The human brain is a highly buggy machine. Science has uncovered a huge number of ways we're prone to faulty assumptions, bad estimating, mistaken memories, and wildly inaccurate snap judgments.
These problems aren't just of interest to academics. Such biases can cost you money, hold you back from making the best real-worth hires, scuttle negotiations, and generally muddle decision making in both your personal and professional lives.
What can you do about them?
Spock-like rationality will always evade us, but learning about our many blind spots is a great way to start improving your thinking. Armed with information on common stereotypes and better procedures for clear thinking, you should be able to make smarter choices.
TED can help. On its blog the wildly popular lecture series rounded up the best bias-destroying talks delivered from its stage. You can find the complete list of recommended talks here, or just check out the selection of the most widely relevant below to get started.
1. Executive Mellody Hobson on race and hiring
Avoiding the touchy subject of race might save us some awkwardness, but it won't eliminate bias, and it will probably also hold your business back. That's why executive Mellody Hobson advocates getting the subject out in the open in this talk. "Hobson makes the case that speaking openly about race -- and particularly about diversity in hiring -- makes for better businesses and a better society," TED explains.
2. Model Cameron Russell on the impact of looks
If you really want to know how much impact beauty has on a person's life, just ask a model. In an honest and eye-opening talk, drop-dead gorgeous Cameron Russell lays bare the very real advantages -- and disadvantages -- of having "won the genetic lottery."
3. Linguist John McWhorter on texting
Complaining about kids these days is an age-old pastime, but according to Columbia University linguist John McWhorter, our worries about young people's addiction to texting -- and the informal, abbreviated writing style it encourages -- are overblown. Writing more and more with our thumbs "is all good news," he argues.
4. Writer Becky Blanton on homelessness
For the comfortably housed, homelessness is usually a distant nightmare, and the inner lives of those without a place to sleep a mystery. For writer Becky Blanton, homelessness is a searing memory, however. In this bias-exploding talk, she "describes her experience of becoming one of America's working homeless" and encourages listeners to reflect on whether the gap between themselves and the homeless if really so huge after all.
5. Author Anand Giridharadas on anti-Muslim bias
The TED blog probably describes this hard-to-sum-up talk the best: "Ten days after 9/11, a shocking attack at a Texas mini-mart shattered the lives of two men: the victim and the attacker. In this stunning talk, Anand Giridharadas, author of The True American, tells the story of what happened next. It's a parable about the two paths an American life can take, and a powerful call for reconciliation."