To begin with, it is necessary to mention that everyone is subjected to making mistakes. It is impossible to be ensured against them. These actions are always criticized with expressive remarks made by other people, nevertheless, psychologists have their own ways of explaining dumb things, made by smart people. These are often explained by “blind spots” in our consciousness.
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This paper is aimed at explaining blind spots in particular and doing dumb things by people in general on the basis of cognitive psychology theories and concepts.
Cognitive Psychology Angle
As for the matters of cognitive psychology, it is necessary to mention that it is the discipline of psychological branch, which is responsible for the investigation the internal mental processes of thought. These processes, in their turn, are closely linked with visual processing, memory and problem solving. On the one hand, the enlisting of these factors of cognitive psychology may explain lots of dumb things which people do, nevertheless, the reasons of such actions are often much deeper and are the results of interconnection of several factors. Gillespie (1992) in his research on the matters of dumb things and “blind spots” stated the following notion: “The core focus of cognitive psychology is on how people acquire, process and store information. There are numerous practical applications for cognitive research, such as ways to improve memory, how to increase decision-making accuracy, and how to structure educational curricula to enhance learning.” In the light of these facts, it should be stated that the cognitive psychology is the system, which is responsible for rationale thinking of people, nevertheless, like any other system it is not protected from failures or interference of some unforeseen factors, which may disturb its correct activity. There is strong necessity to mention that the research on the issues of creativity (which is also a part of cognitive thinking), critical thinking, education and philosophical thinking by psychologists (Izawa, 2003) often show how the assets as thinkers create thee blind spots in our cognition. Originally, there are close to ten main reasons, which cause the blind spots in our cognition, and even the smartest people can not avoid them completely. Miller (2005) emphasizes: “not stopping to think, jumping to conclusions, my-side bias, getting trapped by categories, and much more. The tactics for overcoming that specific blind spot, are different, and depend mainly on strong determination for self improvement and individual particularities, so everyone has a perfect chance of becoming even more creative and competent thinkers.”
Blind Spots, and How They Appear
It has been already stated that the main factors of cognitive thinking are closely related with visual processing, memory and problem solving. Thus, the blind spots often appear in the case of troubles with memorizing (the brain becomes unable to perform correct cognition without memorizing the necessary bite of information), visual processing (when the perception of the surrounding world becomes violated, the cognitive process is incorrect, as it is impossible to make correct decision basing on incorrect data). Problem solving is the reason of cognitive activity, nevertheless, it is the part of cognitive process in general. If blind spots appear in this factor of thinking, this means that all the process should be essentially restructured.
The fact is that, problems in cognition are faced not only by single personalities, but also by teams. This notion is extremely important for the explanation of cognitive problems, as it will be helpful for realizing the mechanism of creating blind spots in consciousness: single person is a coincidence, while team is the system and pattern.
The main reason why teams of professionals are subjected to mistakes is generally explained by the fact that they are too sure in the success of the taken decision, thus, they do not take all the seriousness of the problem, and problem solving. Aiming to systematize problems and the ways of solving, managers face the situations, when different situations require similar solutions. Thus, these are the common reasons of mistakes. Gillespie (2004) describing the cognitive problems within organizations, states the following fact: “At the same time, many organizations invest untold energy in actions that ensure employees are unhappy. They ensure ineffective employee relations results. As an example, one of the most important current trends in organizations is increasing employee involvement and input. Organizations must find ways to utilize all of the strengths of the people they employ. Or, people will leave to find work in an organization that does.”
The Main Reasons of Blind Spots
Researchers, which are extremely interested in the issues of blind spots in cognition offer their own explanations on the reasons and consequences of their appearing. The fact is that, the main common feature of these considerations is the fact that all the problems are covered in the issues of perception of the surrounding world.
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The first reason of blind spot appearing is the called “the Halo Effect”. Originally, it is the concept derived from the social psychology. The key notion of this concept is based on the consideration that evaluations about a person bleed over into judgments about person’s specific traits. The fact is that, the main reason of such cognition is the necessity to systematize the surrounding information. Thus, if rumors are not spread about a person, he or she has a perfect reputation, everyone thinks that such person is unable to mistake, while all the mistakes may be accurately concealed.
The second reason is explained by the concept of Cognitive Dissonance. This is the way we percept the surrounding world and the way we explain this perception to ourselves. Barsalou (1992) provides a strong link between the lines of people’s behavior and the directions of their cognition in his researches. It is stated, that if people lie to themselves, the appearing of blind spots is rather likely, as it is absolutely impossible to trick consciousness by telling something different from that what is seen.
The third reason is the prejudice and the inability to think critically. The basis of this concept is covered in the fact that if people hear some story, and start retelling it, they start thinking that this is the only truth and the only reality, while it is often one of the variants of the story. Thus, perception still plays an important role in cognitive process and the correctness of cognition.
The fourth reason is the unwillingness to take responsibility for the actions. Originally, it is explained not only by cognitive psychology, but by social behavior of the people, which is, in its turn, may be explained by cognition. The fact is that, when people refuse to take the responsibility, they can not control the situation, and the allover cognition process goes wrong and uncontrolled.
Blind following of the patterns and principles kills the ability to think critically and creatively, while creative thinking is the integral part of cognition. In the light of the fact that people aim to obey the commonly accepted rules, it should be stated that the rate of leaders and talented managers has essentially decreased lately. It is the human nature of the majority – lack of enthusiasm and initiative, while real leaders are never subjected to such a mistake.
The sixth reason is explained in Esgate, Groome and Baker (2004): “Many people quite naturally believe they are good ‘intuitive psychologists’, thinking it is relatively easy to predict other people’s attitudes and behaviors. We each have information built up from countless previous experiences involving both ourselves and others so surely we should have solid insights? No such luck”. This notion is aimed at explaining the paradox of intuition: people quite often rely on their intuition instead of reasoning and experience. This is the main reason of failures and blind spots in cognition.
Group behavior is often predicted very easily. The social identity concept is closely related with the previously explained reasons and concepts, nevertheless, the pure social identity is often explained by the necessity to get united. While socializing, people often copy behavior of the others. Surely, this is the common reason for mistakes, misconceptions, misunderstandings and failures in cognition processes.
Cognitive psychologists often claim that one of the most dangerous actions for cognitive process is the agreement. On the one hand, agreeing with other people is the way of avoiding conflicts, and reaching consent, nevertheless, from the viewpoint of cognitive psychology and cognition process, agreement as avoiding the necessity to discuss is the main killer of critical thinking.
Another reason (9th), is called the bystanders effect. Miller (2005) gives the following notion: “In social psychology the ‘bystander effect’ is the surprising finding that the mere presence of other people inhibits our own helping behaviours in an emergency. John Darley and Bibb Latane were inspired to investigate emergency helping behaviours after the murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964”
The last reason in this list is the necessity of conforming to the norm. It is stated that all the humans are regarded to be the natural conformers: we copy each other’s manners, ways of thinking and even the words we use in our everyday life. Unfortunately, this conformity goes rather far, up to the thinking process manners. Thus, people start solving their own problems by using not their own brains (Miller, 2005)
Finally, it is necessary to emphasize that the very necessity of cognition processes is not doubted, nevertheless, people are often subjected to making mistakes and doing dumb things. The fact is that, nobody is ensured against making mistakes, nevertheless, some people make them more often; the others almost never make them. The reasons of such behavior is covered in the cognitive psychology in general, and memory, perception and critical thinking in particular. Consequently, in order not to make mistakes and dumb things, these three components should be always in the stand by regime for the faultless service to brain.
- Barsalou, L. W. (1992). Cognitive Psychology: An Overview for Cognitive Scientists. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Esgate, A., Groome, D., Baker, K., Heathcote, D., Kemp, R., Maguire, M., et al. (2004). An Introduction to Applied Cognitive Psychology. Hove, England: Psychology Press.
- Gillespie, D. (2004). The Mind’s We: Contextualism in Cognitive Psychology. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.
- Izawa, C. (Ed.). (2003). Cognitive Psychology Applied. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Miller, E. M. (2005). Studying the Meaning of Giftedness: Inspiration from the Field of Cognitive Psychology. Roeper Review, 27(3), 172
- Sternberg, R. J., & Dennis, M. J. (1997). Elaborating Cognitive Psychology through Linkages to Psychology as a Helping Profession. Teaching of Psychology, 24(3), 246-249.