What is contributing to our distorted worldview? This is a question that I was inspired to reflect on most recently when reading the magnificent book “Fact-fulness” by Hans Rosling. The school of thought is that our natural instincts are contributing to our distorted worldview.
This revelation motivated me to share my learnings with more people which is what I am doing in this article. So, lean back and be prepared to be shockingly surprised!
The vision he proposes in his book is a very simple straightforward idea: Educating and guiding the world towards a fact-based understanding of the world instead of our natural instincts contributing to our distorted worldview. These are the biological instincts that result in a distorted outlook on the world.
THE 10 NATURAL INSTINCTS
As stated by the Author the 10 main instincts we are influenced by are the following:
- The Gap Instinct describes the danger of differentiating between groups and thereby dividing the world in “We” and “Them”. We should rather look at similarities and differences among income levels to understand the potential in the world from a cross-country, cross-cultural, etc. view. This instinct might in fact result from our evolutionary binary wiring which follows the dramatic 2 side evaluation of good-bad, dangerous-not dangerous.
Control the instinct: Beware of comparison of averages & extremes!
- The Negativity Instinct promotes the likelihood of receiving more negative than positive news during news consumption and deriving distorted opinions from that biased view. Rosling proposes the key is to remember that more bad news does not necessarily equal more suffering and can be due to e.g. changing circumstances of news coverage.
Control the instinct: Become aware that things can be both: Bad and also improving at the same time!
- The Straight Line Instinct represents our ability to assume that a line will continue with a straight trend whereas a lot of trends often are rather curves than straight lines.
Control the instinct: Do not assume straight lines, check the data & trend!
- The Fear Instinct defines the effect that we often automatically assume that the most frightening things are the riskiest things. We would be advised to follow the formula of risk = danger x exposure when assessing the real risk level of a situation.
Control the instinct: Calm your mind & assess a situation from a rational data-based point of view!
- The Size Instinct can create biases within us in terms of giving a lonely number too much weight without putting it in relation to the entire scope first.
Control the instinct: Compare the number with data that puts it in proportion & aim for ratios instead of absolutes!
- The Generalization Instinct leads us to use a generalization as the universal truth for an explanation. While generalizations can be of benefit in the course of our lives they can also cause misleading categorizations.
Control the instinct: Look for differences within/across groups. Look for similarities across groups. Beware of “the majority” – 51% and 99% are “the majority”.
- The Destiny Instinct describes the tendency within humans to mistake slow change for no change. It’s also within this instinct that we should realize that our knowledge needs to be updated like computer software frequently to be up-to-date.
Control the instinct: Track gradual improvements. Assume that values within countries, groups, and cultures are prone to change over time.
- The Single Perspective Instinct carries the tendency to derive a conclusion from one side only without approaching issues & topics from various angles first. To respectfully address the complexity of the world a multi-faceted approach is advisable.
Control the instinct: Challenge your ideas. Acknowledge complexity. The world cannot be understood without numbers yet cannot be understood through numbers alone.
- The Blame Instinct manipulates us in finding a scapegoat in individuals which blinds our ability to look beyond and assess the problem in its entirety. Complex issues and even everyday issues are seldomly the doing of one individual.
Control the instinct: Focus on multiple interacting causes, not individuals. Celebrate the system, not just the individual.
- The Urgency Instinct applies a perceived feeling of pressure that creates a sense of urgency that is in most cases nothing but an illusion. In an evolutionary sense, this instinct helped us survive in potential situations of threat. In a modern world, it blocks our analytical thinking and stresses us to take drastic action.
Control the instinct: Take a breath & calm your drastic instinct. Request more data to base your decision on.
MINDFULNESS PRACTICE IS THE WAY FORWARD
It goes without saying that these biological evolutionary drives are wired on a deep level within us. They often remain hidden from the conscious mind, therefore, the practice of mindfulness and investment in bringing the effects of these hidden instincts to our awareness that allows us to learn from them instead of being consumingly influenced by them.
In summary, our natural instincts are contributing to our distorted worldview, but with mindfulness techniques and exercises, we can move away from this school of thought.
I cannot conclude this article without mentioning Hans Rosling’s brainchildren as he lovingly calls his life’s project “Gapminder” and the project “Dollar Street” developed by Anna Rosling Rönnlund. This represents valuable Innovations in an attempt to understand the world we live in more clearly and realistically.
Source | “Factfulness” by Hans Rosling
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