Graeme Newell

Projection Bias

We just can’t help it. When we see a video like this our brain instantly tends to concoct a very human story: the duck and the fish are friends, and look out for each other. We effortlessly project elaborate human motivations onto an animal that has no neocortex, and a brain that’s the size of a walnut.

We effortlessly jump to the conclusion that how WE feel is how the REST OF THE WORLD must feel as well. Projecting our opinions on to others is one of our brain’s favorite pastimes, and it is the cause of a whole class of cognitive biases:

Anthropocentrism We believe inhuman things have human feelings and judgments. “That’s a wise old oak tree.” “My dog is misbehaving because it wants to get back at me.”

The Curse of Knowledge Others frustrate us when they don’t instantly comprehend what we already know. “I’ve understood calculus for years. Why does everyone else complain it’s so hard?!”

The Illusion of Transparency We mistakenly believe that others inherently know how we feel. “If he really understood me, he wouldn’t need me to tell him how I feel.”

Projection Bias The feeling that our beliefs are just common sense and shared by most people. Only crackpots would have a different opinion. “I just can’t understand why so many people voted for that reprehensible politician.”

So next time you form an opinion on politics, business, love, or any other choice that involves other human beings, remember that PROJECTION BIAS will powerfully tempt you to believe that everyone in the room AGREES WITH YOU. Don’t assume. Take the time to ask others to share their unequivocal thoughts. Expect to have your certainties challenged and your mind blown.