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Brainflaws - Chapter 26 Flaws in our ability to see the...

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Chapter 26. Flaws in our ability to see the answer Our intuition and instincts can mislead us in some important ways unless we are alert to avoiding them. Our brains are very useful organs in solving problems. Merely relying on intuition to solve a problem or make the right choice has some well-known limitations, however. Optical illusions and magic tricks are examples familiar to all of us in which appearances are deceiving. Consider the following picture: The straight line appears to be AB, but it is really AC. There are many such optical illusions, and magic tricks often take advantage of them. Magic tricks and optical illusions are examples in which we know our brains are fooled by appearances. Other ways in which we are deceived are more subtle. The following list offers some flaws in our natural instincts, which are discussed in turn. Behaviors that can lead us astray: _____ 1. We observe a correlation or association and automatically think causation _____ 2. We respond unconsciously to many emotional, personal and environmental factors _____ 3. We search for and remember confirmatory evidence of our beliefs rather than a test _____ 4. Our memories are reconstructed over time _____ 5. We prefer simplicity and certainty
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(1) The power of association . This point goes back to the message of the correlation chapter, that correlation does not imply causation. Unfortunately, our minds are very easily influenced by the associations we observe. In an experiment done by psychologists approximately a decade ago, students were shown an item of clothing (e.g., jacket or sweater) and told to imagine that it had been owned and worn by someone famous or infamous. They were then asked to rank the desirability of wearing that item. The imagined previous ownership had a powerful effect. Items whose imagined previous owner was infamous were regarded as highly undesirable, whereas items imagined to be from the noble or famous were regarded as desirable. Of course, we know well that people collect items previously owned by the rich and famous. The fact that the desirability of an item is based on its , history of previous ownership reflects just how strongly we respond to associations. Advertisers use this principle effectively. Endorsements of a product by someone famous is now routine and begets the personality high dollars (e.g., Michael Jordan endorsing shoes, football players endorsing beer, Elizabeth Taylor endorsing her perfumes; the movie “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” portrayed an ad in which Jesus Christ endorsed an electronics company). The practice works because of the association people make
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