Red flags to our concrete thinking that present glitches in the matrix

As we’ve discussed, heuristics are designed to speed-up the processing-analysis using a combination of perceptual filters we have discussed previously – experience, exposure or immersion, nature, nurture, age, gender, class, state, environment, culture, previously-training & education, by-proxy learning, et al. Perceptual filters not only help one develop credibility in certain areas of specialization over time (and generally cumulatively), but they inevitably make us, well, “us.” It’s important to know that we are not a one-dimensional entity but a three-dimensional that is made up of the whole of the sum of our parts. We are “us” due to a vast array of influences, experiences, personality, impactful events, genetics, moods. And THIS is why it is ALWAYS the individual (man or woman), not any system, method, art, style, technique, tactic. Those are the stable elements to the forever fluidity of that individual – and fluidity…context – always reigns supreme. Most know this whether they are able to articulate it or not. Easy, at least we think.

As many seem to perpetually thinks it’s the other way around (stage 1/surface) and that the important thing is those things listed above, it’s much rarer to find someone who knows it’s always “the individual.” (stage 2/shallow) They know it through and through as their cumulative life experiences have consistently led them to that conclusion. Fewer understand what makes up those intangibles that make it the individual – what we term those “perceptual filters.” (stage 3/mid-level). They grasp that we are shaped through a number of influences along the way that make us us and give us our understanding of things. Yet fewer are those who understand that, while the above may be true, the map is not the territory. Our experience is just that, even with the whole sphere of knowledge and perception we’ve obtained over our lifetime from the various sources. Our perception is still flawed as our truth is not at all necessarily the full and complete one that exists in actuality. It is just our version of it. The way we filter it.

And, because perception of reality is ALWAYS flawed and unreliable when lined-up alongside actual reality, there are certain caveats that come with our perceptual filters – the inevitable and irresistible “flawed filtering.” That’s an important discrepancy to acknowledge as it allows us to manage and factor-in these issues with our perception of situations, scenarios, circumstances to more closely align the two when utilizing heuristics to make important decisions.

That being said, what are some of those caveats? What skews our view of things? Alters assessment, analysis, dissection of important, risky, conflictual, dangerous, threatening situations? Why is it important? When we accept and acknowledge our limitations on the current state-of-things, our abilities and capabilities, our discrepancies with the actuality, any contextual lag – it gives us a greater chance on performing in the necessary manner to achieve whatever the desired result may be; survival, success, performance, best-case scenario, good-enough…inevitably whatever is dictated by that circumstance. It’s entirely one thing to find out what makes yourself tick – yet another to understand the limitations of that understanding so one can align with the current reality of things and make grounded decisions based on the incoming stimuli.

So, again, we ask, what are some of those red flags?

a. BIAS. Cognitive biases that are skewed by faulty and disconnected perceptual filters. There are many, including confirmation bias (pilfering information that backs an already-believed axiom), Dunning-Kruger (the simple road with minimal information is always the easiest to fathom), status-quo (denial), eternal-optimism (always looking on the bright side), eternal-pessimism (always looking on the dark side), the halo effect (gesture doesn’t signify personality), anchoring (1st bit of pertinent info sets the table), hindsight (always 20-20, right, looking back…crystal-ball narratives are always created post-event), group (I’m in with them and they’re all doing it, so…), self-serving (my work when rewarded, their fault when blamed), and so-on-and-so-forth. Biases are vast and multi-functional and always context-appropriate; they cloud our judgment, period. (eg. You overrule or disregard valuable advice given to you by someone with better, clearer, or emotionally-detached perspective than you in a specific context because you da’ man; even though your inner-alarm is going off, you side with your posse because they couldn’t possibly steer you wrong…could they; They look more like me, therefore, I relate more to them and will side with them)

b. CONTEXT-MISDIAGNOSIS. You erred in your assessment of what was actually unfolding before even relying on conscious decision-making or heuristics. The context was not at all what you diagnosed and, therefore, either that conscious decision-making or heuristic-recall/rolodex were never a given a chance to succeed. (eg. You cause a very unneeded scene when a gentleman was staring at your wife from across the room – when they went to grad-school together and hadn’t seen each other for 20 years; You get involved in a lover’s spat thinking the girl was in trouble and it turns out she is the aggressor and turns on you; That panic in the parking lot with screaming and running is for a movie)

c. OVERCONFIDENCE. You over-estimated your ability and capability to get the job done. Ego. Cockiness. Pride. Either way, your belief in yourself in certain complex or difficult circumstances can be overblown or your view on achievable outcome extended past your ability to pull it off. (eg. You believe that, even though there are 4 of them, you’ve beaten 4 in controlled-sparring class before so you should have no problem here either, regardless of their holding weapons; Since you’ve spoken in front of family at Christmas, doing so in front of 300 strangers should be no different; Fake-it-until-I-make-it)

d. UNDER-ESTIMATION. To some degree, the mirror-image of the above. While they often go hand-in-hand – they needn’t. I can be grounded with ego and pride yet still under-estimate an opponent or situation. (eg. The common industry misjudgment of assuming that the boogeyman, stranger-danger, or the predator “outside-the-gate” is the one we predominantly need to prepare for when it’s far more often true it’s someone we know, trust, interact with, work with, or is a satellite to our life; She’s young and inexperienced and a “she”, I should have no trouble putting her in her place; I bet I could finish that project all by noon…)

e. TRANSFERABILITY. The unerring belief that because you have experience and exposure in a given area, it automatically transfers to every other relatable or offshoot area. (eg. Since you’re a martial arts master, you also know about firearms, defensive-driving, 1st-Aid, and survivalism as a by-product because all things safety is clearly your lane; I had a like-situation once, I bet if I do the same thing here, the outcome should be the same; I’ve dealt with people with his profile before, I’ve got him figured-out before we even begin this; I can skate on ice, this roller-blading should be no different; It worked in Canada, it should work the same here in Costa Rica)

f. LOCUS-OF-CONTROL/INFLUENCE. Though our experience and exposure far greater, instincts more finely-honed from our perceptual filters, have handled similar situations with far more frequency, have already acknowledged any personal biases that could blind clarity – we listen to someone else for whatever reason. Our significant other who knows us best – sometimes to their and our detriment (read: their own biases.) Our boss who has more power and clout over us. Peer pressure from others “outvoting” you en masse. Someone else driving or paying the bill. An ally more uninhibited, risk-taking, reckless, naïve, or oblivious than we are. Loved ones slow to react or unknowing of the dangers or having no familial protocols in-place for this sort of occurrence. A group of people with previously-thought similar goals and motives who display shades to the pure colors we originally thought. Tribalism.

These are some of the issues with personal perceptual-filter overreliance that can influence both conscious decision-making and heuristic-recall. They cloud our judgment and make that very perception designed to help us all blurry and foggy, taking away the big advantage we may have from the appropriate tools we may have for a given thing. It’s imperative that these are understood prior to important decision-making as they act as blind-spots that take away our edges we have over potentially-diverse situations.

While this is getting a little more into the deeper-end of the pool, the shallow can get us in trouble as it only partially-educates us. Gives us an unfocused perspective. Leaves out valuable information. Renders some otherwise valuable knowledge obsolete. And I’m positive you can handle the deeper-water if it ups success on potentially-serious and impactful life decisions for you.

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