Our biases

Updated: Jul 22, 2019

Who knew intuition, or instinct, is biased?

Because intuition relies on evolutionarily older, automatic and fast processing, it also falls prey to misguidances, such as cognitive biases. These are systematic errors in thinking, that can automatically occur.

Is it rational to trust your gut feelings? A neuroscientist explains

Until recently I thought intuition and instinct were my trusty friends. When I first learned we were pregnant with Tasha, I worried. How would I know what to do? 'Follow your instincts', I remember being told by more than one person. 'but I don't have any' whispered my inside voice. Of course I did, I just had to tune in. I was 35 and had taken off traveling with Rudolf a decade earlier. I wasn't immersed in an extended family with little babies; my nieces and nephews were old enough to just about start having babies themselves.

By relying on intuition or instincts, what is it I am actually relying on? Turns out it's no more than a biproduct of evolutionary programming with, maybe, a bit of genetics thrown in. Fetal conditioning, infancy, upbringing and life stage can't be ignored, and then there's factors such as microbiame and setting circumstances.

Wait what? ... rewind ... did I list microbiame? Yep. In my quest to become more healthy, what did I bump into? Microbiame and it's impact on our thinking. What passes into our blood stream from our gut goes directly to our brain. Makes perfect sense. Unsurprisingly, the interaction of gut bacteria and nervous system is an important piece of the puzzle in autism research.

I'm not sure if you've happened across Destin Sandlin and his Smarter Every Day YouTube channel? One of his experiments is about his 'backward bike'. At the conclusion of the experiment Destin lists the three findings, the last of which is that we are looking at our world with a bias - whether we think we are or not. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying intuition is a bad thing. It's an efficiency and if we didn't have it we'd be a very slow species. It sits nicely with other efficiencies such as habits and routines. This struck me at the end of Destin's experiment. It took him eight months to learn to ride the backward bike, and then discovered he couldn't ride a regular bike. To relearn riding a regular bike only took 20 minutes. How easy it is to revert.

This then takes me to the pull of 'comfort zone'. When we are 'wired' to think and do efficiently, stepping out of our usual patterns of efficiencies is actually counter-intuitive. Even when we make conscious decisions to step out of our comfort zone, we have strong unconscious forces at work, pulling us back.

The solution seems to be self awareness. We need to question these automatic functions that act to keep us safe and in control. They may have served us as a species, and on a day-to-day level they definitely make us more efficient, but we need to stop. In where we want to go, are they serving or sabotaging?

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