Cognitive Tricks to be wary of

One of the best upsides to taking time off from work is the opportunity you get to pursue some of your pet passion projects. My current  time off allowed me to do a ‘deep dive’ (I nicked this word off Jack Welch’ Bio) into a subject I really like : Cognitive bias, a fascinating subset of Social psychology.

What a sad terrible waste it was to spend so much time from 7th standard onwards on deep dives in chemistry, physics and biology, learning arcane stuff we never ever got to apply later in life and missing out on learning a branch of science that is both absorbing and can help so much in our day to day life, since much of our adult life is about living and working with other people in a family and office setting .

Think about it this way : Knowing about Persuasion and Negotiation is wayyy more important and useful than Trigonometry. Here is a terrific summary. Warning : you could lose yourself in there for hours. I wish in school I was tested on THIS instead of THIS!

What got me really interested initially was a book I read called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Cialdini. Do yourself a ‘LifeFavor’ and check this awesome post : The Psychology of Persuasion at Psyblog, one of my favorite blogs on the subject.

So on that note, I suggest there are two cognitive biases you should be aware of right damn now while watching the million ads during this World Cup matches! Or titled combatively :

Why you should not believe in celebrity endorsements on TV (esp for beauty products!)

Why you should be aware of the Halo effect (esp when voting in South India!)

The Texas sharpshooter fallacy is a logical fallacy in which information that has no relationship is interpreted or manipulated until it appears to have meaning. The name comes from a joke about a Texan who fires some shots at the side of a barn, then paints a target centered on the biggest cluster of hits and claims to be a ‘sharpshooter’

When the many many actors and actresses from Bollywood or the players from the Indian Cricket team exhort for us to buy their endorsed product they are counting on you to fall very pliantly into the Texas sharpshooter fallacy. Ash selling L’Oreal : “I am awesome because I use  L’Oreal! Girls, You can be too if you use L’Oreal!”, here L’Oreal claiming their models were all gorgeous and luckily happen to now be famous enough to ensorse the brand! Bachan selling ANYTHING  “I am awesome because I use  X! You can be too if you use X India!” Where do I even begin with the Indian cricket team.

The Halo effect is a cognitive bias whereby the perception of one trait (i.e. a characteristic of a person or object) is influenced by the perception of another trait (or several traits) of that person or object. An example would be judging a good-looking person as more intelligent. N. T. Rama Rao, Jayalalithaa and M. G. Ramachandran are classic examples of voters fooled into the Halo effect and assuming since these people were so good and pure and righteous in the movies, they MUST be that in real life PLUS great administrators and so “Here are the keys to the state treasury!” Not a single one of them can claim an untainted and honorable political legacy.  Why are we southiees esp prone to this stupid fallacy ? Is it the excess rice mushing up our brains ? But then the US and Indian Software and IT engine pretty much runs on  South Indian fuel. So to those sniggering that only us gullible southies are prone to this infection I say two names: Ronld Regan and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Look at how Arnold messed up California.

While these two cognitive tricks can fool us in innumerable setting I just you want to focus on it from an angle of a Consumer (buyer,voter).

Just Another Customer: Caveat emptor!


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