” because the British invested more of their resources in fighting France (not us). Notice a running theme here?

(Hint: It’s not all about us. The world is more complicated.)

We did not invent democracy. We didn’t even invent modern democracy. There were parliamentary systems in England and other parts of Europe over a hundred years before we created a government. In a recent survey of young Americans, 63% could not find Iraq on a map (despite being at war with them), and 54% did not know Sudan was a country in Africa. Yet, somehow we’re positive that everyone else looks up to us.

Condescending Wonka

4. WE ARE POOR AT EXPRESSING GRATITUDE AND AFFECTION

There’s a saying about English-speakers. We say “Go fuck yourself,” when we really mean “I like you,” and we say “I like you,” when we really mean “Go fuck yourself.”

Outside of getting shit-housed drunk and screaming “I LOVE YOU, MAN!”, open displays of affection in American culture are tepid and rare. Latin and some European cultures describe us as “cold” and “passionless” and for good reason. In our social lives, we don’t say what we mean and we don’t mean what we say.

In our culture, appreciation and affection are implied rather than spoken outright. Two guy friends call each other names to reinforce their friendship; men and women tease and make fun of each other to imply interest. Feelings are almost never shared openly and freely. Consumer culture has cheapened our language of gratitude. Something like, “It’s so good to see you” is empty now because it’s expected and heard from everybody.

In dating, when I find a woman attractive, I almost always walk right up to her and tell her that a) I wanted to meet her, and b) she’s beautiful. In America, women usually get incredibly nervous and confused when I do this. They’ll make jokes to defuse the situation or sometimes ask me if I’m part of a TV show or something playing a prank. Even when they’re interested and go on dates with me, they get a bit disoriented when I’m so blunt with my interest. Whereas, in almost every other culture approaching women this way is met with a confident smile and a “Thank you.”

5. THE QUALITY OF LIFE FOR THE AVERAGE AMERICAN IS NOT THAT GREAT

Supposedly, Pablo Escobar once said, “I’m not a rich man; I’m a poor man with a lot of money.”

The United States is not a rich country, it’s a poor country with a lot of money. If you’re extremely talented or intelligent, the US is probably the best place in the world to live. The system is stacked heavily to allow people of talent and advantage to rise to the top quickly.

The problem with the US is that everyone thinks they are of talent and advantage. As John Steinbeck famously said, the problem with poor Americans is that “they don’t believe they’re poor, but rather temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” It’s this culture of self-delusion that allows America to continue to innovate and churn out new industry more than anyone else in the world. But this shared delusion also unfortunately keeps perpetuating large social inequalities and the quality of life for the average citizen lower than most other developed countries. It’s the price we pay to maintain our growth and economic dominance.

To me, being wealthy is having the freedom to maximize one’s life experiences. In those terms, despite the average American having more material wealth than citizens of most other countries (more cars, bigger houses, nicer televisions), their overall quality of life suffers in my opinion. American people on average work more hours with less vacation, spend more time commuting every day, and are saddled with over $10,000 of debt. That’s a lot of time spent working and buying crap and little time or disposable income for relationships, activities, or new experiences.

Bangkok City at night time, Hotel and resident area in the capital of Thailand

Robert Mueller Heard The Bad News That Has Him Scared For His Life

Robert Mueller

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s free run is over.

He led a rigged witch hunt to destroy Donald Trump.

But he just got the bad news that sent him running for his life.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Steps Down

Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned on Wednesday.

Pundits and D.C. insiders speculated for months that this move was coming.

With Sessions stepping down, Donald Trump appointed Matt Whitaker as Acting Attorney General.

This means Whitaker is now in charge of the Mueller probe.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein only ran the probe because Sessions recused himself.

With Sessions out of the picture, Rosenstein loses all his authority over the Mueller probe.

Democrats and the fake news media lost their minds.

They see the Mueller probe as their best chance to get rid of Donald Trump.

So fake news reporters and Democrats are demanding that Whitaker recuse himself so Deep State agent Rod Rosenstein can take back control of the Mueller probe.

Matt Whitaker Is Bad News For Robert Mueller

Before Whitaker went to work for the Justice Department, he would give legal commentary in the media.

During the course of interviews on both TV and radio, Whitaker ripped Mueller’s probe as being an abuse of power.

Whitaker appeared on the Chris Stigall radio show in June 2017.

The host asked him about Sessions meeting with the Russian ambassador in his Senate office in 2016.

Sessions did not disclose this meeting to the Senate – which he did not do because it was in his capacity as a member of the foreign relations committee and not as a member of the Trump campaign.

But the media successfully used the lack of disclosure to pressure Sessions into recusing himself from the Russian probe.

Whitaker blasted the Democrats who claimed this innocent meeting proved collusion.

“I also think, you know, we have another hearing in front of Congress where there is no evidence of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign,“ Whitaker stated.

“Democrats continue to conflate the collusion issue, which there is no evidence of, with, with the fact that Russians did try to interfere with the election,“ he stated.

Whitaker then appeared on The Wilkow Majority show with Andrew Wilkow and repeated the factual claim that there was no Russian collusion.

“The truth is, there was no collusion with the Russians and the Trump campaign,”Whitaker declared. “There was interference by the Russians into the election, but that is not the collusion with the campaign and that is where the left seems to be just combining those two issues.”

Whitaker also added that the Democrats were actually afraid Mueller would find no collusion and didn’t want his report to see the light of day.

He explained, “The last thing they want right now is the truth to come out,” adding that, “there is not a single piece of evidence that demonstrates that the Trump campaign had any illegal or even improper relations with Russians.”

The media wants Whitaker out.

They know Mueller won’t turn up anything.

But the fake news media needs his investigation to last until the 2020 election.

That way they can push the story that the American people must vote Trump out of office because this scandal still hangs over his head.

We will keep you up to date on any new developments in this ongoing story.

Donald Trump Has One Trick Up His Sleeve To Stop The Caravan

Donald Trump

The migrant caravan threatening to invade America is still making its way through Mexico.

Thousands of migrants think they will be able to pour across the border and enter America.

But Donald Trump has one trick up his sleeve to stop the caravan dead in its tracks.

Donald Trump Promises To Change Asylum Laws To Stop The Caravan

The caravan – which once numbered as many as 10,000 migrants according to some reports – is intent on invading America.

Even though it is now down to roughly 3,000 migrants, these invaders still plan to breach America’s Southern border.

Their plan is to get caught by border patrol agents and request asylum.

You can request asylum at legal points of entry.

Border patrol agents catching migrants in the act of illegally entering America is not one of those points of entry.

But the Immigration and Naturalization Act also states if asylum seekers have a “well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion,” they can request asylum at non-designated points of entry.

Illegal aliens caught entering the country then have one year to request asylum.

But Trump plans to change all that.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions previously issued guidelines rolling back Obama-era rules that allowed migrants to request asylum if they feared gang or domestic violence.

In a pre-election press event, Trump announced he would issue an executive order changing asylum laws.

“If these caravans are allowed into our country, only bigger and more emboldened caravans will follow — and you see that’s what’s happening now,” Trump declared.

That’s why he said he would change asylum laws to prevent migrants who are caught entering the country illegally from requesting asylum.

Why This Executive Order Is Necessary

The day after the midterm elections, news broke that Trump planned to issue this executive order before he left for Paris.

Trump said that asylum is not a program for people in poverty.

In fact, many of the migrants in these caravans are economic refugees.

Employers in the United States want the cheap labor to cut costs, but it depresses the wages of American workers.

Trump knows migrants abused the asylum program for too long.

So he is making whatever changes the Constitution allows him through his executive authority.

If the caravans aren’t stopped, Trump noted this could lead to a flood of migrants invading the country.

A Pew poll showed 58 percent of people in El Salvador would move to America if they could.

The United States cannot sustain itself as a nation with open borders and allowing the world’s poorest people to flood into the country.

Trump and his supporters believe there needs to be a tightly controlled system in place to allow for legitimate claims but will clamp down on the idea that just anyone can enter America.