The Semmelweis Reflex: when current beliefs trump new knowledge

Why do we often want to stick with our current beliefs, even when new knowledge seems to contradict them? Why does dogmatic belief habitually trump objective evidence? This effect is called the Semmelweis reflex, which Thomas Szasz described as “the invincible social power of false truths”—a phenomenon so dangerous it has caused many deaths throughout …

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The Nirvana fallacy: when perfectionism leads to unrealistic solutions

“Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien” wrote Voltaire in 1772—which translates to “better is the enemy of the good”, but is often translated as “perfect is the enemy of the good.” The Nirvana fallacy consists in comparing existing solutions with ideal, perfect ones—which are often unrealistic. A form of perfectionism, the Nirvana fallacy can lead …

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Why do we need to be right?

One of the most prevalent phenomena in our collective psyche is the need to be right. Pundits debate their views of climate change and political conflicts on television, we have arguments with friends as to who said what, and we often triumphantly proclaim: “I told you so!” This phenomenon starts early. From a very young …

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Jootsing: the art of jumping out of the system

“Constraints breed creativity” is such a popular principle, it has become a design trope. Think outside the box, they say. Rather than just thinking outside the box, “jootsing” is about destroying the box or completely ignoring its existence. The term was coined by Douglas Hofstadter, an American scholar of cognitive science, physics, and comparative literature. …

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5 thinking tools to add to your metacognitive toolbox

Developing metacognitive skills is essential to being productive while taking care of your mental health. While some tools such as journaling or the Eisenhower matrix are already well known, there are other tools borrowed from the world of education. Here are five thinking tools you can add to your metacognitive toolbox. 1. Bloom’s taxonomy of …

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The difference between efficacy, effectiveness and efficiency

Efficacy, effectiveness, efficiency… These terms sound confusingly similar. Commonly used in medical research, project management, and decision science, they are often mixed up in everyday conversations. If you’re in a hurry, here’s the difference: Efficacy means getting things done Effectiveness means doing the right things Efficiency means doing things right Sounds confusing? Don’t worry, I …

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Inductive versus deductive reasoning: how to make stronger arguments

Most scientists agree: it’s impossible to prove the truth. However, by using inductive and deductive reasoning, we can get closer. While both are based on evidence, they provide two different ways of solving problems, making decisions, and evaluating facts. But before we take a closer look at the difference between inductive versus deductive reasoning, what …

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Hindsight bias: the knew-it-all-along phenomenon

Historians and physicians alike are constantly fighting an invisible beast: the hindsight bias, also known as creeping determinism, which is the tendency for people to perceive past outcomes as having been more predictable than they actually were. Linked to distortions of our memories, the hindsight bias causes us to think we knew how an event …

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The state of personal knowledge management

Everyday, new tools for thought are launched. The personal knowledge management ecosystem is becoming incredibly complex. However, some visible trends are emerging: indie thinkers are making a living from conducting online research; tools are becoming more integrated; apps encourage active creation over passive collection of knowledge. This 40-page report reviews the current state of the …

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The hermeneutic circle: a key to critical reading

For a text to be interpreted, you need a text and an interpreter. This may seem obvious, but too often we forget that our interpretation of a text is shaped by our pre-existing beliefs, knowledge, and expectations. Hermeneutics is the branch of research that deals with interpretation. When we interpret a text, it’s not a …

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