The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

This article was inspired by Rolf Dobelli's The Art of Thinking Clearly . If you enjoy this article then consider purchasing or borrowing the book.


How to Avoid Flawed Thinking

“Eliminate the downside, the thinking errors, and the upside will take care of itself. This is all we need to know.”

Cognitive errors plague even the deepest of thinkers and experts; however, recognizing flawed thinking can help you make better decisions. Thirteen types of erroneous reasoning affect most of us in one way or another. Once you are familiar with these forms of flawed thinking, you will be able to bypass them during daily life.

  1. “Survivorship Bias” – When witnessing the success of others, people often overestimate their chances of duplicating such careers. An aspiring author may see himself or herself as the next J.K. Rowling, but he should also bear in mind that many authors fail.
  2. “Sunk Cost Fallacy” – Even when a project is heading downhill and making a profit off of it is unlikely, it is human nature to stick with this enterprise until it fails. When a project is sure to fail, stop putting money and time into it.
  3. “Swimmers Body Illusion” – If you see a swimmer like Ryan Lochte, you probably wish that you were as good. No matter how hard you train, he was most likely born with genetics that coded for a good swimmer. Everyone has a niche. Find what you are good at.
  4. “Confirmation Bias” – When researching a topic, individuals generally look for the evidence that confirms their personal beliefs. Rather than looking for proof of your worldview, look at the data of opposing parties.
  5. “Story Bias” – Narratives convey information to people better than other methods, but when we get caught up in stories, we tend to ignore facts. You can look at Bill Gates and say that he has a great life story, but what did he do to make that story happen. We envy the story but ignore the work it required.
  6. “Overconfidence Effect” – Everyone puts more confidence in their abilities than they should, and they underestimate the time and work needed to succeed. Simply be pessimistic about projects until facts prove them possible.
  7. “Chauffer Knowledge” – Most information people digest daily is second hand. Recognize your limitations and don’t operate outside of your area of expertise.
  8. “Illusion of Control” – None of us really have absolute control over every aspect of our lives. Recognize the areas of life you can control.
  9. “Outcome Bias” – Rather than looking at the results of a decision, observe the process and information that was available when the decision was made.
  10. “Loss Aversion” – The fear of loss often overrides the joy of success. Overcome loss aversion and take risks when necessary.
  11. “Cognitive Dissonance” – When you make a bad decision, don’t justify it. Don’t reason that you made a good choice because you put hard work into it.
  12. “Alternative Blindness” – Limit yourself to specific criteria when making a decision. Too many options are as harmful as too few.
  13. “Déformation Professionnelle” – Rather than trying to solve a problem with the talents you have, look for the right tool for the problem.

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