The Truth All Women Know

idiot truthThe other night, I overheard a codger talking to his buddies. He was sharing one of those recycled emails that floats around the Internet. This one was about a so-called truth about women that men know.

One of the sayings, in an attempt to be funny, lamented the fact that women like to change men after they marry. This factoid stood in contrast to men wishing their wives wouldn’t change from the babes they married. News flash, boys: that’s right. We do like to change our husbands after we marry—if just to save them from themselves.

The Universal Truth

For my one and only exhibit, I present the findings of a study published in the BMJ-British Medical Journal. After scouring the archives of the infamous Darwin Awards, the researchers confirmed the truth that all women know: men are idiots. It confirms the male idiot theory (MIT).

With so many stories of pure lunacy, it’s hard to focus on a few. Here are few gems I found on the site:

  • The would-be robber who decided to hold up a firearms store, filled with armed patrons and a few cops (1990)
  • Another would-be thief who wanted to pilfer some scrap steel for cash—from the elevator shaft he was in (2008)
  • The man who wanted to impress his wife by doing pull-ups from the balcony of their 7th floor apartment (2007)
  • The man who tried to steal a branch from the Koa tree by cutting the branch above his head (2002)

I wish I could say that I’m making this stuff up. But no, such things happen and in enough frequency to keep the site up and running since 1993. So many idiots, too little time.

Story Fodder

For the writer, these accounts are a treasure trove of story ideas, after taking the common sense precaution of changing the name and specific details to protect the innocent. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

The fact is weird things happen. People do stupid things. We don’t always make the wisest decisions. Sometimes emotions, biases, and irrational behavior take the reins. It’s what makes the world go around. Chris DR

photo credit: spinneyhead via photopin cc

Understanding Human Emotions

chicken egg mentalityWomen get a lot of flack for being hard to understand. It’s not women; it’s all human emotions. We all tend to ride the edge of goofiness on occasion. It depends upon the beliefs that we hold dear.

A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology gives a glimpse into what is behind some of our irrational choices. It turns out that unfalsifiability plays a huge role in our most polarizing beliefs and unique human emotions. When confronted with facts that threaten our position, we resort to unfalsifiable beliefs to justify our convictions.

Irrational Human Emotions

An example may play out like this. You wholeheartedly believe that you have a sixth sense about future events. Even in light of the facts of probability and chance, you hold onto that belief. In fact, you become defensive about it. I can’t prove it to be true or false. Yet, you hold on to your unfalsifiable belief with vigor.

One way to uncover the existence of unfalsifiable beliefs is to question the reasoning of the holder. Why do you believe something to be true? If the reasons fall along the lines of mysticism, objectivity cannot operate because you can’t prove or disprove the belief based on external validation. It fails the test of rationalism.

Beliefs Shaping Our World

In a weird twist on the chicken and the egg story, we live in a state of belief-dependent realism, with beliefs shaping our reality rather than the other way around. If some fact doesn’t fit, we either call our confirmation bias to interpret the information in favor of our beliefs. Or we dismiss the argument due to our own belief bias. If we don’t like the conclusion, the argument must be weak.

Human emotions tread on some strange landscapes. They have no problem with defying logic or science—or common sense, for that matter. They can turn offensive quicker than your phone’s battery can drain. It’s all part of our mental toolkit for surviving. They just have to serve a purpose; no one said that they have to make sense.

For the writer, human emotions are your best friend. Any story can take that outlandish leap because people don’t always let logic guide their decisions. So many plot twists depend upon the illogical nature of human emotions. And the goofier the better!

The fact remains that relying on the unfalsifiability of a belief gives us a competitive edge. If a belief cannot be challenged, it cannot be defeated. We can justify our beliefs—or actions that accompany them—based on the inability to prove us wrong.

As Jeff Goldblums’s character, Michael, said in “The Big Chill,”

“I don’t know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They’re more important than sex.” Chris DR

photo credit: Brett Jordan via photopin cc

Clouded Reasoning: Being Human

capuchins avoid clouded reasoningWe humans are a funny lot. Rather than being the rational people we think we are, we exist in a world of clouded reasoning. Biases and fallacies add to the fog, affecting our most basic decisions. Leave to it monkeys, then, to expose our price bias.

Monkeys Know Better

Researchers at Yale University looked at the role price plays in decisions in experiments with Capuchin monkeys. They are–dare I say–a cute monkey from Central and South America. Besides being the smartest of New World monkeys, they enjoy a diurnal lifestyle that includes tool use and some understanding about exchange.

The researchers found that Capuchin monkeys, unlike humans, were not swayed by price when it came to choosing higher-priced foods over lower-priced ones. In other words, they don’t fall for the price bias that may lead your know-it-all uncle to say the expensive wine tastes better than the cheaper one, based solely on price.

Clouded Reasoning in the Field

It’s this type of clouded reasoning that marketers use to influence our buying decisions. Think about the granny who clips coupons and shops the deals. She buys the lower-priced foodstuff, which tastes just fine to her.  The lower-priced item is packaged plainly, looking like something a charity would give out free.

Unbeknownst to the hurried shopper (with cash to burn), the higher-priced item is the same thing, repackaged. Price and in this case, packaging, influence his decision to forgo the lower-priced one. The marketer knows that he will pass on what he views as the cheaper and thus, inferior product. The plain packaging reinforces his decision.

Sound familiar? While not an across-the-board type of scenario for all products, think about how this situation applies to you. Do you pass on the generic or store brands purposely because you perceive that somehow they represent lower quality? I admit to being guilty of this bias.

Biases to Navigate the World

Biases, remember, are mental shortcuts that we use to increase our efficiency in a complex world. We want to buy “good” things, whether it’s a washer, an artisan cheese, or a can of soup. We’ve applied the thinking that price equates to quality as a way to cut through the noise. Unfortunately, it’s part of the clouded reasoning landscape because it’s not a hard-and-fast rule. It’s been co-opted for something different.

I’m not suggesting that this is always the case. It just helps to remember that that artisan cheese maker isn’t in it because he has a mission to make the world a better place with cheese. He’s in it for the money, like all in business. It’s not bad by any means. But rather than letting clouded reasoning sway your buying decisions, listen for the message playing out under the noise. It will be enlightening, I promise. Chris DR

photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc