A Simple Mind Trick Will Help You Think More Rationally

Emotions can cloud our rational decision-making. By adopting the perspective of an outside advisor, psychologist Dan Ariely says we can inject some rationality into our cognitive processes.

Dan Ariely: There’s one way to be rational; there are many ways to be irrational. We could be irrational by getting confused, not taking actions, being myopic, vindictive, emotional. You name it. There’s lots of ways to be wrong. And because of that, there’s not one way to fix it.

But one interesting way to try and inject some rationality is to think from an outsider’s perspective. So here’s what happens. When you think about your own life, you’re trapped within your own perspective. You’re trapped within your own emotions and feelings and so on. But if you give advice to somebody else, all of a sudden you’re not trapped within that emotional combination, mish-mash, complexity and you can give advice that is more forward-looking and not so specific to the emotions.

So one idea is to basically ask people for advice. So if you're falling in love with some person, good advice is to go to your mother and say, “Mother, what do you think about the long-term compatibility of that person?” You’re infatuated, right. When you’re infatuated you’re not able to see things three months down the road. You’re saying I’m infatuated. I’ll stay infatuated forever and this will never go away. Your mother being an outsider is not infatuated and she could probably look at things like long-term compatibility and so on. But there’s other ways to do it which is not to be advisors to other people but to be advisors for ourselves.

So for example, in one experiment, we asked people, we said, "Look, you went to your doctor. They gave you this diagnosis. You know that the thing that the doctor recommended is much more expensive and there are other things that would be much cheaper. Would you go for a second opinion?" And people say, "No, my doctor recommended it. How could I not take their advice? How could I say, 'Can you please refer me for a second opinion?'" Then we asked another group. We said, "Here is the situation. If this happened to your friend, would you recommend that they go for a second opinion?" People said, "Absolutely. How could you not go for a second opinion?" So one idea is to try and get ourselves from an outside perspective. You look at the situation and then you say to yourself if this was about somebody else, somebody I love and care about and then when this situation what would I advise them? And you would realize that often your advice will be different and often a more rational, useful perspective.

 

Emotions can cloud our rational decision-making. By adopting the perspective of an outside advisor, Duke University psychologist Dan Ariely says we can inject some rationality into our cognitive processes. This isn't merely an exercise in introspection; it's an attempt to remove the limiting pangs of irrational thinking.

Study: People will donate more to charity if they think something’s in it for them

A study on charity finds that reminding people how nice it feels to give yields better results than appealing to altruism.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels
Personal Growth
  • A study finds asking for donations by appealing to the donor's self-interest may result in more money than appealing to their better nature.
  • Those who received an appeal to self-interest were both more likely to give and gave more than those in the control group.
  • The effect was most pronounced for those who hadn't given before.
Keep reading Show less

160-million-year-old ‘Monkeydactyl’ was the first animal to develop opposable thumbs

The 'Monkeydactyl' was a flying reptile that evolved highly specialized adaptations in the Mesozoic Era.

Credit: Zhou et al.
Surprising Science
  • The 'Monkeydactly', or Kunpengopterus antipollicatus, was a species of pterosaur, a group of flying reptiles that were the first vertebrates to evolve the ability of powered flight.
  • In a recent study, a team of researchers used microcomputed tomography scanning to analyze the anatomy of the newly discovered species, finding that it was the first known species to develop opposable thumbs.
  • As highly specialized dinosaurs, pterosaurs boasted unusual anatomy that gave them special advantages as aerial predators in the Mesozoic Era.
Keep reading Show less

U.S. Navy controls inventions that claim to change "fabric of reality"

Inventions with revolutionary potential made by a mysterious aerospace engineer for the U.S. Navy come to light.

Credit: Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • U.S. Navy holds patents for enigmatic inventions by aerospace engineer Dr. Salvatore Pais.
  • Pais came up with technology that can "engineer" reality, devising an ultrafast craft, a fusion reactor, and more.
  • While mostly theoretical at this point, the inventions could transform energy, space, and military sectors.
Keep reading Show less

Is it good for you? According to Nietzsche, it's better to ask, "Does it dance?"

Dancing, fot Nietzsche, was another way of saying Yes! to life.

YURI KADOBNOV/AFP via Getty Images
Culture & Religion
Friedrich Nietzsche's body of work is notoriously difficult to navigate. He wrote in multiple styles, including essays, aphorisms, poems, and fiction.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast