False understanding of the world around you can lead you to an illusion where you think you have more control on the things which are truly random.
Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle. Some things are within your control and somethings are not.” ~ Epictetus
Every day, shortly before nine o’clock, a man with a red hat stands in a square and begins to wave his cap around wildly. After five minutes he disappears.
One day, a policeman comes up to him and asks: “Sir! May I ask what you are doing?”
“I’m keeping the giraffes away,” replies the man.
The puzzled police man looks around and tells him, “But there aren’t any giraffes here.”
“Well, I must be doing a good job, then.”
You can safely assume that the man with the red hat wasn’t in the pink of his mental health but is it just a case of misplaced understanding of causation vs correlation? Actually there is more to it. The man is convinced that absence of evidence (giraffes) proves his prowess in controlling the giraffes. The man suffers from what is known as…
Illusion of Control (IOC)
IOC is basically the tendency to believe that we can influence something over which we have absolutely no sway. Where does this behavioural quirk come from? In millions of years of evolution, Mother Nature has hard wired this cognitive bias in human brain to increase the chances of survival in a hunter gatherer environment. It’s nature’s way to deal with uncertainty.
As a result of inability to deal with unknown, cognitive stress is created, and to avoid this stress the human mind tries to get rid of uncertainty, even if it means being wrong. IOC is a nice trick to get rid of this uncertainty.
Having a sense of control over the future has long been considered a fundamental motive and a highly adaptive trait for humans. It is well established that an absence of perceived control leads to depression, pessimism, and withdrawal from challenging situations. In contrast, possessing a general sense of control leads to self-esteem and optimism. Without any sense of control it would be difficult to carry out basic tasks. For that matter, it’s good to have an illusion (confidence) that you would be able to drive back from office to home.
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