Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Blunder Thoughts

"It takes effort to step back from our situations and think about how we think...We all want easy answers, which is what cognition traps provide...Cognition traps are inflexible mindsets formed from faulty reasoning."

Zachary Shore,Blunder: Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions

Shore assembles a number of familiar and unfamiliar stories (Iraq,Vietnam,Iran, etc.) about how reductive thinking and failure to adapt lead to blunders--solutions that make things worse than in the first place. He distinguishes blunders from mistakes but this seems more a marketing than substantive distinction.

His list of common cognition traps include: "exposure anxiety, causefusion, flatview, cure-allism,infomania, mirror imaging, and static cling." "Although cognition traps are forms of faulty thinking, each rigid mindset...does contain a powerful emotional component." In simple terms, we are afraid to take unpopular positions, mix up causes and effects, simplify complexity,grab onto single solutions, horde or ignore information,project ourselves onto the world, and hold onto old or irrelevant models.

After a while these cognition traps mushed together for me -- a failure in creative and adaptive thinking. Overcoming them requires vigilence and openness in the midst of making tough decisions. That's challenging.

"All these traits -- mental flexibility, the willingness to question the majority view,the rejection of reductionism, and the development of empathy and imagination -- all require hard work."

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