Remembering The Non-Event : How we corrupt our own conclusions

This morning, we went to go catch a cab and I remarked that when I walk to the street that has cabs, an empty one always drives by about 1 minute before I get to the corner.

Always drives by? Really? Obviously as you are walking down the street to where you catch the cab, it takes a few minutes and the chance of a cab driving by during that time is remarkably high.  Even more important though: if a cab doesn’t drive by it’s unlikely to even occur to me that one did not drive by whereas when one does drive by, I think: “Dang, I just missed it”. A memorable moment.

Non-events are the things we don’t notice because they never occurred and we don’t remember things that don’t happen.  So when I try to remember walking down the street and not seeing a cab drive by, I can recall many times that it has occurred and never remember a time that it hasn’t.  This is one of the ways that we often corrupt our conclusions about the world around us, we remember the times that something hasn’t happened and don’t record all the times it didn’t happen.

When you’re tempted to create theories that explain the world around you or your business, it’s important to do a more scientific assessment before drawing conclusions — make notes of every experiment rather than leaping to judgments based solely on your memory.






3 responses to “Remembering The Non-Event : How we corrupt our own conclusions”

  1. […] an earlier entry on remembering things we never noticed, another place where we struggle remembering reality is during conflict. Because we as humans tend […]

  2. […] of it is that we don’t notice the long stretches when things don’t happen because we don’t remember the non-event – just like our eyes don’t immediately go to the open areas in the plots […]

  3. […] Post:  Remembering The Non-Event: How we corrupt our own […]

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