The Problem with Goats

Wednesday September 15, 2021

We humans are wonderful creatures. We have the largest and most complex brains of any animal on the planet. We are often told that we use only 10% of our brain capacity (actually, this is untrue) and asked what it would be like if we could only use the other 90%.

The answer is, we might be just as lazy as we are now.

“Lazy?” you ask! “I’m not lazy; I really use my brain – in my work, in my reading, in solving sudoku puzzles to keep me sharp.”

I’m sorry; the evidence shows nearly all of us are lazy thinkers.

Take this problem, for instance. If you familiar with this from your reading or if you work in this field, please stay quiet so as not to spoil it for the others.

Imagine you are a contestant in a game show. Incidentally, this really was a game show called “Let’s Make a Deal” with Monty Hall.

In this game, you are presented with three doors. Behind two of these doors there is a goat. Behind one of them is a new car. You are invited to choose a door. You pick door number one. Monty then opens door number three – to reveal a goat. You then have the option to change your choice to door number two. What would you do?

Give yourself a round of applause if you chose to switch. Most people don’t.

There are solid reasons why most people choose to stick with their original choice. The first is, we calculate we now have a 50/50 chance – instead of the one third chance we had previously – and so, we might as well stick. This thinking is flawed: door number two now has a two thirds chance. You can find the logic here: https://bit.ly/3CdYj8P and the maths here https://bit.ly/3CcKFCz.

There is, however, another and more important reason why we might choose to stick. We have adopted the thinking that to stick by a decision shows strength of character, and to change one’s choice indicates indecisiveness and weakness.

This is where the lazy thinking comes in. Decision making takes energy; more energy than we realise. We often choose to reject new information rather than to consider it, as we will then need to take that decision all over again.
We can apply this to things like politics, religion and relationships.

This is not the platform for the first two, but the relationships area is vital to mental health.

Sometimes we continue to keep people in our life who are negative and who suck energy from us because looking at the evidence is painful, choosing to end the relationship is emotionally gruelling, and walking away takes effort.

Equally, we can choose to poison ourselves by refusing to forgive those who have injured us, even though we know it is healthier for us to forgive and move on. We chose to reject this information and to stick with our pain.

Intelligent choices are hard, and they are continuous. But they are worth it.

After all, we have a two thirds chance of winning the car and not a goat.

A Moodscope member.

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