The HeadScratcher Post Archive
November 2007
Can your mind be too helpful?
   
   November 2007  The Headscratcher Post © Headscratchers LLC   Edition 31
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Can your mind be too helpful?  Try to read the following:  You mghit tnihk i’ts aaminzg taht you can raed tihs with vriuaty no diluftficuy eevn tuohg the lttres are mxeid up.   It trnus out taht all you need is the fsrit and lsat leetrts in the crocert pcale.  Tihs wroks ulsnses you raed smnohtenig taht is umaiflianr or uwnnkon scuh as atopiystmc,  or hamiodyynrdc, or oobe.

When you read you don’t read each letter, but the entire word and your brain automatically unscrambles the letters, taking into account the context of the sentence, and makes it right … all done very quickly and unconsciously. 

As an experienced and knowledgeable person, you unscramble complex situations all the time.  But there’s a catch.   Did you pick up the word that was actually spelled wrong and didn’t follow the rule of both first and last letters being in the correct place?  [It was “though”].  In automatic mode, while you have the ability to unscramble situations, you might gloss over something that is different, or possibly important or wrong, and if known, may have resulted in a different conclusion or decision.

Here’s a different example: Count every “ F ” in the following text

FINISHED FILES ARE THE RE
SULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTI
FIC STUDY COMBINED WITH
THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS...

How many “F’s” did you see?   Well there are 6 .. really!  Your brain is so good at looking at the context of a situation, you will often miss some of the details.  Most of the time this is great, because you don’t get bogged down in unimportant distractions, however, sometimes those details are important.  In this example it was getting the right answer or being wrong.

You’ve all seen those optical illusions where you misinterpret or flip images, or see something that is coming at you and other times going away from you.   Your brain is using it’s experience to interpret and tries to make “right” what you see.

Now take the business world.    How about observations at work, or symptoms of problems or input towards decisions to make.   Can you imagine the possibility that your brain might be “filling in” or “ignoring” some things?  Your mind tries very hard to put things into familiar contexts, experiences, and explanations.   It tries very hard to avoid the “does not compute” scenario. As a result, you sometimes miss explanations, or falsely come to a conclusion based on omitted or translated information.

The Takeaway:   We know that the everyday thinking we all do, results in our brain automatically and unconsiously doing a lot for us ... mostly good stuff.  However, sometimes this comes at the expense of missing something new, or misinterpreting a situation or "seeing" something that isn't, or not seeing something that is.   So when working on a really important decision or problem, shift out of automatic mode into manual, i.e. Critical Thinking.  You may see something that you might normally have msiesd !
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