Psychology: 3 principles by which you always decide without even realizing it

Many factors go into most of our decisions that we are not even aware of. Among other things, according to a psychologist, three principles are particularly important and fundamental for our judgments.

Making conscious decisions costs us (mental) energy and that is limited – more for some, less for others. We therefore do not make a large part of our everyday decisions consciously, but unconsciously and routinely. The first thing we do every morning after getting up is to make coffee, look left and right before crossing a street, basically buy the organic eggs, if at all. But sometimes we get into new situations in which we cannot do it as always. For example, if we are allowed to cast our vote in a federal election. Or having to decide whether or not to get vaccinated. Or whether we break up or give the partnership a 32nd chance.

In such situations we have to collect some information for better or worse, sort and weight it in order to then at least feel as though we can act in a targeted and well-considered manner. But even then, factors will flow into our decision that we don’t even have on the slip. On the one hand, there are individual behavior patterns based on our experience and personality. On the other hand, there are psychological principles that are common to all of us. The psychologist Kevin Dutton describes three of them in his book Black. White. Think! Why we tick, how we tick, and how evolution makes us manipulable and so calls there “the most important evolutionary cornerstones of social influence”.

3 psychological principles that you always use to make decisions

With his presentation, the psychologist primarily refers to contexts in which we want to convince others (or others want to convince us). But since we have to convince ourselves in a decision that we negotiate with ourselves, the principles also play a role.

1.Security (fight versus flight)

Our need for security is a deeply rooted driver of our psyche. For us, insecurity means agony. We associate (life) danger and fear with insecurity. The origin of this need is possibly the fact that our ancestors once lived in a world in which life-threatening threats lurked around every corner: wild animals, freezing nights, poisonous mushrooms. If people previously ventured into unknown territory, it could very quickly be the last decision of their life.

Now our world has changed a lot over the last 300,000 years. However, our cognitive equipment is not quite as drastic. That is why we still prefer the known and controllable to the unknown and uncontrollable. Therefore, according to Kevin Dutton, the fight, if we can win it, always seems to us to be the more attractive option than flight, because with the former we have a handle, while with the escape we are driven into the unknown for who knows how long. And that’s why we sympathize more easily with people who decide to fight (e.g. against an illness, a: n political opponent: in …) than to flee (e.g. devotion to fate, giving up even before the election …) ).

2. Unity (right versus wrong)

With growing linguistic systems and increasing awareness, we have developed, among other things, the wonderful ability to brood in the course of evolution. We learned to see the possibility that a shadow on the cave wall didn’t necessarily have to be a danger, but could also be the husband who came home earlier than expected with a captured baby mammoth. That was definitely an advantage, because otherwise we might have pulled the club over the head every time. But endless brooding – and this is true today as it was then – is at least unhealthy and in the extreme case dangerous. Because at some point we have to decide how to react to a shadow.

Therefore, according to the psychologist’s assumption, we have developed a need for unity that is as deeply anchored in our psyche as that for security. It makes us stop thinking at a certain point. By saying that’s right, that’s wrong. That’s the truth, that’s the lie. My opinion is the best, the others have no idea. And if I have to ignore or adjust facts for this conviction, that’s what I do – because I can’t leave the barrel open endlessly.

According to Kevin Dutton, this need for unity is differently pronounced in different people: Some people are satisfied with little information in order to make a decision (strong need), others prefer to collect more (less strong need). But sooner or later we all reach the point where we admit to a right and a wrong – even if things seem very different from another point of view.

3. Self-interest (us versus them)

In the 1970s, the psychologist Henri Tajfel conducted an experiment that is still cited today (and which Kevin Dutton also cites). In the experiment, he asked his test subjects, a group of high school students, to estimate a number of points within half a second that they saw on a screen. There were too many to say correctly, they had to guess. Based on this, he divided the test group into two random groups: overestimators: inside and underestimates: inside. In the third step, he instructed the study participants to give points to two other test subjects: the only information they had about their fellow participants was: “Member of their own group / member of the other group”.

Lo and behold: this information was enough for the students to make their decision. Although they neither knew each other nor what they supposedly had in common, they generously distributed their points to members of their own group and ignored members of the other group when awarding them. And thus confirmed the principle of self-interest or our natural need to identify with one group by setting ourselves apart from another.

This principle, like the other two, has the effect that we sometimes make decisions that don’t make much sense on closer inspection. Because that we prefer people just because we can fit into a group with them is not fair. But we need every decision-making and regulatory aid we can get. After all, we’ve heard about it once and may be able to understand our decisions a little better and rethink them in a more targeted manner in the future. And maybe we also recognize more often where and how we are being manipulated – by other people and / or our needs.

Source used: Kevin Dutton, Schwarz. White. Think! Why we tick, how we tick, and how evolution makes us manipulable