The Seven Sins of Memory

“Our memory is a more perfect world than the universe: it gives back life to those who no longer exist,” once said French author Guy de Maupassant. Whether it’s short-term memory allowing us to perform simple calculations on the fly, long-term memory which can store larger quantities of information, sometimes for a whole life span, …

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Egocentric bias: why we feel like the main character in our own movie

Do you have a burning memory of an embarrassing experience that happened to you, and can’t help but think that everyone who was present must still laugh about it to this day? Chances are, most of them don’t even remember any of it. Similarly, have you noticed how we tend to overestimate the amount of …

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Declinism: how rosy retrospection impacts decision-making

“It was better before,” says your friend. “Ha, those were the days,” your reply with a sigh. Declinism is the belief that societies tend towards decline, often linked with rosy retrospection—our tendency to view the past more favourably and the future more negatively. It may seem harmless, but declinism can cloud your judgement and lead …

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The power of simplicity: how to manage our complexity bias

We often tend to prefer complex solutions over simple ones; complicated marketing jargon over clear explanations; multi-steps implementations over more direct execution. Complexity can lend an aura of authority to products, which marketers are exploiting to project authority and expertise. Complex processes can also delay decision-making, giving us the illusion of productivity. Why is it …

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The fallacy of “what gets measured gets managed”

If there’s one quote that’s particularly popular in management circles, it’s “what gets measured gets managed”—often misattributed to famous management consultant Peter Drucker. First, Drucker never said this; second, he actually didn’t believe such a thing; third, the idea is flawed. A long game of telephone The idea probably originated from a paper published in …

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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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