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Human Error - Simple Thinking Mistakes We Make
Human error is often just a matter of thinking errors. These can include equating correlation with causation, over-generalization, and even under-generalization. To avoid making errors in your thinking, it can help to get in the habit of asking a few important questions. Start with the following.
Do I have enough information to make a decision here?
Over-estimating our knowledge is a common human error. After a few weeks study, we think we are ready to pick stocks to invest in, for example, when even those who have studied this area for years typically under-perform the market.
Am I over-generalizing here?
It may be true that avoiding debt is a good general rule. Avoid debt when going into business, though, and your business may fail before it can grow large enough to provide a livable income for you.
Am I under-generalizing?
We need to generalize. If I didn't have the general rule that "most email offers are junk," I would have to spend hours daily analyzing the merits of the various offers.
Are my emotions involved in this thinking process?
Emotions need to be involved at times, if for nothing more than motivation. To think clearly, though, you need to identify when emotions are pushing you - and in what direction. Anger might lead an article writer to waste time on a petty violation of a copyright, for example, when his time would be better spent writing something new.
What labels are involved, and how are they affecting my thinking?
You have to use words, but they come with their problems too. Thinking of someone as a "liberal" or "conservative" might cause you to miss the value in their arguments, due to the preconceived notions you have about people with these labels.
Am I applying the same rules to myself and others?
Double-standards are so common because they are so subtle in their development. A man thinks of those who are using illegal drugs as different, so it never occurs to him that his wine is a drug as well. He excuses this attitude by pointing out the legality, while never asking himself whether he would really give up cigarettes, alcohol or caffeine if they were made illegal.
Am I confusing correlation and causation?
Even scientists make this mistake regularly. Americans with higher salt intake are more likely to have high blood pressure - that is correlation. It does not mean that salt causes high blood pressure. If that were the case, the problem would be epidemic in Japan, where they eat several times more salt than in America. They also have a low incidence of high blood pressure.
This last thinking error can even lead us towards racist feelings and ideas, simply because we see a higher incidence of some behavior in a given population. Seeing correlation as meaning causation is one of the toughest errors to overcome, but all thinking errors can damage our ability to analyze things and make rational decisions. The first thing to do to prevent this "human error" is to identify our own mistaken ways of thinking.
About the Author: Copyright Steve Gillman. For more on How To Increase Brain Power, and to get the Brain Power Newsletter and other free gifts, visit: