Here’s another brilliant piece from Morgan Housel about the biases and blindspots we live with that hinder us from seeing the truth. Housel argues that these biases exist as they offer us psychological paths of least resistance. He gives five such instances where we choose to take the easier path than to confront reality:

First, our unwillingness to accept that we live in an uncertain world:
“Most people could not get out of bed in the morning if they were honest about how much of their future is unknown, hangs by a thread, or can be pushed in another direction by the slightest breeze. The solution is to eliminate doubt and uncertainty the moment they enter your head.

Uncertainty feels awful. So it’s comforting to have strong opinions even if you have no idea what you’re talking about, because shrugging your shoulders feels reckless when the stakes are high.

Life is complex, complex things are always uncertain, uncertainty feels dangerous, and having an answer makes danger feel reduced. It’s an easy path of least resistance.

If you were an adult in 2000 you probably had at least some vision of what the future would look like. Maybe even a vague vision of the next 20 years. But everyone was blind to 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis, and Covid-19 – the three risks that were both massive and unpredictable.

Then when those events happened people quickly moved to eliminate the uncertainty they brought.
Terrorist attack just happened? It’s definitely going to happen again, soon.

Recession coming? It won’t affect my industry and will be over by Q4 and interest rates will bottom at 3.42%.
Pandemic arrived? Two weeks to slow the spread.
No matter how wrong these answers might be, they feel better than saying, “I have no idea what’s going to happen next.””

Second, providing single-cause explanations for complex events:
Major events are often a result of multiple inter-connected causes but our mind would rather keep it simple and explain it with a single cause.

“Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were once interviewed on stage. The host pointed out that each man had built a defining company of their generations.

Gates responded: “Steve and I will always get more credit than we deserve, because otherwise the story gets too complicated.”

Otherwise the story gets too complicated. That’s the truth, and it’s the same for so many big things in the world.”

Third, The justifications of your own actions and the judgment of others’.
“It is way easier to spot other people’s mistakes than your own, because we judge others based solely on their actions, but when judging ourselves we have an internal dialogue that justifies our mistakes and bad decisions.

If I see you make a bad decision, I just look at the results and say, “That was dumb, that was a mistake.”
But If I make a bad decision, I can tell myself, “Look, it was a calculated bet, and actually it didn’t turn out that bad, and actually this is the outcome I wanted, and I’m a good person who means well,” and so on.”

Fourth, the belief that your own field of vision is the same as everyone else’s.
“Nothing is more persuasive than what you’ve seen and experienced firsthand. And what you’ve experienced can be so persuasive – so influential in shaping your world beliefs – that you can’t understand why other people who have had different experiences than you might have different beliefs.

Finally, the desire to supplant statistics with stories.
We all love stories and prefer to be driven by it than hard facts.
“People would rather believe than know,” said biologist E.O. Wilson.

I think another way to phrase it is that people desire stories more than statistics. They need a story they can tell themselves, not just a fact they can memorize.

Part of that is good. The gap between what works in a spreadsheet and what’s practical in real life can be a mile wide. This usually isn’t because we don’t know the statistics. It’s because real-life stories are so effective at showing us what certain parts of a statistic mean.”

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