Psychology and humility

I've been reading quite a bit about psychology lately. While it's always been an interest of mine, the truth is it's been helping me understand a lot better how we as humans live our lives, but most importantly it helped me understand some mistakes we can and should avoid when we start talking about other people.

In the marketing and overall creative industries, it's not that hard to meet someone who simply knows "users do this" and "our consumers do that" and "people don't care about this". We just know, we don't need proof. We know because our friends behave like that. Or our mother. Even our girlfriends! Heck, we know because we behave like that too. Or maybe we don't, which is why it also won't work this time. We just know it.

Except maybe we don't. Researchers such as Daniel Kahneman and neuroscience and psychology authors such as David Eagleman or David McRaney have been digging into these matters of the mind and I'll just leave a couple of examples to pick your brain. Here's Kahneman's words straight from his 2011 best-selling book "Thinking, Fast and Slow":

The world makes much less sense than you think. The coherence comes mostly from the way your mind works.


The explanatory stories that people find compelling are simple; are concrete rather than abstract; assign a larger role to talent, stupidity, and intentions than to luck; and focus on a few striking events that happened rather than on the countless events that failed to happen.


The sense-making machinery of System 1 [AKA our intuitions] makes us see the world as more tidy, simple, predictable, and coherent than it really is. The illusion that one has understood the past feeds the further illusion that one can predict and control the future.

Now here's Eagleman in his also amazing book "Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain":

The brain makes time-saving and resource-saving assumptions and tries to see the world only as well as it needs to.

Also consider McRaney's notes on the subject from his book "You Are Not So Smart" (fantastic title, by the way):

When the left hemisphere [of the brain — the analytical one] is forced to explain why the right hemisphere [the emotional one] is doing something, it often creates a fiction that both sides can accept.


You might be a great judge of character, but you need to be a great judge of evidence to avoid delusion.

This is important. This is scientific thought (and research) applied to something we take for granted: what we think we know about other people. Of course I can't publish their complete studies here regarding these notes, but if you're curious please buy and read the books; they'll be worth your time (and money).

I usually say people who work in a creative industry should know more about psychology, but it's not just because it provides some secret key to making people do what we want (it doesn't, let it go). Above all, psychology is the ultimate tool to provoke some humility in a seemingly know-it-all world.

More people really need that in this industry.