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How to make better decisions and judgments?

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I read a very interesting story recently. In a leech ant mound, if an ant dies, it will secrete a hormone, and other ants will smell this hormone and carry the dead ant out. It’s a very simple behavior, but the scientists did a very interesting thing. They extracted this hormone secreted by the dead ant, and then applied it to the live ant, and a very interesting thing happened, and that is that other ants will still carry the live ant out, no matter if the carried out ant yells or punches and kicks. It’s like installing an application in the body of these ants. As long as you smell this hormone, you will immediately start the corresponding execution program, regardless of the external environment or the real situation.

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You might think, wow, this swarm of ants is so stupid that you can’t even see this live ant? Just blindly do something that looks silly. But don’t laugh at ants so quickly, in fact, we humans are similar.

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It is mentioned in “Poor Charlie’s Book” that there are many such oversimplified programs in the human brain. Some of these oversimplified programs are leftover from the process of human evolution, and some are formed by us from childhood to adulthood. These simplified programs can invalidate our judgment, make some wrong behaviors, and even be deceived and fooled.

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There is also a similar experiment mentioned in the book “Poor Charlie’s Book”. A magician asked a group of people to sit on stools. In front of the group of people, there was an iron tower more than 30 meters high, and the magician covered it with a cloth for 10 seconds. The curtain was lifted, the iron tower disappeared, and everyone was exclaiming, wow, it’s amazing! It’s incredible that such a tall iron tower has been changed from under everyone’s noses!

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But what is the real situation? It turns out that the seats of the audience are slowly rotating and moving during the performance, but the frequency of this rotation is so small that people can hardly notice it. When the magic starts, the tower is facing everyone, but when the magician covers the curtain and then lifts it again, the seats of the audience have actually rotated to the back of the tower. Everyone mistakenly thinks that the tower is missing, but in fact the position of the audience has changed. This means that it is difficult for our brains to detect some subtle changes, so we can be deceived.

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In fact, many of us have experienced this kind of deception experiment in our daily life. When we put our two hands in a basin, one with hot water and the other with ice water. Then pull out both hands at the same time and immediately put them in two basins with the same temperature. Although the temperature of the water in the basin is the same, your own feeling is that one basin is hot and the other is filled with ice water. The feeling is different from the objective reality. It can be seen that we humans also have many similar simplified procedures in cognition and perception, which are easy to be deceived and fooled.

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So how can we avoid the fooling of simplified procedures as much as possible and make better decisions and judgments cognitively? Charlie Munger mentioned in the book “Poor Charlie’s Book”: The reason why we are easily deceived is because we do not have more universal wisdom, that is, we only have that simple program in our head, and we do not know that there are other programs to start when we encounter things other than executing this program.

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So in order to overcome some simple procedures that come with our human evolution or that we take for granted from childhood to adulthood, Charlie Munger asks us to learn important thought models in various disciplines. For example, the compound interest model in mathematics, the feedback model in psychology, etc. When encountering problems, take out these regular models, check them one by one, and think about whether I have been influenced by these models, whether there is a model that is more in line with the rules, and use the important thinking models of various disciplines as the basis for our judgments and decisions.

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For example, there is a herd model in psychology. It is easy for us to believe that as long as everyone does things, I have to do them too, otherwise I will fall behind. Some time ago, my mother went to the vegetable market to buy vegetables. She came back and told me that I went to the vegetable market today and saw a lot of people gathered around to buy that apple, and then I felt that this apple must be very delicious. So many people were buying it, so they went over to buy it, but when I bought it, I found that this apple was very ordinary, and it may not be as delicious as what I usually buy in the fruit store. So why did she buy it when she was in the vegetable market? In fact, it is a herd mentality.

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If we can learn and understand these thinking models in advance, and know that what everyone does is not necessarily a good thing or is all right, then we may not buy it. How can we do it? The way is also very simple. It doesn’t matter how many people there are, just walk over and say that the boss will give me a piece of apple and let me taste it. After tasting it, I have personal experience and objective data. If you think it’s good to buy it again, you can’t go wrong.

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Learning to understand some important principles or theories of various disciplines, applying them to practical life, and integrating them into our life and study can allow us to make better decisions and judgments, at least so that we are not easily deceived by others. Therefore, I strongly recommend that everyone read the book “Poor Charlie’s Book” and learn to arm our minds with more basic and universal principles and laws, so that we can live a more calm and rational life.

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