Critical Thinking: Introspection Illusion and Overthinking

Well, it’s long past time to reboot my critical thinking series. Since it’s been a while since I’ve posted on it,  are links to my other posts:

Inroduction (explaining the importance of critical thinking skills)


Wason Selection Task Explained

Confirmation Bias
In the last post I said I’d do Overthinking for the next post. Well, it turns out this will be easier if I tie it in with the introspection illusion.

The introspection illusion simply means believing you understand your motivations and desires, your likes and dislikes (You Are Not so Smart, by David McRaney, p. 67),and that reflection leads to truth and accuracy. (The Art of  Thinking Clearly, by Rolf Dobelli, p. 201). The bottom line is, for many things, we just don’t know why we like what we do, and the best we can do is to make up an explanation. This is why, when asked why you like something, you can’t come up with an answer and can only say, “I just do.” This is reflected in the Apple Jacks commercials from the 1990’s: the adults were always asking the kids why they liked Apple Jacks, since they don’t taste like apples. The kids respond, “We just do; we eat what we like.”

A number of experiements demonstrate this. In one experiment Tim Wilson let people have free posters. However, one group had to explain why they liked a particular poster. The two groups ended up picking different posters, and six months later, the grab-and-go crowd tended to be satisfied with their choices, whereas the explainers were dissatisfied. In another experiment Wilson had subjects rate the quality of jams that had already been rated by Consumer Reports, with one group having to explain what they liked about the jams. The ones who only tasted largely agreed with Consumer Reports in their rankings; but the explainers had all kinds of differing rankings. In a third experiement done by Petter Johannson, people were asked to pick the more attractive person in two photos they were shown. The subjects were shown what they were told was a larger photo of the one they chose, but was actually one that had been switched. Nevertheless, most subjects didn’t pick up on it and detailed why they chose the photo they did. 

Now, to tie this into Overthinking. Our brains have many parts, with reason/logic being one part and emotion/feeling being another. As we seek to rid our thinking of irrationality, this is an important point to remember(and why I chose to do this post early in the series).  The Bible says, “For everything there is a season, a time for every person under heaven.”(Eccl. 3:1); there is a time for going with your gut, and a time for reflection. When it comes to deeply held beliefs on things like race, religion, politics, foreign policy, rational thought is critical, since these affect so many people’s lives and haters are becoming more blatant. On the other hand, for skills practiced or questions answered thousands of times, or whom to trust, it’s better to trust your gut. Overthinking occurs when we don’t trust our gut when we should, and fail to recognize when the wisdom of our feelings is more appropriate for the situation at hand.

 Also, concerning romance, if there’s someone interested in you and, while on paper they seem nice, but, for some unexplained reason, you’re just not into them, this is another go with your gut situation — you actually don’t owe an explanation, but all this here will make a good one (and give me more readers; oh, just kidding! :)) But seriously, do not let anyone pressure you into a romance that you’re not into!

The same with setting personal boundaries: this is another area in which it’s best to go with your gut.

Basically, while I’m trying to look at things more rationally and encourage others to do so, and share means to do so, we should avoid Overthinking and know when it’s best just to go with our guts.


Published by


Christian, freethinker, believer, skeptic, seeker.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s