Reading Notes & Thoughts from…
“Elon Musk Thinks Every Child Should Learn about these 50 Cognitive Biases”
By Jessica Stillman , Inc Magazine
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“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? “
Declinism. Romanticizing the past and thinking we live in an age of decline.
Status Quo Bias. People tend to like things to stay the same, even if change would be beneficial.
Sunk Cost Fallacy (AKA Escalation of Commitment). Throwing good money (or effort) after bad to avoid facing up to a loss. A sunk cost is a cost that has already occurred and cannot be recovered by any means. Sunk costs are independent of any event and should not be considered when making investment or project decisions.
Individuals commit the sunk cost fallacy when they continue a behavior or endeavor as a result of previously invested resources (time, money or effort) (Arkes & Blumer, 1985). This fallacy, which is related to loss aversion and status quo bias, can also be viewed as bias resulting from an ongoing commitment.
For example, individuals sometimes order too much food and then over-eat just to “get their money’s worth”. Similarly, a person may have a $20 ticket to a concert and then drive for hours through a blizzard, just because she feels that she has to attend due to having made the initial investment. If the costs outweigh the benefits, the extra costs incurred (inconvenience, time or even money) are held in a different mental account than the one associated with the ticket transaction.