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Principles Which Govern Human Behavior

This is my list of generally observed human behaviors, in relation to how they affect our interpersonal relationships and intellectual behaviors.

Apophenia

Apophenia is the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data.

Asymmetric Expectations and Rules

The expectations and rules which we assume apply to other people are not applied to ourselves in the same way, nor with the same sense of scale. Benefits which we receive are generally considered justly rewarded, whereas beneits received by others (or those who are not members of our tribe) are considered ill-gotten gains – even when the order of magnitude is far less than anything we (or those in our tribe) have received.

An excellent example of this is the “moral hazard” built into health insurance. It stipulates that a certain amount of the burden for procedures and other health services should fall on those receiving the services because otherwise (theoretically) those receiving those services would have no disincentive to abuse the system. For the most part, the same people who complain about the underprivileged abusing the system are the same people who complain about deductables and copayments – which are elements of the moral hazard system.

Cognitive Bias

A cognitive bias is a pattern of deviation in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion. Individuals create their own “subjective social reality” from their perception of the input. An individual’s construction of social reality, not the objective input, may dictate their behaviour in the social world. Thus, cognitive biases may sometimes lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality.

Illusory Superiority (The Dunning-Kruger Effect)

Illusory superiority is a cognitive bias whereby individuals overestimate their own qualities and abilities, relative to others. This is evident in a variety of areas including intelligence, performance on tasks or tests, and the possession of desirable characteristics or personality traits. It is one of many positive illusions relating to the self, and is a phenomenon studied in social psychology.

We, as human beings, are unable to self-assess. The Dunning-Kruger Effect is the most egregious of the illusory superiority biases (which also include popularity, intelligence, and ironically immunity to bias) because it affects our ability to properly judge our respective skill sets.

Cognitive specialization

We believe that cognition and skills are general, whereas in reality, they are very specialized. The ability, for example, to execute successful stock trades does not translate in an implied ability to be a better painter. We tend to use a single scale (i.e. from “dumb” to “genius”, with “smart” somewhere in the middle) to determine another person’s intellect. This leaves us open to assuming skills without any requisite information – and is one of the reasons why we assume that successful businessmen can become good politicians while the actual processes behind both occupations are not very similar (discounting interpersonal relationships and basic math).

Intent

We are unable to determine intent from a simple third-person observation of the result(s) of unseen actions.

Tribalism

We self-identify as parts of small units (families), with which we share the majority of our empathetic tendencies. This has been expanded out through tribalism to include “tribes”, which can be, but are not exclusive to:

  • Geographic Area
  • Nation/states: The false construct of the nation/state, including the notion of “patriotism” is intended to invoke intense loyalty and empathy. (It is also a driving force behind the reasons why people would sacrifice their lives for people who do not necessarily share any similar characteristics.)
  • Political Divisions: Affectionately referred to in some circles as “red tribe/blue tribe”, the division between political parties creates association between otherwise unaffiliated parties.
  • Race: Superficial skin coloration or other ethnic similarities have been used to marginalize and separate.
  • Sports Teams