Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cognitive Illusion : A Human Compulsion

Human beings are constantly victim of cognitive illusions. In the book Predictably Irrational the author Dan Ariely has distinctly brought out the follies in human behaviour spanning the entire spectrum of our life. Classified as Behavioural Economics it challenges the assumption that we are rational and how our daily life is an example of cognitive illusions. As such this is not surprising as we are wired from primitive times for survival and hence the brain is developed for survival. Thus under physical threat of life we have appropriate life reponses. It is so cleverly shown in the Man vs Wild series on National Geographic channel. However when it comes to psychological assessment of situation we tend to behave irrationally.We have a tendency to do relative perception which lead to comparative analysis. Visual optical illusion is the most common example relative perception.This same tendency lead us to compare between two individuals or two religion or two races or ethnic groups invariably leading to conflict. As a consumer we do not do our math right and end up making wrong choices. As society or head of the nation or head of the family or head of a religious organisation we fail to display rational behaviour. such irrationality maybe cleverly packaged. A best example can be narrated from Paulo coehlo's book Devil and Miss Prym. In this instance the head of church was willingly ready to put an innocent citizen on gallows at the behest of devil who promised lure of gold for the village. The choice was to be made between life a village prostitute vs pots of gold for village development. And the choice was made to sacrifice the village prostitute at the altar of greed well couched with religious justifications and charitable intentions. This is just a fictional account of wrong choice that human make but reality is not far from stupid irrationalities on daily basis.
( ) Dan Ariely in his book writes more about wrong choices in economic sphere of activity but it has widespread ramifications. It can be interpretated in any other dimension of human behaviour. For instance the most glaring example of cognitive illusions is the havoc wrought by belief systems. It invariably leads to comparision and thereby a need to reassert one particular belief system as superior vs the rest. The outcome is wellknown for centuries in the form of war. Belief system and fundamentalism are two sides of the coin. A siamese twin?

Einstein once did comment that the universe maybe infinite but human stupidity is certainly so.

It is now very very clear. Human behaviour can never be trusted to be free,fair,accurate,just and ,rational. Individuals may either betray disoriented behaviour or portray exemplary behaviour. But there is no certainty and hence trusting human behaviour to be ideal by default is not a good idea. At the same time distrusting it as always disoriented is cynicism. Its a challenge and therefore a slightly off the hook distant observervation of human behaviour is a good idea. Its a mirror in which u see your reflection and what are your co-ordinates in the system provided you arenon judgemental about yourself.
In his famous dialogue with Dr David Bohm, J. Krishnamurti emphatically said " I doubt if man is rational. He added , mankind has taken a wrong turn on his journey of life and right turn is always possible . Quit relative perception. Quit comparison.

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