The brain is often thought of as an organ dedicated to performing in-depth rational analyzes of all matters relating to our survival. However, when we start to search a concept called reversible thinkingWe see that it is not so. To illustrate this we can use a small game.
I’ll show you four different cards. In each of them, on one side there is a number and on the other there is a letter.
And I also want you to know that I am convinced that on each card with an “I” on one side, there is a “2” on the other.
Now I ask you: how can you know if I am telling the truth? What is the minimum number of cards I need to know if my return is correct or false?
Before you read on or go outside to find the solution to the problem, take a few minutes to think about it … and remember your answer.
Playing with thought
If you think that in order to know whether my statement is correct or not you must return the card which contains the letter “E”, then you answered like the vast majority of people who were asked the question. The other side of the card with the letter “I” may or may not be a number “2”. Otherwise, you can be assured that my statement is false.
But on the other hand, it turns out that if you actually find a number “2”, it is not enough to say that my statement is true. Now, it is likely that you will then come to the conclusion that you should also flip the card which has the “2” to verify an “I” on the reverse side. But this solution is also incorrect.
In case there is a letter “E” behind the card that has the “2”, we will know for sure that the claim I made at the beginning is correct. But on the other hand, remember that I didn’t say anything about what must be behind the card that has the “2”, and that one can find, strictly speaking in truth, one of the many letters that have the alphabet. What if we turn over the card that has the letter “N”?
Well, I think it is obvious that this solution does not make sense. The problem is satisfactorily resolved by turning over the cards which have the “E” and the number “5”. Can you understand why? No?
But what barbarism. I have to tell you everything!
Obviously, you first need to see if there is a “2” behind the card marked with an “I”. But we must also chat about what is behind the card that has the “5”, because only then will we know without a doubt, in the case of finding an “I” on the other side. , that the premise that I formulated in principle is true.
Let’s look at it another way. If behind an “E” there can be a “5” which would harm the statement, it is legitimate to think that behind a “5” there can also be an “I” which, for practical reasons, is exactly the same. The possibility of reasoning in one direction and also in the opposite direction this is called reversible thinking, And this appears to be a property that tends to be rare among specimens of the human race.
When we believe something what we usually do is look for information that confirms our belief, And we rarely bother to seek rebuttal evidence, in case we got it wrong.
We make quick, hasty, almost thoughtless judgments, and as soon as an indication emerges that we are right about what we thought, we immediately comply; it is a phenomenon that occurs every day, and unbelievably as it may seem, of which hardly anyone is exempt, from the individual with the lowest possible level of education to the one with the highest honors academic.
You do not believe me? I will explain a series of studies that have revealed the thought process that doctors go through when making a diagnosis.
The first hypothesis is the one that wins
Imagine going to see Dr. González. Already at the office, to the typical question of “What brings you here?”, You tell him about a series of discomforts that have afflicted him for a few days. Naturally in this case, the doctor takes note of the symptoms you are experiencing and begins to think of one or two hypotheses that could explain the problem. From this diagnosis, which the doctor considers probable, he proceeds to a brief physical examination and indicates a series of studies.
Well, scientific evidence suggests that in cases like this, doctors cling to their initial hypothesisThey dive headlong into confirmation, and often lose sight of the need to find the counter-evidence that validates the diagnosis (the equivalent of turning over the card with the number “5”).
But the matter is still a little more serious. What has been observed is that doctors (even experts, who have many hours of clinical experience) they tend to ignore data that does not meet their expectationsThey underestimate them and sometimes even ignore them altogether. Depending on the very nature of the brain, any clinical picture that a patient may present cannot be assessed objectively and absolutely. Beyond his knowledge, the doctor makes an interpretation of what the patient tells him, and establishes in his mind a starting point from which he requests the studies he deems necessary.
The problem is, this original diagnosis often functions as a rigid, immovable anchor point. The professional then tries to find data confirming his previous opinion. In the process, you may even overestimate minor or irrelevant clues that point in the same direction as your previous expectations, giving you a high degree of confirmation value while reducing the weight of any incongruent information.
When we hold on to expectations
I am not suggesting that the reader not see their doctor the next time they catch the flu or experience pain. He also shouldn’t be intending to teach you lessons on how to do your job. But the truth is, there’s virtually no problem with the human species that psychologists haven’t put their magnifying glass in at some point in history, and the question of reversible thinking is one of them.
And this is how clinical reasoning often works. The first diagnosis that comes to the mind of the doctor determines the path to follow, and also contributes to distorting the interpretation of the results of the various studies requested by the patient. Something similar happens with most people, regardless of profession, in their day-to-day life and in their personal relationships.
All this irrationality that stains the senses and plays such an important role in everyday decisions is in part due to the fact that the brain is a lazy cognitive. This means that it is governed according to a principle of mental economy which often leads us to make mistakes in our daily appreciations. It is an invisible and unconscious process, which simplifies the complex, and helps us to create mental categories in order to classify our experience so that we do not have to start from scratch each time we are confronted with a new situation.
It also prompts us to take shortcuts in our reasoning processes and draw conclusions; all, of course, with the laudable aim of making things easier for us, but unfortunately with the added cost of a little madness or irrationality in our behavior.
Therefore, it is advisable to demystify the brain and not think of it as a supercomputer designed to perform meticulous data analysis according to conventional logic. Whenever you can, use the resources to get the job done.