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Articulation of Reasons Can Lead to Bias


There is a lot of evidence from other experiments that translating complexity into verbally articulated reasons can cause bias in our minds.  This bias my override the unconscious conclusion.  When we are reasoning consciously, we tend to favor those factors that can be easily articulated and thus we give them more weight than they deserve.  This leads to bad decisions.  Couples who simply report their feelings about the status of their relationship and rate it as “good” are much more likely to still be together six months later than couples who listed the reasons for their relationship status and also rated it as “good”.  The latter are obviously are not able to verbally articulate the true state of the relationship.  The unconsciously generated feeling was simply more accurate than the verbally articulated reasons.  Ladies take note!  Your relationship chatter is not necessarily a good thing.


The same thing happened in an experiment on choosing art.  People who just go with what they feel they like, pick differently than those who are asked to list the reasons for their choice.  The reason givers are more likely to be unhappy with their choice later.  Bottom line is that giving reasons often impacts your choice for the worse.  It causes you to emphasize that which can be verbalized over that which can’t.


Focus groups cannot pick television show winners because by articulating their reasons they are biasing their choices.


In the apartment picking experiment there were further trials to try to tease out what was going on in the unconscious mind that allowed it to make a better choice.  It turns out that it seemed to be able to better separate the positive and negative attributes.  Over the time period when it was working on the problem, the unconscious mind was able to increase the polarization of the positive and negative attributes and thereby make a better decision.


You actually make decisions with unconscious processing a lot more often than you realize.  Your unconscious mind often (but not always) communicates its answers to you through feelings.  People who have lost the ability to feel emotions through brain injury are paralyzed by their conscious reasoning.  They can’t make a decision because there are simply too many factors to consider.  They may labor over what others might consider simple decisions for hours and never get anywhere.  So even when you think you are making a rational decision, you are often just rationalizing an unconscious feeling after your unconscious mind has already decided for you, using reasons of which you are not consciously aware.


What Does All This Mean to You

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