Our brains prefer efficiency over absolute accuracy.We are prone to jumping to conclusions.
1. Picture in your mind a 30cm length
2. Picture in your mind an opera singer
3. Recall the last time you ate out. Can you remember where you were seated, how many chairs were there at your table, and what you ate?
Good. Now can you remember how many total tables and chairs you saw?
1. When you pictured the 30cm length, did you automatically think of a ruler?
2. What about the opera singer? Did the image of a bearded male come into your mind, aka Pavarotti?
Well, Google Image "Opera Singer". Do you see much more diversity?
3. Why is it that you can remember what was at the table, but not the entire restaurant? You had with your own eyes, seen everything. Some of you might immediately point out, "it's not about what you see, but what you pay attention to and what you can remember". Excellent. But did you notice that your brain automatically filtered out what was important and what wasn't? Did you tell your brain, hey, don't worry about these parts, just forget about it? Oh but remember this part and this other part, please.
Take another example. Can you remember a time when you were in a crowded room, having a conversation with someone? There's a lot of people talking, of course, you can't hear every conversation around you. But suddenly, somewhere across the room, someone mentions your name. And you hear it! You didn't hear everything else, but when it came to your name, your brain was able to pick it up. Why, and how?
Imagine if we had to think through every single decision in life. Every decision.
Should I brush my teeth this morning?
But if brushing is meant to clean my teeth, why am I brushing my teeth before breakfast and not after?
Are you really brushing your teeth correctly? How do you know you are brushing your teeth correctly?
Should you change your toothpaste? What's the difference between all the kinds of toothpaste anyway. It was found that Colgate toothpaste contained Triclosan - Triclosan kills bacteria, but in animal studies, caused gut inflammation and hormonal disruptions. I have used Colgate my whole life, how much have I been affected by Triclosan? Are there other chemicals in toothpaste I should be worried about?
What about your toothbrush?
Are you wasting too much water when you brush your teeth?
Is brushing your teeth really sufficient?
And this is for a relatively simple affair of brushing of teeth. What about when all the assessments of all the people we meet in so many different contexts?
Our brains prefer efficiency over accuracy
We are not wired to analyse everything properly
We are wired to use limited information available to us
to quickly make a decision that is roughly correct most of the time
while avoiding absolute disasters
Thinking hard about something is extremely tiring. Our brain already takes up 20% of all our energy, and there's a limit to how much it can work every day. This study on judges' decision show the impact of brain fatigue. There are just simply too many "somethings" for us to realistically consider every single day - so the brain had to find a better way to cope.
In any case, we are used to not having all the information we need to make decisions anyway. Think about the many thousands of years where we lacked the technology to know what is happening in the next valley, or even to explain the weather before we pick our next action. Even today, when so much information is readily accessible to us, we still have trouble determining what information is correct.
And taking a long time to make an assessment could be costly for us. In the past, it could mean getting killed by the enemy while you're trying to determine if he's friendly. Today, it could mean being passed up for another person, whether it is for a business deal or to share an opinion.
So our brains evolved on the basis of efficiency while avoiding absolute disasters. And there are a few major ways we do so: