Project Description

Sirach 27:4-7 / 1 Corinthians 15:54-58 / Luke 6:39-45

You know, we’re interesting creatures—
We never cease to amaze me.

Let’s say I go out to Regal Cinemas
to see the new “Apollo 11” movie.

And I decide to buy some popcorn.

I go to the counter and see there are two choices:
I can buy a small bucket of popcorn for $3—
Or a large bucket of popcorn for $7.

Well, since I’m by myself—
and $7 dollars for a bucket of
popcorn seems ridiculous—
I choose the small bucket for $3.

So far—so good.

But now let’s say I walk up to counter
and instead of two options for popcorn—
there are three.

I can still buy a small popcorn for $3—
and I can still buy a large popcorn for $7—
but now—I can buy a medium
bucket of popcorn for $6.75.

Got it:
Small for $3—
Medium for $6.75—
Or large for $7.

Same movie—same Steve—
Now with three choices—
will I still buy the $3 small popcorn?

Well, probably not.

Research shows that now—
with these three choices—
I would buy the $7 large popcorn
Just by adding that 3rd option of
the $6.75 medium bucket of corn—

So, I end up eating a lot more popcorn than I wanted—
and I gave Regal Cinemas 4 more of my hard-earned dollars
than I normally would have.

Here’s what’s going on.

This marketing technique has been very well-studied—
it’s called the “decoy effect.”

The theatre knows that it won’t sell
many $6.75 medium popcorns—
it’s just a decoy.

It’s a decoy to make the $7 large bucket of
popcorn seem like not so bad a deal after all.

If a medium is $6.75—
then the $7 large must be a heck of a deal.

And just in case that I did go for the decoy—
the $6.75 medium popcorn—
the attendants are quick to remind me that
for just a quarter more—
I could get the large.

This “decoy effect” is just one example of
what behavioral scientists call a “Cognitive Bias.”

We all have them!!!

A cognitive bias is some flaw in the
way we make our judgements.

It’s an erroneous—
irrational way of thinking—
that—on the surface—
might even appear rational . . .

If a medium is $6.75—
then the $7 large must be a great deal.

Behavioral scientists have discovered
that we humans have dozens and dozens of cognitive biases.

Sometimes, we’re just not as rational as we think.

And many cognitive biases help
determine what positions we hold—
how we judge ourselves—
and how we judge others.

One of the most common is
called the “confirmation bias.”

We love to agree with people who agree with us—
Because it just confirms what we already believe.

That’s why we choose only certain websites to visit—
That’s why we choose only certain news channels to watch.
That’s why we hang around people who
hold similar views to ours.

Subconsciously and consciously—
we want our pre-existing beliefs confirmed.

And we will go to great lengths
to avoid or dismiss differing opinions—
even if there’s some validity to them.

Do you watch MSNBC—
or Fox?

Do you read First Things—
or Commonweal?

The New York Times—
or The Wall Street Journal?

We can close in ourselves—
become insular—
Not really open to new or differing ideas
even though we tell ourselves we are.

“Confirmation Bias”

Here’s another one—
it’s called the “Bandwagon Effect.”

Though we’re often unconscious of it,
we love to go with the crowd.

When the crowd starts to pick a winner or a favorite—
When the crowd pushes a certain opinion—
that’s when our individualized brains shut down and
enter into a kind of “groupthink”—
a “mob mentality” at it’s worse.

We see this all the time.

This is how behaviors and social norms spread
regardless of whether there’s
evidence to support them or not—
a rush to judgement—
everybody can’t be wrong.

We do things or believe things just because
everyone else seems to doing it or believes it—
we want to be on the winning team—
we want to fit in.

Think of the fashion industry for example—
we’ve got to wear the clothes that are “in style.”

The “Bandwagon Effect”

Cognitive biases can also
effect how we view ourselves and others.

There’s the “Overconfidence Effect”
where we systematically overestimate our
knowledge and our ability to predict.

Isn’t that funny—
We know it’s true.

There’s the halo effect.

If someone creates a strong first
impression then that impression sticks.

If a student’s first paper is good—
the professor is prone to continue
giving them high marks even if their
performance doesn’t warrant it.
The same thing happens at work and
in personal relationships.

And there’s the “horn effect.”
which is just opposite of the halo effect.

Once bad—always bad.

And one of my favorites is the
called the “fundamental attribution error.”

If someone we like does something wrong—
we blame it on the circumstances.

But if someone we don’t like does the very same thing—
we blame it on the person’s character.

If my friend is late—
he must have gotten tied up doing something important.

But if my enemy is late—
Wow how selfish they are—
They could care less about my time.

And here’s a good one.

It’s called the “self-serving bias.”

If things go well—
We tend to take the credit.

But, if things go poorly—
We tend to blame others.

Cognitive biases are fascinating—
Look them up.

You know, in the gospel we’ve
been hearing Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain.

And when you hear Jesus—
it’s obvious how well he knows the human condition—
our many cognitive biases.

Jesus says—
Don’t look for the splinter in your neighbor’s eye—
Without taking the log out of your own eye.

We’re biased that way aren’t we.

Stop judging!!!

Stop condemning!!!!

We’re just not that good at it.

Not only are we biased—
Not only do we not see things so clearly—

But we just don’t have enough
information about someone—
We don’t know their motives—
We don’t know their heart.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

every single word of Jesus.

He’s the Son of God—
He’s the Messiah—
He’s the Master.

He came to save us—
from ourselves.

A blind person just can’t lead a blind person.

And Jesus is the only one whose
not blind in one way or another.

There’s one more cognitive bias
that we should be aware of.

It’s called the “Bias blind spot.”

“The Bias Blind Spot”
is the tendency to see that
other people have cognitive biases—
But not us—
We don’t have them.

Probably not the case!!

We are interesting creatures aren’t we.

That’s why the sin of pride is so dangerous—
That’s why humility is such an important Christian virtue

I want to end by recommending a prayer.

It’s a real short prayer.

I recommended it because it
considers all we’ve been talking about.

I learned it from a spiritual director years ago.

Here it is:
God bless them—
And God have mercy on me.

God bless all of those whom I misjudge—
bless all those I don’t see clearly—
bless all of those I have no idea what’s in their heart.

And God—have mercy on me—
have mercy on me who can be so wrong sometimes—
so blind—and not even know it.

It’s a nice prayer isn’t it.

God bless them—
and God have mercy on me.

Holy Spirit 03/02-03/2019