The dangers of apophenia: not everything happens for a reason

Humans love patterns. Sometimes that’s helpful, but other times… Not so much. Apophenia is the common tendency to detect patterns that do not exist. Also known as “patternicity”, apophenia occurs when we try to make predictions, or seek answers, based on unrelated events. Apophenia can lead to poor decision-making. For instance, many people choose their …

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How developing mental immunity can protect us from bad ideas

Every day, a new video goes “viral”, and an “infectious” idea starts spreading. Mental immunity is a psychological theory that is also known as cognitive immunology. With origins dating back 70 years, this field of research is based on the premise that not only is there an immune system for the body, but an immune …

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Social proof: is there always safety in numbers?

When faced with a difficult decision, copying the actions of others can feel reassuring. We are social animals, and following the crowd can lead us to believe that we are benefitting from the wisdom of others. This may be especially true if we emulate the behaviour of those we consider to be authority figures. This …

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Belief perseverance: why we cling on to old ideas

Our beliefs can help us navigate the world around us. However, when our beliefs do not line up with reality, they can cause harm to ourselves and others. Also, these beliefs can become so deeply ingrained that they become very challenging to unlearn, even when presented with new information. This phenomenon is called belief perseverance. …

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Attentional bias: the invisible puppeteer behind our decisions

Most people feel that, within the constraints they need to navigate, they are in control of their decisions. But we often automatically follow a train of thought or an external cue without noticing the selective factors in our attention. This phenomenon is called the attentional bias, and it affects many of the decisions we make. …

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Decision anxiety: how to make decisions when feeling anxious

Have you noticed that sometimes you can make decisions in an instant, but at other times the choice feels overwhelming? Anxiety can reduce your willingness to take risks, leading to a phenomenon known as decision anxiety. Decision anxiety causes a fear of making the wrong choice and later suffering the consequences. This may cause you …

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