You should already be memorizing the cognitive biases, as I explain inside. But here is one that has yet to be formally recognized.
Length: 755 words – 5 or 6 minute easy read
Subject: Cognitive biases, including the as yet unrecognized social bias that I’ve named Miasmatic Disinclination. Product links are affiliate links.
One of the primary foundations of philosophy is the concept that error exists only in the mind. Although humans like to believe they’re rational creatures, we are prone to systematic errors of rationality called cognitive biases.
No one is immune to cognitive biases, regardless of how smart you are. That is why it is so important to memorize the cognitive biases, so that you can identify when you’re about to fall for a trap that is built into the design of the brain.
Scott Adams understands this well. In his book, “How to Fail At Almost Everything and Still Win Big”, Scott espouses the value of dedicating time to memorizing the cognitive biases. By doing so we can cut out a large number of mistakes that we have no control over. This means that any mistakes we do make will be of our own volition and therefore much more valuable to learn from.
Here’s a cognitive bias that has yet to be recognized
Does this sound familiar?
You’re flicking through Netflix to find a new TV show to watch, or you’re trying to decide on a new movie to check out, or a game to play. You see something that would normally be promising, but you’re immediately put off because you associate it with someone or something you dislike or find distasteful.
Maybe it’s the favourite show of someone you don’t get along with, or someone that you believe has bad taste. Or perhaps it’s a game with an obnoxious fan following. Maybe it’s a band your friend won’t stop raving about, constantly irritating you.
But there’s no logical reason to disregard something just because other people are enthusiastic about it. And when we do give it a try, we often find ourselves pleasantly surprised.
I’ve taken to calling this social cognitive bias ‘Miasmatic Disinclination’
Disinclination should be self explanatory. Miasmatic comes from the Ancient Greek concept of miasma.
In Ancient Greek society, murder and other serious crimes were considered wrong not because they’re immoral, but because they create a messy byproduct called miasma. Miasma leads to misfortune and must be purified by performing rituals and offering sacrifices to the Gods.
If this seems hokey to you, consider this situation:
A burglar breaks into your house and you’re forced to fight him off with a kitchen knife. In the struggle, you end up killing the man. However, you’re cleared of all charges.
Do you keep the knife?
You could ask for the knife back once it has served it’s purpose as evidence. And given a thoroughly good wash, it could be placed back into your drawer with the others. But I suspect that you’d feel that there was ‘something about’ the knife that made you uneasy. You’d rather just buy a new one. This ‘something’ is what Ancient Greeks identified as miasma.
Obviously we now know that miasma doesn’t physically exist. But miasma is one of many defunct Ancient Greek concepts that are useful in explaining other concepts.
How does miasmatic disinclination differ from the halo/horns effect?
There is a similar cognitive bias called the Halo (or Horns) effect, that describes how someone’s good (halo) or bad (horns) qualities can leak into our perception of their other qualities. So for example, it has been shown that we tend to perceive attractive people as being more trustworthy, even though there is no logical connection between the two qualities.
Miasma is left behind as a result of someone else. The distaste we experience has little to do with the person that caused it and will linger even when the person is far removed from the current situation. The halo/horns effect does not extend to 3rd party entities in this way.
Does it matter?
Although the consequences of miasmatic disinclination are less severe than some of the other cognitive biases, it is still worth being aware of. You could be depriving yourself of something pleasurable, enlightening or transformative for no rational reason.
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