Prejudices: their influence

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Louise Hay

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We know that choosing to be happy forces us to do hard work, but without a doubt the effort is worth it. Sometimes to be happy it is enough to make good decisions but… how difficult it is to know how to decide! Especially when the vast majority of our decisions depend on how we imagine the future will be or how we have felt in the past. The problem lies in the fact that we do not perceive many of these limits and thus they become real barriers for our personal growth.

I would like to point out some prejudices that influence when making decisions: 1. The prejudices of distinction. Let's imagine that we are offered two job opportunities: the first of these is very interesting, but the salary does not exceed 30.000 euros a year, while the second is a real disaster but the pay reaches 40.000. Which would you choose? The Hsee and Zhang researchers who carried out this experiment claim that the majority of people overestimate the importance of these extra 10.000 euros, and for this reason they choose the second job option, even if it makes them less happy. The most interesting part is that the "value" of money minimizes the rest of the pros and cons to be analyzed when choosing a job; in short, it cancels awareness. To combat the prejudices of distinction a good technique could be to take a pad of paper and a pen, sit down, and start listing the pros and cons, and then give a numerical value to each one (according to what we consider to be more important) of the items listed. This way we will avoid making decisions by placing enormous value on something that may not be that important. 2. The biases of projection. Let's take an example of everyday life replicated in the laboratory by Van Boven and Loewenstein: let's imagine we go shopping but have forgotten the list at home. Are you able to remember everything you need or do you normally forget something? What are you forgetting about? A very curious study tells us that if we are hungry we will be more likely to forget about healthy food, the one that requires a long cooking time, while on the contrary, if we feel full, we will more easily forget ready meals and sweets. From this it follows that the present often turns into a wall that prevents us from seeing far into the future and realizing what we really need. Our cognitive and emotional condition today can represent a barrier that prevents us from acting intelligently. Researchers say that while the greater the difference between present and future emotional states, the worse the decision we make and that it will have little chance of meeting the needs of tomorrow. The solution? Stop for a moment and reflect on how we feel; in this way we will get to understand that today's emotions do not necessarily have to be the mirror of the emotional condition in which we will find ourselves in the future. In summary: take a few minutes to introspect and then try to see things in perspective. 3. Impact biases. According to Wilson and Gilbert, we have a tendency to overestimate our emotional reactions to future events. One study states that about two months after starting a relationship, it ends because people don't feel as happy as they hoped. We overestimate how happy we will be when we graduate, but at the same time we also overestimate how disappointed we would be if we didn't pass an exam. In summary, we have a tendency to extremes and to foresee oversized emotional effects in the face of the most diverse events. How can we combat this? The strategy is very simple, just relax and breathe deeply and start analyzing things in perspective: why are we convinced that the impact will be so hard? Let's focus on similar previous situations and consider how we felt. Certainly the emotional impact was not as strong as we thought. 4. The prejudices of memory. Very often the worst memories of each experience come back to our memory. We could define it as: the unfortunate deception of the past. This trend manifested itself in a study conducted by Morewedge, in which participants were asked to remember the worst experience they had when they missed a train. Others were asked to simply remember an experience in which they missed a train. How is it possible to suppose, when the researchers asked both groups: How would you feel if I went back to miss the train today? People who had relived their worst experience recognized that they would feel terrible, much worse than those who remembered such a negative experience but without any emotional repercussions. How to do to combat this influence exerted by our past? When we go to make a conscious decision, we will have to try to recover from our memory the greatest amount of possible sensations, the negative ones but also the positive ones. Only in this way will we be able to free ourselves from the influence of negative memories. 5. Prejudices rooted in beliefs. Even if it is difficult for us to accept, it is certain that after having lived for many years we will have a sort of inner booklet in which we have listed those situations that make us feel more or less happy. Later, when faced with the possibility of experiencing a similar situation, we react immediately by labeling it starting from our list of negative and positive situations. How can we fight the influence of these beliefs when it comes to making our decisions? Let us remember that our reaction in the past does not necessarily have to be the same now. How many times have we come to appreciate an activity that we did not like in the past? Over time we all change and the experience acquired can help us mitigate the impact of negative experiences or make us more flexible in order to be able to better exploit situations that previously did not attract us. Without a doubt, knowing how to make good decisions is not a very simple task, but we will probably be happier if we consider the facts in a perspective free from any prejudice.

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