Metacognition

Thinking About Thinking

I have a morning routine that is precisely the same, day in and day out, for at least the last 100 days.


Part of this routine is taking a cold shower, almost first thing, timed to around 5 minutes to two songs I have selected, and then shaving, also timed by a song. I listen to these songs through my UE Boom, which I have enjoyed since receiving it as a Christmas gift from my wife five years ago.


My UE Boom finally gave out (or so I thought) the other day, and I quickly found I could upgrade to a brand new UE Boom 2 (they also have a 3rd Gen, but as I still get an “upgrade” by going one level up, I can get it for half the cost of going all the way to the 3). I ordered it with free one-day shipping from Best Buy and was excited when it arrived. At first, I struggled with the cost, but it was apparent to me that I was falling prey to a cognitive bias. The speaker I purchased was only $70, which is not necessarily an insignificance sum, but seeing as I use it every day it is an obviously good value – $70, every day, for five years, is something like $0.04 per use.


The struggle comes from needing to spend money to restore my daily experience to a level I was already at. Mainly, my brain saw it as a considerable loss to spend money just to return to my baseline everyday experience – something called Status Quo Bias.


How excited could I have been had I known this was about to get more complicated for me.


When the new speaker arrived, before disposing of the old speaker, I accidentally fixed the glitch by disconnecting and reconnecting the Bluetooth connection – something I thought I couldn’t do because the speaker was stuck in “connect” mode. Now I had two speakers and obviously was going to return the newer, as it had been such an inconvenience to purchase it in the first place. Before I did, I decided to try the two speakers together in stereo mode as I worked at my computer.

Oops.


Now, not only could I hear that my new speaker was superior to the old, obviously, but that I quite enjoyed the stereo experience I had now discovered. In a moment, I went from rationalizing why I needed to spend $70 to get back to the “status quo,” to justifying that $70 was not that much to pay to keep my current experience. Now the speaker was worth more to me than the $70 – a bias called the Endowment Effect, or Ownership Bias. Coupled with the Hedonic Treadmill, I had hopped on by listening to music in a new, more pleasurable way – I was frozen.


What am I trying to get across, besides the now obvious fact that I think about meaningless things way too much?


I suspect that this kind of thing happens more than we know. My thought process from one day to another was completely contradictory – and so visceral. Only through practice was I able to recognize that I was clearly being deceived by flawed modes of thinking.


But it happens all the time! When someone from your political party does something less-than-honest, don’t you generally defend the actions? Or shrug it off? But if the opposite party was involved in a scandal – it is an absolute outrage!

Or, when did you last almost get mowed down by someone texting and driving. Get off the phone idiot!!! Oh hey, my grandma texted me. It’s okay for me to glance at this quickly – there are no cars in front of me. I am a better driver. It’s really important news about breakfast tomorrow. I am special.


I am a bit perturbed that something as trite could vex my mental capacities as I struggled to choose the right thing – I really should be more decisive. On the other hand, I am glad for the semi-awareness of being able to examine my thinking from the outside in an attempt to discern where my reasoning is flawed – a skill that can be used to make far better, more important life decisions.


What is one time you have noticed that your thinking was flawed? Were you able to overcome the emotional aspect and make a more logical choice?

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