Bias number 23 is known as the clustering illusion. This is a cognitive bias that leads people to create patterns in data sets that are, in fact, random.
We attempt to bring meaning to data analysis by forging links between data sets that, in reality, have no links. As humans, we have a tendency to need to create order from chaos, deriving a narrative that explains the situation, to create coherence. Our brains will create imaginary patterns in an attempt to tie things up nice and neat in a bow.
Why do we do this? Sometimes we do it to persuade ourselves that meaning exists when it doesn’t really. We do this because chaos, randomness and uncertainty provoke anxiety. It’s a way of keeping our elephant or our chimp calm.
At other times, we create meaning in order to persuade someone else to take action, let’s say in financial investing and trading, where this bias is quite common. If, as a salesperson, you want your client to make a trade, you might conclude that certain market activity suggests a market trend that could benefit the client, or so you believe.
Beware of jumping to conclusions, especially when you’re playing with someone else’s money. Short-term performance is not indicative of long-term trends, so it pays, quite literally, to sit back and observe before launching full-steam ahead with the sales pitch.
The clustering illusion can also trip up those who believe themselves to be “intuitive.” Imagine a situation in which someone says something in one moment, says something else in another moment, and your brain goes into overdrive creating links between the two comments. You concoct an elaborate story to link the two comments together, and suddenly you know more about what that person was really thinking than he or she does.
I’ve been guilty of this myself, so I’m talking here from experience. In these moments, I preferred to lull myself into a false sense of security by fabricating a story that, in my mind, made sense but that was, in fact, false.
Ironically, I rarely bothered to find out by asking the person outright what he or she meant by the comments. The thought of not knowing, the thought that the comments might be unrelated at all, or the thought of provoking an imaginary conflict by seeking clarification was so confronting that I didn’t even consider it as an option.
These days, however, I live by a motto that I encourage my clients to adopt, and that motto is, “Ask, don’t assume.” Why?
Assuming may feed the fantasies of my monkey and your elephant in the short term, but it also means taking action based on a state of being divorced from reality.
Well, when you put it like that, of course you want to address it, right? I mean, who wants to exist in La La Land, unless you’re a Teletubby or a musical theatre performer?
Our brains are wonderful pieces of equipment, and our entire neurology helps us continue to perpetuate the human species, navigating all sorts of situations while remaining alive to tell the tale. In part, that is what our brain is designed to do.
In part, that is.
You see, your brain is much more than a survival tool. Your brain can translate inspiration into a piece of music, an amazing business or an extraordinary partnership, if you use it in its fullness.
The truth is, most of us only ever use 10 per cent of its capacity. It’s not because you’re not smart enough to use more. You just haven’t been taught how. And shrouding your mind in mystery keeps you from seeing it in its fullness and simplicity.
When you understand how it works, you’ll be amazed by just how straightforward your mind really is. And this is what I’m on a mission to help you discover.
Now, one of the key ways to understand the inner workings of your brain, your nervous system and your mind is to begin to listen to yourself think. I’m sure you have heard the internal conversations you have with yourself, but have you stopped to really listen and hear what’s being said in those internal conversations?
Have you stopped to ask yourself how those internal conversations are impacting you? Maybe right now you are starting to hear parts of yourself pipe up in the background, voicing a running commentary on everything you’re reading.
“She’s full of s*%t. I don’t talk to myself.”
Yeah, THAT voice.
If you want to get to know the source of that voice, and you want to master it, then consider engaging in mindfulness practices. But don’t just sit and breathe. Have someone teach you how to apply mindfulness to listen and really hear yourself think.
My new programme, Citizenship Brilliance, does just this. Check it out and register today.
You’ll discover new aspects of yourself that were once only fleeting mirages. You’ll start to hear your own biases and identify them as such. You’ll provide yourself with choice about the conclusions you derive from data sets, challenging your own clustering illusions. And, you’ll take back control from your monkey or elephant mind and step into being fully human in your thinking.
There’s nothing wrong with our animalistic side. It serves a purpose — survival. But, it’s the human side of your nature that activates the brilliance that's inside of you. How will you let yours shine today?