Resetting a Bias

For my second book of the year, I picked up Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. Information about how the human brain operates is deeply interesting to me, so a book about the irrationality of humankind is an easy choice. I enjoy how works like this cause me to examine my own habits and modes of thinking to show areas I can improve. Today’s exercise came to me this morning when I was looking through Spotify for the day’s playlist.

When it comes to music, I’m fairly incapable of thinking for myself. I love music, but finding anything new to listen to requires a trusted recommendation. I’d like to be more independently minded, but that’s less important to me than the results, so I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I will be a poseur forever so I can move onto the actual enjoyment part. This reliance on others’ taste in music began with my older sister when we were kids. Whatever she had in her walkman was what I wanted to listen to. Luckily, unlike me, she was hugely into the music scene and exposed me to artists I never would have discovered on my own. I could spend an entire post about my musical education, but the relevant fact is that I rely 100% on trust when it comes to music. I put my faith in the person lobbing a recommendation my way and most of the time it works out.

What happens, however, when a suggestion comes from someone outside my trusted circle? What if it’s a person I don’t have a connection with, trust, or even particularly like? This morning, I found out.

A few months ago, an acquaintance sent me a playlist on Spotify. I was in an open-minded state and looking for something new to listen to, so it was a welcome addition. I don’t always tend to these things right away and like many playlists I create, it sat unmolested for a while. As I thought about giving it a listen, my mild distaste for this person crept in. I found myself completely unable to determine if the music was any “good”, as the mere thought of who recommended it tainted my perceptions. My solution was easy: pretend it came from my most trusted source. When I framed it in this context, my bias immediately swapped from negative to positive and I was able to enjoy the music in the best possible light.

The fact that I simply traded one bias for another isn’t lost on me. Rather, it’s a refreshing reminder that I have the power to alter my perspective and enter a more productive scenario. If the message is getting lost because of who the messenger is, try imagining they are someone in whom you have the utmost faith. You might find it a lot easier to see their point of view and temper your own biases.

P.S. This seems to work for everything I try it on. Food, exercise, movies, games, recreational activities, whatever. If I pretend one of my best friends raved about it, I’m likely to see it as they do. Also, if you find yourself surrounded by people who do nothing but complain, it’s time to upgrade your company.