Trying New Things Is So Hard to Do

When I think of my favorite restaurants, the ones I have visited many times, it is striking how few of the menu items I have tried. And when I think of all the lunch places near my workplace, I realize that I keep going to the same places again and again.

Habits are powerful. We persist with many of them because we tend to give undue emphasis to the present. Trying something new can be painful: I might not like what I get and must forgo something I already enjoy. That cost is immediate, while any benefits — even if they are large — will be enjoyed in a future that feels abstract and distant. Yes, I want to know what else my favorite restaurant does well, but today I just want my favorite dish.

Overconfidence also holds us back. I am unduly certain in my guesses of what the alternatives will be like, even though I haven’t tried them.

Many so-called choices are not really choices at all. Walking down the supermarket aisle. I act without thinking.

Experimentation is an act of humility, an acknowledgment that there is simply no way of knowing without trying something different.

Understanding that truth is a first step, but it is important to act on it. 

Sendhil Mullainathan writing in the New York Times

Overcome Your Status Quo Bias by Reversing the Situation

Should you stay or should you go? Status quo bias is our tendency to, when presented with a choice, prefer the current scenario as opposed to making a change. You can account for this natural bias by reversing the situation and the direction of change.

Status quo bias stems from a variety of human tendencies. A natural fear of change, our preference for familiarity, and laziness, all contribute. It's not our friend, either: Status quo bias contributes to many poorly thought decisions (like our tendency to overspend on big purchases).

Consider this: would you take a $13,000 wage increase to relocate to another city? Most people would say no. Yet consider the opposite: If you were living in another city, would you take a $13,000 wage decrease to move back to this one?

You can apply this reversal heuristic to smaller decisions, too. For example, instead of wondering whether you should spend a dollar for a chocolate bar, you could ask yourself whether you'd be willing to receive a dollar for skipping a chocolate bar for the day.

This quick reversal is a simpler version of the Reversal Test, a mental tool philosophers use to account for status quo bias.

Herbert Lui writing in LifeHacker

building on sand

People who circle the wagons when questioned about their religious creed are usually afraid that what they profess might not be true.

Seldom (if ever?) will you run across 100% false belief system. There are scattered nuggets of truth in each one. That’s why there are people in every religious, political, and philosophical system who simply accept the group’s views at face value. They grew up in it, they gave in to social pressure and they joined. Or else they simply are unwilling to come to terms with the fact they have been walking on the wrong road. Admitting that you’ve invested yourself in something that’s been a waste of your time is not easy. Going back and starting over again is not very appealing. Ultimately, it’s a choice about whether to maintain a comfort level or pursue truth.

If you surround yourself only with things and people who reinforce your belief system, you don't have to worry about your worldview being knocked out from under you (although circumstances have a way of eventually doing this, anyway). The choice ultimately becomes denying reality--or reassessing cherished ideas on which we’ve built our lives.

Stephen Goforth