Furthest Right

The Mental Bias Toward Ideas We Think We Can Control


The old saying about putting the cart before the horse is one of those eternal human profundities that is so practically useful that its philosophical importance gets overlooked. When used correctly, a tool becomes an extension of the mind; when this does not happen, the tool becomes the master and the mind alters itself to balance.

This rule even applies to the mind itself. In theory, the mind is a tool for the survival of the organism and the experience of life. Both of these seem to be important, since even wild animals who fall into miserable circumstances seem to be able to will themselves to death.

However, the cart comes before the horse — and the tool becomes the master — if not explicitly resisted. Our minds favor stronger signals over weaker ones, and gravitate toward explanations instead of mysteries because mysteries are threats. This creates an inherent bias toward simpler and broader ideas over granular and open-ended ones.

One example of this concerns time. When an event is in the news, it seems like either the apocalypse of the gateway to Utopia, and not just because our journalists are rodents. Present things are fully accessible and comprehensible to our minds, and therefore, we prioritize the new over the old and the eternal.

As a side effect, this creates a type of paranoia: fear of risk amplified by a need to stay current. This manifests in an obsessive “fear of missing out” which reflects not an intensity, but underlying emptiness to life. When there are no signals stronger than what is present-tense but trivial, it is a sign that people have found few things of actual importance in life.

“FOMO is especially rampant in the millennial community because they see a peer achieving something they want, and somehow in their mind, that achievement means something is being ‘taken away’ from them,” said Darlene McLaughlin, M.D., assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and a psychiatry and behavioral health specialist with Texas A&M Physicians.

…In fact, recent studies have shown that FOMO is linked to feelings of dissatisfaction. “The problem with FOMO is the individuals it impacts are looking outward instead of inward,” McLaughlin said. “When you’re so tuned in to the ‘other,’ or the ‘better’ (in your mind), you lose your authentic sense of self. This constant fear of missing out means you are not participating as a real person in your own world.”

This mentality might be seen as a desire to be the “center of attention,” an idea which implies a supremacy of the social group. Whoever is receiving the attention is winning; whoever is not has been victimized and had that victory taken away from them. This mentality reflects the inability of people for whom little of actual importance exists to judge value and purpose on their own; instead, they defer to the group, having no experience with actual choice-making.

With this center of attention, the basis of collectivized individualism or Crowdism is born. People are no longer motivated by inner choices — duty, honor, pride, creativity, wisdom — but by what the rest of the herd is doing. For this reason, they are losing out if they do not get in there and force others to pay attention to them, which creates the stunts-based attention whoring that is the basis for radicalism and thus, liberalism itself.

The present-tense bias of our time reveals a disconnection from the inner world through which we notice the details and thus the whole “big picture” of our physical world. Our minds grasp what is easy, but like scapegoats or Utopias, these easy thoughts are a way of avoiding the necessary larger action, and by distracting us, ensure our failure.

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