The Mind’s Error

I screenshot toxic replies I get to this newsletter. I also reply.

My first thought each time someone sends me an email because they didn’t like something I said or copy/pasted here is this: ECHO CHAMBER.

  • Keep reinforcing that echo chamber.
  • Confirmation bias for the win!
  • Becoming free is hard.
  • Thinking for yourself is a lifelong journey. Keep it up.

I sometimes reply with stuff like that. I know it’s not changing any minds, but there’s always a hope I can plant a seed in their subconscious so that one day it’ll grow into something bigger.

If someone makes you angry because they said something that challenges your belief system, you are experiencing what scientists call cognitive dissonance. If you can catch yourself in the moment and ask yourself, “Why am I feeling this way?” then you have a chance at improving your thinking and maybe your beliefs. I believe, though I could be wrong (doubt it), that stepping outside of your beliefs is the only way to find Truth.

Here are a couple of mental mistakes I see people make often:

Ad hominem - discrediting a person as a means of attacking their idea (This happened a lot with Trump. People didn't like him, so nothing he said could be true or good.)

Confirmation bias - this bias is responsible for many of the errors of perception we humans face. It is seeing only what you want to see—ignoring disconfirming evidence because that evidence is painful to see or accept. You see what you want and ignore what you don’t.

Recency bias - Human memory has been proven infallible in numerous studies. We think we have a crystal clear account of the past, like a mental hard drive, but our memory changes each time we recall an event. There is no way to recall a past event and not have your current state cloud your memory. (It’s a damn shame that many are in jail right now, thanks to faulty eyewitness accounts.)

There are many many more.

To simplify this all, and arm you with a heuristic you can use in your everyday life, do this:

  1. Remind yourself that you’re probably wrong
  2. As Socrates said, know that you know nothing - create an empty, blank slate of a mind.
  3. Accept that most information changes, so the only things you can build up are first principles. Stick with principles.
  4. Say maybe a lot and shrug your shoulders a lot. Be less certain because you can’t be certain or much, other than first principles.
  5. And for the love of whatever you deem holy, stop getting upset at others that your brain is struggling to open. If you want to be upset, blame yourself. Then do something about it.