Six things psychologists know that you might not

'Most people think (erroneously) that humans are primarily rational beings'

Elsa Vulliamy
Thursday 11 February 2016 18:00

The mind is a complex thing, and there are a lot of things we may not know about own own minds, let alone everybody else’s.

We have a fairly good knowledge of how we are feeling, but a psychologist’s job is to know why we are feeling it.

Although a lot of the inner workings of the human mind remain a mystery, much has been revealed through the study of psychology.

Users of question-and-answer website Quora have revealed some of the things we might not know about the human mind.

1. Your mood influences your decisions more than you think

“Most people think (erroneously) that humans are primarily rational beings. Emotions influence every single thought and experience we have, and most people are completely unaware of these influences, instead believing they are acting entirely rationally.”

2. People give preference to information which confirms their biases

“It takes a significant amount of extra cognitive work to update and reform our concepts or lenses through which we see the world. Without extra work, people naturally accept info that confirms their beliefs and reject information that does not.”

3. You can’t always predict what’s going to make you happy

“Put another way, psychologists know that most people are very bad at being able to predict how they will respond to positive or negative events in the future.

“People will predict they are going to be happier about getting a raise or a promotion, finding a partner, or purchasing their dream car or house than they actually end up being when that event occurs. This can lead to feelings of disillusionment or disappointment when reality doesn't match the predicted level of happiness.”

“Alternately, people predict they are going to be more devastated by losing their job or a loved one or enduring a natural catastrophe than they actually are when that negative event occurs. Many people are surprised that when the worst thing they can imagine actually happens to them, they are rarely as bad off as they thought they would be.”

4. Your memories might be wrong

“There is no relationship whatsoever between an individual's confidence in their memory of an event and their accuracy in recalling it.”

Participants [in a study] who were asked "How fast was the car going when it ran the stop sign?" were more likely to report having seen a stop sign, for example.

“These simple demonstrations and hundreds of others have repeatedly shown that memory is unreliable at best and completely inaccurate at worst. Non-psychologists are often shocked by this because if memory is so inaccurate, then there are significant implications for our very identities.”

5. It's natural to try to categorise everything

People think most in terms of "what pre-existing category I'm aware of does this exist within?" It's the base reason why think in terms of black and whites, or why we stereotype people. It's often very difficult for the mind to hold something that doesn't neatly fit in the categories we've created.

6. People often create the thing they’re trying to avoid

“Germaphobes and obsessive types often routinely put paper on public toilet seats and let it fall on the floor when they're finished because they don't dare touch it. They don't flush because they refuse to touch the flush handle. So when you walk into a public restroom with toilet paper all over the floor and a toilet full of wretched faeces you blame the low-class slobs or teenage vandals but it's actually the neat freaks who made that mess!

“Another example is people who are afraid of being treated unfairly will unintentionally treat others unfairly in an attempt to ensure that no one is taking advantage of them.”

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