The Know Nothing

In a study, participants were asked to estimate something about their own ability. They overestimated. Others were told that statistically every person overestimates their ability, then they were asked to make the estimate. They still overestimated their ability, BY THE SAME AMOUNT. In other words, they told themselves, “Yes, other people don’t think clearly about this, but I do.”

We perceive the attributes of others as different from ourselves. This is like the joke about the difference between a recession and a depression. A recession is when your friend loses their job. A depression is when you lose your job. We separate ourselves from others in our perception.

I love to better understand the world around me. I’m continually studying systems of thought, how things work. From the time I was very young, I was curious where all of the pipes and vents went in lofts. My favorite book as a kid was “How things work?”. I’m insatiably curious. Yet, with all of the reading that I do, I’m more and more convinced just how little I know – not just facts, but how little I perceive. I know that when I’m upset at someone, I have selective memory. I know I can’t recall in those moments all the time they haven’t acted in accord with whatever judgement I’m passing on them. But it’s not natural to question what our emotions and even reason are telling us.

Ultimately, I’m fascinated by our cognitive biases, but I don’t want to be the guy that assumes the cognitive biases only affect others, they affect me too.







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