Reading Notes & Thoughts from…

“Elon Musk Thinks Every Child Should Learn about these 50 Cognitive Biases” 

By Jessica Stillman , Inc Magazine

—   —   —  — —   —   —  — —   —   —  — —   —   —  —  —   —   —  — —  —   —   —  —

“Whatever you think of Elon Musk’s many Twitter scandals, sometimes odd public utterances, and past tax bills, one thing is for sure. The guy is clearly able to achieve the near impossible when it comes to engineering and innovation.

It’s a skill he himself attributes to clear thinking. While others look around and see what other people are trying, or assume they can move the status quo only so much, Musk is a firm believer in what he calls “first principles thinking,” or focusing solely on the basic truths and constraints of whatever field he’s working in, and building up from there.

Thinking like this might come relatively easily to a mind like Musk’s, but according to an absolute avalanche of psychological research, the rest of us often struggle to be as clear-headed. We get emotional, fear others’ judgment, or simply screw up our mental math thanks to the brain’s many inherent bugs and biases. Could we all get a little more Musk-like in our thinking if we learned about the quirks that often trip us up as kids?

Musk appears to think so. He recently took to Twitter to declare that cognitive biases “should be taught to all at a young age.” His post included a (not super easy to read) graphic laying out 50 common biases, thinking errors, and irrational human tendencies that kids should be alerted to, which I’ve laid out in list from below.

Do you agree that we’d all be a little better prepared for life if we learned them all in school? “

Fundamental Attribution Error.   Refers to an individual’s tendency to attribute another’s actions to their character or personality, while attributing their behavior to external situational factors outside of their control. In other words, you tend to cut yourself a break while holding others 100 percent accountable for their actions.

For instance, if you’ve ever chastised a “lazy employee” for being late to a meeting and then proceeded to make an excuse for being late yourself that same day, you’ve made the fundamental attribution error.  When someone else is late, it’s because they’re lazy or inconsiderate. When you’re late, it was the traffic.

Self-Serving Bias. Attributing all your successes to skill or effect and all your screw ups to bad luck or a bad situation.

In-Group Favoritism. We tend to favor those in our in-group versus those who are different from us.  We are seeing this one a lot the last couple of years.  Particularly in politics and online.  Even worse when speaking of politics online.

In-group favoritism leads to Confirmation Bias (later) and echo chambers.

Because our ancestors lived in small social groups that were frequently in conflict with other groups, it was evolutionarily functional for them to view members of other groups as different and potentially dangerous.  Differentiating between “us” and “them” probably helped keep us safe and free from disease, and as a result, the human brain became very efficient in making these distinctions.   The problem is that these naturally occurring tendencies may lead us to prefer people who are like us, and in some cases even to unfairly and sometimes violently reject (prejudge) people from outgroups.

Very closed minded and not constructive behavior.  One of the accelerating forces of In-Group Favoritism is when people start seeing as their social identity.  Many people will go online looking for social connection, and find it in a group.  Once that group becomes part of their identity – as in saying “I’m a ____ “- many people will go to extremes to enforce their identity and feel special.