Rationality in Action: Look at a Problem as an Outsider

Julia Galef explains how a "simple and easy mental habit" can help you overcome your biases.

What's the Big Idea?


Why are you still working at the job you don't like or staying in a relationship that is going nowhere or sticking with the same business plan that isn't working?

Julia Galef describes this as "the commitment effect," which is the condition of sticking with something "long after it has become quite clear that it's not doing anything for us" or is even hurtful. We do this because we have an irrational commitment to things we've been doing for a while and don't like the idea that our investment in that thing has been a waste.

Now here's the good news. Galef, the President of the Center for Applied Rationality (CFAR) says you can snap yourself out of the commitment effect through the technique of looking at a problem as if you were an outsider, or an outside party. 

As Galef explains, this "simple and easy mental habit" can help you overcome your bias.

Watch the video here:

What's the Significance?

In addition to improving our lives, rationality leads to public good, argues Galef. When we look at risks such as terrorism and crime, for instance, we tend to view them irrationally. We "overweigh" these risks due to the way crime may be portrayed on the news. Galef says this bias prevents us from getting "the best bang for our buck" when it comes to risk reduction.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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