4 Reasons Why You Can’t Trust Your Feelings, Brain, Memory, Or Gut

Our brain, senses, and tools aren’t perfect. Understanding where they fall short can help us better navigate and strategize in our environment. They can also help us persuade stubborn people by helping them realize flaws in the processes they feel so confident in. Here are a few weaknesses every human has that you should keep an eye out for when making decisions.

  1. Senses – The eyes aren’t perfect, and everything you see doesn’t necessarily exist out in the world. In fact, the brain actually has a process to fill in a space where the eye can’t see. The brain takes information from around that area and ‘fills in’ the blank. In other words, for one part of our vision, the brain just makes up what we experience as sight. Another example of how the eyes can’t always be trusted are mirage situations. Because of things like temperature differences in warm and cold air, light rays are bent. The eye perceives objects that are below to be above, producing a sort of floating effect. Other senses have issues as well. Read about phantom limb syndrome, auditory distortions, and more.
  2. Memory – Memory has at least seven categories of problems. For example, high stress can make people forget things or focus onto only parts of an experience. Memory deteriorates over time. During recall, the brain takes facts that it has access to and uses the creative part of the brain to fill in gaps. The brain also misattributes memories. For example people watching a murder television program can attribute a real life murder to the person who killed someone on television. The memories in the brain can also be influenced through suggestibility, where certain ways of asking people to recall events can actually effect what they do and don’t remember. See an overview of a book on memory problems here.
  3. Feelings – People often say things like you should trust your gut. But that isn’t always a good idea. One book by R A Burton, talks about how gut feelings, the experiences of certainty, and intuition work in the brain. Instead of coming from a strong logical process in our brain, these experiences develop more similarly to how we experience an emotion. Certainty for example isn’t a conscious choice. It comes from an involuntary brain pattern that doesn’t interact with the reasoning centers of our brain. In general, humans often seek logical reasons to justify how we feel, and feelings themselves are often widely different from what is actually going on in reality.
  4. Brain – The brain also has a whole list of cognitive biases that effect how you think. For example, confirmation bias is arguably one of the most dangerous. Confirmation bias leads the brain to reject facts that challenge your belief system, and overweight beliefs that support what you already think. Dunning Krugar is an effect that describes how people with low levels of skill overestimate how good they are at something. This happens because they don’t understand the subject well enough to know what they don’t know. Read more about biases the brain has, like the halo effect, which makes people think success in one area means competency in another, here.
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