Challenge 74: Cognitive Bias

Have you ever purchased a new car, only to find that you notice the same model everywhere you drive?  Perhaps you’ve purchased a new article of clothing, and suddenly you run into two or people wearing the EXACT same thing?  This kind of occurrence is not uncommon, there’s an underlying phenomenon at work, and it has less to do with chance encounters and more to do with the way our brains are wired. Whether you’re aware of it or not, your thoughts and emotions are strongly influenced by a countless number of cognitive biases on a daily basis.  One example of this effect is the confirmation bias: people tend to favor information that confirms their assumptions, regardless of whether or not the information is true.  This is why it’s not a great idea to self-diagnose suspected health conditions based on google search results, if you’re concerned that you’re afflicted with a life threatening disease, you’ll quickly find a web page that supports your concerns.  Seeing a trained medical professional is a smart idea, not only because these individuals have extensive knowledge, but also because they are able to weigh information in an objective way.

So what does this all mean?  For starters… if we’re aware of our own cognitive biases, we can learn to utilize them towards for our own benefit.  If we proceed with the assumption that we live in a hostile and dangerous world, we’ll begin to perceive hostility in the actions of others.  However, if we can begin with an underlying assumption that the world is a beautiful, even magical place… we’ll begin to find beauty and magic in the strangest of places.  In your quest towards personal excellence, one thing is certain: you will find that which you seek.  If you believe “I’m capable of great things but fate hasn’t’ dealt me the best deck of cards,” you’ll find confirmation for this belief.  On the flip side of the coin, if you believe “I’m capable of doing unimaginably great things, and nothing is going to stand in my way,” you’ll soon find this statement to be true.  Anything is within your grasp if you deeply… truly… believe it.

The Challenges
For our seventy-forth weekly challenge, please choose one of the following. Use the provided link to register your challenge selection.

Challenge One (register)
Bring your dream into focus, and take the first step towards making it happen.

What happened to the great American novel you were writing?  Or the teleportation device you were building in your basement?  How long has your big project been sitting on the back burner?  It’s time you turned up the heat and got things cooking again.  First… make a list of all the obstacles that stand between you and your ultimate goal.  If you’re writing a novel, you’ll need an editor and a publisher, you’ll need free time to write, and you’ll need capital to push forward with the final distribution.  Do a little research for all the items on your list and try to break them down into a number of smaller, more manageable steps.  Finally, pick just one of these steps to tackle this week.  You’ll find that with a small amount of initiative you can pull your dream out of the abstract realm and back into focus.

Challenge Two (register)
Prove yourself wrong.

NPR ran a segment recently highlighting the increasing support across the country for gay marriage, and invited listeners who have changed their mind to call in and express their views.  Many callers revealed how their minds were changed simply by talking to gays and lesbians and gaining a personal, sympathetic connection to their ideas and opening themselves up to different points of view.  Despite your views, there’s an important lesson here for all of us.  All too often do we reinforce our points of view by only listening to others with similar beliefs, simply feeding bias with more bias.  Are you a liberal that only reads the New York Times? How about a conservative that only reads the Wall Street Journal?  The major issues or our lives and society are too important to not research and discuss objectively.  This week, prove yourself wrong.  Take a scientific approach to objectively research a belief or nugget of knowledge you hold, and enlighten yourself to new knowledge, wisdom, or point of view.

Challenge Three (register)
Follow your intuition this week! Be spontaneous and do things on a whim you would normally over-rationalize.

What do Jeopardy champions, military specialists, doctors, professional athletes, world leaders, and Wall Street traders have in common? The power of intuition.  The multitudes of important decisions these people make on a day-to-day basis are much too hectic to be torn apart and over-rationalized.  Their experience, training, intelligence, and self-confidence enable them to take minimal amounts of information and instantly arrive at the best-possible decision, an action only bungled when over-rationalization and abounding data enters the ebb and flow of a moment’s energy. Clearly, deliberative thought and systematic rationalization have their place in our personal decisions, but all too quickly can that approach inhibit action and falter forward momentum.  This week, focus on that intuitive action side of decision making and be spontaneous.  Be courageous, live in the moment and work on trusting your instincts to make decisions. The BestMe is about resiliency and adaptation to your environment, so don’t worry, failure is all part of the learning process.

Selected Quote
“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception” – Aldous Huxley

This Week: You Should Know

Corruption at US-Mexico Border Crossing

Last week officials from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) briefed a Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs ad hoc subcommittee on disaster recovery and intergovernmental affairs about the targeted “systematic corruption” of customs agents and guards by Mexican cartels in effort to smuggle drugs and migrants into the country.  The bribes included sexual favors and cash.  The cartels are also reportedly seeking tip-offs about police investigations.  According to the BBC World News, 127 US agents have been arrested or tried under various corruption charges since 2004.

The DHS inspector general currently has 600 open named investigations of U.S Customs and Border Protection employees.  Previous convictions include an agent arrested for trying to smuggle of 100 kilograms of marijuana across the border, and another agent pocketing cash from an abandoned vehicle during a sting operation.  While corruption of CBP officials is no new problem, the cartels are moving at a increasing pace and sharpening their tactics as of late, at the same time the US DHS seeks to increase its presence and strength across the border.

Meanwhile, the San Diego Reader reported recently that as Mexican drug cartels sophisticate their methods of corruption, the Department of Homeland Security and FBI officials in San Diego are feuding over how to solve the problem. “We must conduct these investigations in an efficient and collaborative way that leads to results in the quickest way possible,” said Representative Mark Pryor (D-AK), but “based on reports, this does not seem to be the way we are currently operating.”  Central to the disagreement is the question of jurisdiction: the CBP’s internal affairs lacks authority to investigate corruption.  While the inspector general of the DHS wants oversight on an investigation, he lacks the troops to carry it out.  The CBP, with 60,000 personnel, has the troops but not the authority.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s initiative to confront the country’s powerful drug cartels has intensified their corruption of US border officials.  President Obama, in response, signed the Anti-Border Corruption Act of 2010, which requires the CBP to give polygraph tests to all employees before being hired.  In the past year, a DHS official said, only twenty-two percent of CBP employees were given a polygraph test.  Corruption of US border officials remains a significant roadblock in the midst of a drug war with Mexican cartels that has raged on for decades.

Original Content Provided by BestMe 2011.


This entry was posted on Monday, June 13th, 2011 at 1:10 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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