Why We Misunderstand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want
by Nicholas Epley
Read: 2016-11-06, Rating: 8/10.
I only finished first three parts (approx 25%) but intend to finish the book. Very scientific, examples are detailed and referenced thoroughly in the book.
Our Sixth Sense is working all the time. Making observations about our own thoughts and others thoughts.
We know less about our own mind than we give ourselves credit for. We know less about the minds of our family, friends, coworkers than we give ourselves credit for.
Sixth Sense misreads come from our inability to see a situation from another person’s point of view, reliance on stereotypes, and assumption that other’s minds match their actions.
The main problem is that we think we understand the minds of others, and, even our own mind, better than we actually do.
Eg. Neville Chamberlain, PM of GB, believed Adolf Hitler, not to mobilize in Czechoslovakia. “I thought I saw in his face, I got the impression that here was a man who could be relied upon when he had given his word”
Eg. America invading Iraq – feeling certain Suddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction
We don’t know ourselves as much as we think we do
There can be significant disconnect between what we think about ourselves and how we actually behave.
Eg. Stanley Milgram’s experiment – doing something you wouldn’t think of doing
Planning Fallacy – We underestimate how long tasks take
We continue to make this mistake – thinking our future selves will behave closer to best-case scenario instead of worst-case scenario
A decision made in our mind is like a house that was built over several decades. We can see the finish product, but not the steps required to make it. We can see what our house looks like, but can only guess why it looks that way.
Eg. We find others attractive based on bilateral symmetry. We can see this is true, but can only guess why that’s the case deep in our minds
Explains why we sometimes don’t have answers for our behaviours.
Eg. Anthony Weiner “I don’t know what I was thinking…”
We have an answer for what we’re thinking. Very difficult to have an answer for why we’re thinking.
Eg. Buying a car
Differences also caused by us not understanding the minds, perceptions of others
Naive Realism – sense we see the world as it really is, instead of as it appears from our perspective
Eg. George Carlin “Have you ever noticed that everyone driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”
Psychological distance adds to mindlessness
Eg. Feeling “distant” “out of touch” “world’s apart” “grown apart”
Distance keeps sixth sense disengaged
Eg. Stanley Milgram’s experiment – distance affecting subjects
Adam Smith “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” your body shows what you think another person feels.
Sixth Sense through a three-part chain – sharing attention, imitating action, imitation creating experience
Eg. Loss of empathy after holding pen in mouth or injecting face with Botox.
Eg. Physical distance affecting soldiers accuracy
Eg. Easier to kill using drones
Distance increased for people dissimilar to ourselves.
Eg. Poor people, different cultures, religions,
We may or may not have free will – but we fee like we have it
We make assumptions that other’s free will is less than our own and that others minds are less sophisticated and more superficial than our own.
Eg. Bosses and managers overlooking depth of employees minds. Thinking just lazy workers here for the paycheck.
Parochial Altruism – strong commitment to benefit on’s own group without regard for the consequences for oneself
Practice opening ourselves to others – engage with minds of others.
Engagement Exercise: Wave to others – nobody waves, but everyone waves back.
Life is more pleasant engaging with others and not treating others as mindless objects.
We also apply sixth sense to mindless things
Eg. Act-of-God storms, stock market, cars, pets,
Strong sixth sense causes sentimental feelings to cars and other possessions.
Our senses may tell our minds that other objects have a mind like ours
Eg. Microsoft Word Clippy
Eg. Printer not working “has a mind of it’s own”