Monday, 5 October 2009

David Buss: Overcoming irrationality

One nagging thing that I still don’t understand about myself is why I often succumb to well-documented psychological biases, even though I’m acutely aware of these biases. One example is my failure at affective forecasting, such as believing that I will be happy for a long time after some accomplishment (e.g. publishing a new book), when in fact the happiness dissipates more quickly than anticipated. Another is succumbing to the male sexual overperception bias, misperceiving a woman’s friendliness as sexual interest. A third is undue optimism about how quickly I can complete work projects, despite many years of experience in underestimating the time actually required. One would think that explicit knowledge of these well-documented psychological biases and years of experience with them would allow a person to cognitively override the biases. But they don’t.

David Buss is Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas where he heads the Individual Differences and Evolutionary Psychology Area. Among the world's most highly cited evolutionary psychologists, his latest book is Why Women Have Sex.

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Ray Sawhill said...

Maybe overoptimism serves a function. Maybe it'd be hard to get out of bed in the morning if we weren't feeling a little over-cheery about our prospects for the day.

Nan Eliana said...

Forgive yourself. You are human.

Cognitive overriding of biases can only take you so far. If something resonates with you, it resonates with you, whether or not there is a reason for it is one thing, understanding it is another, but trying to weed it out of your person is something else, what I would say impossible. It's like you can't help but be attracted to a pretty face. You have preferences; likes and dislikes. It's all part of being human.

Maybe you should just accept them, rather than try to compartmentalise them and attempt to weed them out as problems. Work with them as potential strengths rather than weaknesses. Integrate them into yourself. These are all part of who you are. And there's nothing wrong with biases. You are human after all.

And as long they don't interfere with your work, the world's your oyster.

Susan Abbott said...

I feel great relief knowing that someone else has the work estimating problem.
"A third is undue optimism about how quickly I can complete work projects, despite many years of experience in underestimating the time actually required."
Now I know it's not a character flaw, it's a psychological bias.
Sadly, clients often share this bias, and even seem to have a more severe form of it!

psycynic said...

I have read about six of these posts by these so- called leading psychs., and I have to say that maybe they shouldn't b psychs in the first place, I mean, such horrible insight accompanied with an inability of creative access.

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