12 Psychological Facts That Will Empower a Better Life

#7 You’re evolved to make errors when you think

Jonas Ressem
Jan 5 · 8 min read
©Jonas Ressem

There are people who only see half of what's in front of them. If you instructed them to draw a clock, they would only draw numbers on one side of the face. This condition is called hemispatial neglect, and those affected have no possibility of perceiving the things located on their damaged side of the visual space.

Though psychology is full of such weird and cool examples, it was not the fun-facts that made me study it in the first place; it was the way it improved my life.

What it would actually look like

Two years before starting my psychology degree, I studied something completely different: Geography. It was not something I chose because of passion, but rather, it was the result of a mistake. However, since I didn’t really know what I wanted back then, I accepted the fact and settled in.

But as the months passed by, something started to change. Looking back, it was not the result of any single force, but not knowing what to do with my life definitely helped it come along. I was getting depressed. And, as I didn’t have the means to withstand it, it slowly grew worse until I hit my rock bottom: a breakup.

This shattered my world and left me broken for days. And in my desperation, I started to search for ways to alleviate the pain. But searching online for “how to deal with a breakup” and even “how to get back with your ex,” didn’t serve me well. The internet is full of empty, and even harmful advice.

I continued to search for answers though, literally, because the pain was still intense. I don’t know whether it was a stroke of luck or a slow elimination of previous information, but I eventually stumbled on an article written by a psychologist. It was different.

It wasn’t shallow. Nor was it trying to maintain a positive attitude. It was sober, laying out the challenges as well as possible solutions. Intrigued, I finished it with full attention and went on to a suggested article on the same page.

Over the following months, I consumed hours worth of reading, and I could feel the effects it had on me. It wasn’t only about alleviating pain anymore; but about improving my life as a whole. Sometime later, I started at a psychology degree myself, which at present has taken me all the way to the master’s level.

True Knowledge Doesn’t Only Inform; It Transforms

There’s a joke that half of the people studying psychology do it so they can fix themselves. I don’t know to which extent it’s true, but why wouldn’t you study something for that reason? It makes you apply what you read; bettering yourself.

Below, I’ve composed a list of some of my favorite psychological facts that I’ve collected over the years (count the opening fact as your #1). If thoroughly processed and applied, they can have deep implications for how you choose to live your life. So, when going through them, don’t simply register what you read. Use it to empower your transformation.

2. What You Perceive Isn’t Real

Music changes the taste of beer and even affects the alcoholic strength you perceive. The things you see, hear or taste, are not objective truth but colored by variables such as what you pay attention to, what you expect, what you’re feeling, and the atmosphere you find yourself in. Perception isn’t reality.

3. Your Brain Highlights What You Aim For

If you’ve ever encountered a new word, and then suddenly started to hear it everywhere, you’ve experienced the same kind of effect and aim trigger. Your brain fixates on whatever you aim for because in doing so, you’re signifying it’s something of value. You want it, plain and simple, and your brain becomes your sidekick in making that happen. Because once you have an aim, your brain will highlight the things that will help you reach it.

“The world shifts itself around your aim… It organizes all of your perceptions. It organizes what you see and don’t see. It organizes your emotions and your motivations so you organize yourself around that aim.” — Jordan Peterson.

4. Groups Are Resistant to Change

Individuals can change, but groups rarely do. The cohesiveness of a group reinforces its norms, values, beliefs, and even the member’s roles in it. Any deviation poses a threat. This makes groups resistant to change, and individuals who point out flaws or display out-of-line behavior is often negatively evaluated by the rest. T

hey can also experience forces that try to push them back in line, such as anger or shame. And this can even happen when there are others in the group that holds the same deviant attitudes, but that chooses to remain silent about it.

5. Habit Is A Stronger Force Than Intention

Take a look at your current habits. They might not be of conscious creation, but the byproduct of what you’ve grown into over time. So ask yourself this: are you doing something simply because it’s a habit, or because it’s a genuinely good and meaningful thing to you?

Truth is, habits die hard. And once something has become a habit, any intention to do otherwise is difficult. This can of course be helpful if you’ve taken the time to create good habits. But similarly, it can be damaging if you haven’t.

©Jonas Ressem

6. People Aren’t Very Self-Aware

While humans are the most self-aware species, we miss the mark compared to how self-aware we think we are. Truth is, there’s a lot of things we cannot know or even won’t let ourselves know.

We’re in the middle of our own experience — colored by emotions, justified beliefs, and defense mechanisms — making it hard to see ourselves as we genuinely are.

We have limited cognitive resources, we lie to ourselves to protect our self-image, and there’s a lot of things hidden in our unconscious. We’re not as self-aware as we like to think.

“There are three things extremely hard: Steel, a Diamond, and to know one’s self.” — Benjamin Franklin

7. You’re Evolved to Make Errors When You Think

When making decisions, you tend to rely too much on only one piece of information, and it’s usually the first piece of information you acquired on the subject.

This is called the anchoring effect, and it’s just one of the over a hundred cognitive biases that have been identified. Cognitive biases are errors in thinking, which skew perception and decision-making. And you’re actually evolved to make such errors. Because biases usually work, they’ve evolved to simplify information-processing, acting as rules of thumb when you don’t have time or energy to contemplate all the variables involved.

8. Voluntary Exposure Is The Only Way To Overcome Fear

You cannot talk yourself out of fear. The part of your brain that processes it doesn’t understand language; it only understands experience. Research shows the only way to overcome fear is to retrain your brain to stop sending the fear signal when there isn’t any danger.

The first part of this exercise is to break your fear into smaller steps that increase in challenge. The second part is to confront the fear without distracting yourself. And the reason is that you need to show your brain that everything is ok. The less you distract yourself, the better your brain can process that fact. And when it experiences that nothing bad happens, it will stop sending the fear signal.

9. Many Life Outcomes Are Neither Genetic nor Social. Nor Are They Planned.

For decades, psychologists debated whether we’re the result of our genes or our social environment. At last, they arrived at the logical conclusion we’re the result of both.

However, they also found there’s a third factor that determines the outcomes in our lives. Twins share the same genes and the same family. Yet, they don’t grow up to be the same. And its unique environmental factors that make them diverge. This is to say that randomness can separate people in their outcomes. Thus, the success you see in someone isn’t only the result of their genes or social upbringing. It might not even be the result of their choices, but of randomness.

10. You Can Change Your Past By Changing What It Means

Having a memory of something doesn’t necessarily mean it happened. Similarly, having something happen doesn’t mean your memory of it will stay the same forever. Memory is malleable, which means you’re not only allowed to revisit the past but that you’re allowed to change it as well.

While the past happened in one way objectively, subjectively it could have happened in a variety of ways. Because by processing an event, you can change what it means. And over time, that can change the memory itself. How you interpret something affects how you feel and act towards it in the future.

©Jonas Ressem

11. People Act First, Then Rationalizes Their Behavior Afterwards

Convenient explanations should be approached with caution. Especially if they’re your own. In deciding to do something, you’re influenced by habit, environment, instinct, norms, and so on. Only after do you rationalize why you acted in that manner. This means you often don’t know why you’re acting as you do, but that you think you do when explaining it to yourself.

This, however, doesn’t mean you’re acting on pure irrationality, because in the process of rationalization, rational thinking is also incorporated. But it does mean it’s possible to think you're being rational when in fact you’re not.

12. Environmental Design Is One of the Few Ways to Change

Though change is possible, it isn’t easy. And especially if you think you can do it by forces inside yourself. Truth is, there aren’t a lot of ways to change. But one of the few is through environmental design; not through conviction, willpower, or intention.

Following #9, if you can’t reliably decide how to act in the moment, you have to determine how to act in advance. You have to design your environment, such as leaving habitual cues around your house and removing distractions that defer you. You should design your social environment because people influence us whether or not we’re aware of it — for better or for worse.

“We, as people, are shaped by what is outside of us. We like to believe we are the masters of our fate. But our situation and environment are far more powerful.” — Benjamin P. Hardy

The Takeaway

Though psychology provides a lot of useful information, it won’t make your life better unless you choose to apply it. True knowledge doesn’t only inform; it transforms.

How will you live your life knowing all this?

Want to live a more meaningful life? Get my free PDF here.

Live Your Life On Purpose

Get Purpose. Get Perspective. Get Passion.

Jonas Ressem

Written by

From Norway. Building onliving.life. Exploring life through psychology, philosophy and entrepreneurship. Come explore with me: http://eepurl.com/dAtfdv

Live Your Life On Purpose

Get Purpose. Get Perspective. Get Passion.

Jonas Ressem

Written by

From Norway. Building onliving.life. Exploring life through psychology, philosophy and entrepreneurship. Come explore with me: http://eepurl.com/dAtfdv

Live Your Life On Purpose

Get Purpose. Get Perspective. Get Passion.

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