I’ve quite proudly passed on my love of reading to my three young sons. My oldest has recently purchased an Amazon Kindle Fire so he and his brothers can enjoy digital books. One day my middle son, who’s only six years old, with Kindle in hand, approached me and asked, “Dad, how do I spell diarrhea?” Of course, I immediately told him we were NOT doing a word search on the Kindle for the term “diarrhea.” He became mildly frustrated and explained how he was hoping to download and read “Diarrhea of a Wimpy Kid.” After a good laugh, I explained to him what the word “diary” meant and that he had mixed up his words in the book title of the popular kids series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid. He simply said, “Oh, okay,” set the Kindle down straightaway and ran outside to play. Obviously, Diary of a Wimpy Kid was not something he was interested in reading, at all. Now we eventually got our book titles correct; we read and enjoyed the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and even enjoyed the show on Netflix, but the comedy of the situation made me realize an important lesson: first impressions aren’t always what they seem.
Lending irrational importance to first impressions, especially in the decision-making process, is something we all are guilty of. This type of thinking is commonly performed without even realizing we are doing it. It’s a natural and automatic thought process that we all engage in without a second thought. Super smart people who study rational thinking and decision-making processes call this cognitive distortion and cognitive bias. Unfortunately, there are quite a few cognitive distortions and biases that we have adapted in our daily thinking and each leads to irrational decision making. A dangerous scenario for those who get paid to make decisions, right?
Everyone has heard the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but we still do it. However, it’s not just books, it’s people, it’s music, it’s meals, it’s hire or fire, it’s buy or sell. Our minds have adapted these cognitive distortion processes to save us time and make ourselves feel good about decisions as we make them. But this is not correct thinking, it’s irrational. Take a look at these basic lists of cognitive distortions and cognitive biases on Wikipedia. Get to know them and recognize them in your own thinking and decision making. Personal practice and improvement in our thinking will only make us better in business and as people.