Developping a true critical mind

“Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day.” – Bertrand Russel

Bronner (2015) explained that most information reaching us is analyzed almost instantly. Our brain is continually seeking to minimize the mental efforts requested by the multiple cognitive tasks – and thus their energy cost.

That is often insufficient to overcome the sociocultural and cognitive bias to which we are exposed.

Stereotypes often distort our intuitive interpretation of events.

We face at least three types of fundamental limitations:

  • The dimensional They are related to our particular position in time and space (physical and social). Only some information reaches us; they vary according to our social environment, the country we live in, etc.
  • The cultural Our socio-economic and cultural frameworks suggest some automatic, and sometimes distorted, interpretations of the phenomena we are confronted with.
  • The cognitive The memory, abstract thinking… capacities of the brain are often overwhelmed by the complexity of the situations we are facing. The more or less conscious use of some automatic reasoning mode can lead to major errors such as:
    • The confusion between correlation and causality;
    • The confirmation bias which makes us pay more attention to, and better at remembering, information that are close to our opinion.
    • The overestimation of low probabilities;
    • The loss aversion (a higher sensitivity to costs than to profits);
    • [The retrospective bias, the negativity bias, the halo effect, the white coat effect];
    • Etc.

It is paramount to appreciate when our opinion is unreliable in order to suspend our judgment, and to take time for an in-depth analysis. We must develop a methodical approach towards a solid knowledge:

  • Firstly, ask yourself if the data you are using for your evaluation are not biased as a result of your physical or social spatial position.
  • Then, challenge the cultural understanding you are applying to these information.
  • Finally, beware of your intuition which may not always be a good guide (for being skewed by a number of illusions).

Apprenticeship minimizes the mental activity energy costs. It is therefore useful to practice recognizing the misleading situations.

Within our societies’ new historical conditions, education remains essential. A true critical mind will help us to disturb our alienated intuitive suggestions. It is obtained through perseverance and practice… (Bronner 2015) [Our translation] [1]

Some related topics:

1. Internet: a cognitive pitfall

The deregulation of the cognitive market (environment) produced by Internet is a growing concern. Information partly verified pop up and spread rapidly. Preference is often given to buzz rather than to analysis [Our translation] (Bronner 2015).[1]

2. The behavioral decision theory

The behavioral decision theory is based on behavioral economics, which question the conventional economic theory and hypothesis related to the rational consumer behavior. Such research identified many consumer decisions seemingly paradoxical and irrational. They demonstrate the consumer behavior complexity and the great importance of the decision making context.

According to Kotler, Keller and Manceau, these decisions are actually predictable. They are based on psychological mechanisms such as the decision heuristics, the decision context, and the mental accounting.[2]

3. Advertising

Sociocultural differences express the perception differences between the source market culture and the one of the target country. The most visible part of these gaps is advertising. Images and slogans, and highlighting contexts of products and services are the most permeable part to sociocultural differences.[3]

4. Personality traits related to socioeconomics background

Personality traits are systematically correlated with external socioeconomic variables such as economic growth.

5. And many more...

[1] Bronner, G. (2015). How can we not believe anything [Comment ne pas croire n’importe quoi]. Cerveau & Psycho n°72, How to develop his/her critical mind  [Comment développer son esprit critique], 42-47.

[2] Kotler, Keller & Manceau (2015). Marketing Management, 15e éd., Pearson France, 211-214.

[3] Croué, C. (2015). International Marketing : a local consumer in a global world [Marketing international : un consommateur local dans un monde global], 7e éd., De Boeck Supérieur, p. 65.