Cognitive biases are widely accepted as things that makes us human. Every day, systematic errors in our thought process impact the way we make decisions, live and work. We live in a world where everything is changing rapidly and yet we have a culture of unrealistic permanence where everything we see online is the result of algorithms. Even the preview images that are generated. Netflix, for example categorizes its content into tens of thousands of microgenres. Pairing these genre tags with a viewer’s history allows them to assign several of over 2,000 “taste profiles” to each user. In other words, what we see in the media, online and multiple platforms is the result of algorithms making our decisions. This is called automation bias which refers to the tendency to favor the suggestions of automated systems. In fact, our biases tend to cloud our self-awareness by adopting unconsciously patterns of behaviour that harm us unconsciously.
I was in Dubai joining a wellness conference in 2018 where I met a brilliant entrepreneur from Barcelona. As a coach and mentor I tend to read between the lines and I am good at reading people. I anticipated that we would have an interesting conversation with opposite views, which is always very rewarding, I tend to learn a lot from these conversations. He was very curious about why I have a spiritual practice and was amazed about my work in South East Asia. I was trying to explain to him that a spiritual practice allows us to have body presence, empty our mind connect with body sensations and understand the feelings of the heart without pushing away or trying to avoid reality. The reality that we all don’t want to see. He looked at me like I was coming from planet Venus , it was funny. I ended up saying : I re-orient the spirit to heal the body. He responded: “I follow the rational mind as it is the only tangible truth ”Well, that’s too bad, I responded because that means that you are using less than 10% of your brain capacity and it is only bias based according to your preferences.”
Aligned, relax and resilient is the goal of mindfulness. When I teach meditation courses my hope is to teach on how to walk upon the earth. Truly learning how to see, how to hear, and how to feel without lying to yourself, through these simple acts of perception we can learn to let go of our tendency to create suffering for ourselves and others and become what we are in truth. Becoming aware of our cognitive biases and their implications can help us stay on the right course. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with our susceptibility to the automation bias and other kind of biases, understanding its significance may help us make more appropriate decisions as consumers, and in our personal and professional life. A mindfulness practice can help us significantly to increase our perception and recognize unconscious patterns.
The practice of mindfulness it can be found in one form or another in all spiritual traditions whose goal is to awaken from the slumber of illusions into an awareness of what is truly and profoundly real. Mindfulness can perhaps best be defined as a condition of relaxed alertness in which we see what is here to be seen, hear what is here to be heard. We feel what is here to be felt, taste what is here to be tasted, smell what is here to be smelled. We can be aware of the condition of the mind that either supports the clear perception of our sensory fields or interferes with it. This helps us to stay away from cognitive bias and be more in touch with our inner selves in a realistic way at each moment. Our modern brain appears to be prioritizing the information we hold onto, and if we want to counter this bias finding new horizons may require some good old fashioned human curiosity and a mindfulness practice.