Let’s be honest: I am not a psychologist, nor do I have a medical degree of any sort or am I claiming to be an expert in neurology.

We won’t go into the specifics, but there have been a lot people in my life who have struggled with mental illness. This forced me to learn about how the brain works and has helped me develop empathy for those who suffer with this disease.

If you think that mental illness is not a real disease, you are mistaken. Furthermore, the idea that a “qualified psychiatrist” can prescribe medication to fix the problem is unsound.

Suicides rates are rising and there is currently not enough being invested into mental health services.

We will not go into these issues in depth and today’s post covers 13 basic concepts that you should familiarize yourself with in order to better comprehend your behaviour and help you in your day to day hustle.

Since psychology is complicated, we will include the Wikipedia definition with every term to facilitate your learning.

1. Priming:

Priming is an implicit memory effect in which exposure to a stimulus influences a response to a later stimulus.”

If I were to say the word ice what association does your mind make?


Priming brings a particular representation to the front of your mind.

Marketers and sales people are aware of priming and use it to influence your judgments on a daily basis in order to sell products and persuade your decisions.

2. Heuristics

“A Heuristic is any approach to problem solving, learning, or discovery that employs a practical method not guaranteed to be optimal or perfect, but sufficient for the immediate goals. Where finding an optimal solution is impossible or impractical, heuristic methods can be used to speed up the process of finding a satisfactory solution.”

Essentially, a heuristic is a mental shortcut or rule of thumb that allows you to make decisions and solve problems really quickly. These shortcuts come in handy, since we are constantly being bombarded with new information.

When you are hungry at school or work, there is most likely a restaurant that you will visit by custom. This restaurant has proximity and great food, while also being inexpensive. Your heuristic in this case shortens the path to a solution and conclusion on where to grab lunch.

This term was popularized by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman in his bookThinking, Fast and Slow.

3. Straw Man

“A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not advanced by that opponent.”

Politicians use this often when they want to present their side of the story. They will setup a straw man in order to distort the argument of their opponent, while giving the illusion of having refuted their opponent’s original position.

4. Procrastination

“Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task which needs to be accomplished. It is the practice of doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, or carrying out less urgent tasks instead of more urgent ones, thus putting off impending tasks to a later time.”

We all know what to do, however, the ability to follow through and actually put in the work is tough.

There are so many distractions in our world: Facebook, Call of Duty, March Madness, Walking Dead, your cousin Rodney, my cousin Rodney, Oculus Rift, etc.

Still, we wonder why our children have ADD and underperform in school.

Maybe they procrastinate and have inner resistance because they are so overloaded with new information every day.

5. Confirmation Bias:

“Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities.”

When you reach a conclusion, you aren’t likely to change your mind.

At some point you may have come to the deduction that anyone who drives a Mazeratti is an a*****e , because of a few personal experiences.

You are told about how a doctor, who while is working on a cure for cancer, lost his son to the disease. You think this is sad, however, your opinion changes when you learn that owns a Mazerati.

Your mind seeks out information that confirms your previous belief and you deduce that this doctor is an a*****e.

This is an extreme example, but clinging to your old beliefs, while disregarding new information is costly.

6. Bulls**t

“Bulls**t is mostly a slang profanity term meaning “nonsense”, especially in a rebuking response to communication or actions viewed as deceiving, misleading, disingenuous, unfair or false.”

Based on historical experiences of people not being truthful, the human BS detector, in our modern times, is very strong and accurate.

Euphemistic language has become so ubiquitous in our society and the ability to tell an honest story remains virtually invisible.

We soften our communication with confusing language and lie not only to the listeners, but to ourselves.

Women are a lot better a sniffing out BS, since most men have agendas. Having said this ladies, you know have told a few fibs in your life.

7. Confabulation

“Confubulation is a memory disturbance, defined as the production of fabricated, distorted or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to deceive.”

You think you are self-assured when reminiscing about past experiences and believe that you are able to recall every minutia.

In truth, we fabricate stories to make ourselves seem cooler than we actually are.

8. Learned Helplessness

“Learned Helplessness is behavior typical of an organism (human or animal) that has endured repeated painful or otherwise aversive stimuli which it was unable to escape or avoid.”

Have you ever introduced great ideas to your boss, only to have them be repeatedly shot down?

You come to the conclusion that coming up with new improvements or processes is futile.

“What’s the point in trying anymore?”

9. Placebo Effect

“The Placebo Effect is a remarkable phenomenon in which a placebo — a fake treatment, an inactive substance like sugar, distilled water, or saline solution — can sometimes improve a patient’s condition simply because the person has the expectation that it will be helpful.”

Michelangelo’s David is a considered a masterpiece even to this day. The head of the Florentine republic, Piero Soderino, disagreed and told Michaelangelo that the nose was too big.

Michaelangelo was able to fool Soderino by hiding marble dust in his and pretending to give the statue a nose-job.

10. Cognitive Dissonance

“Cognitive Dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas or values, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values

A) You smoke, you know it is bad for your health, however, you rationalize that it helps keep your weight down.

B) You are a student that needs to complete project on a deadline, but instead decide to play Clash of Clans instead because it’s fun.

By the way, George Orwell called this “Doublethink” in Nineteen-Eighty Four.

11. Anchoring

“Anchoring or focalism is a cognitive bias that describes the common human tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered (the “anchor”) when making decisions.”

How much money do you think mental illness costs Canadians every year: $500 million or $1 billion?

The actual answer is $50 billion.

12. Spotlight Effect

“The spotlight effect is the phenomenon in which people tend to believe they are noticed more than they really are. Being that one is constantly in the center of one’s own world, an accurate evaluation of how much one is noticed by others has shown to be uncommon.”

Don’t take this wrong way: No one is paying attention to you.

The next time you wear the same outfit to work two days in a row, no one will notice.

Even when some does notice, they will give you a break because they wore their favourite t shirt 6 days in a row last month.

13. Apophenia:

“Apophenia is the human tendency to perceive meaningful patterns withinrandom data.”

Flukes are a part of your everyday life and the significance you associate to them comes solely from your imagination.

Have you by any chance seen the number 13 a lot recently?

If you like this article, please check out David McRaney’s website You Are Not So Smart for more awesome psychological term.

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