Day 20

Video transcription

You may possibly have heard of the term “cognitive bias”. Through the process of evolution, the human brain has developed all of these clever little cognitive shortcuts and preferences to save our brain time and energy. They’re basically habits of attention and thinking. Habits are everywhere when you start looking for them.

There are a whole class of cognitive biases that I call Tangibility biases. Tangibility originally meant “to touch” and it is the quality of something feeling more immediate and real. The closer something is to your “touch” in space and time the more tangible feels. Now is more tangible than the future. Here is more tangible than out there. The Tangibility bias habit simply means that we place more attention and importance on tangible things.

And It makes sense that evolution as built this bias into our cognitive functions. The immediate threat here is obviously more pressing than next season’s crops over there. The trouble with this bias though is that it has become such an ingrained habit for human beings that less tangible things don’t get enough of our attention. This is simply a habit of attention and thinking, which if we let it, will do what every habit does; make our decisions for us. And it’s so deeply ingrained we almost can’t help ourself from seeing a the world that’s not filtered by this bias.

Perhaps the most dangerous effects of the Tangibility bias is where is plays out in the relation between actions and their results. When the time between action and results is close it feels very tangible to us. The gap between eating a sweet treat and feeling the satisfaction of our taste buds is almost immediate, and that makes it feel more tangible.

But when the time between action and results is longer it feels less tangible. The gap between, say, exercising, and seeing the rewards of this, can be weeks and months, and because this is less tangible we pay it less attention and thereby grant it less importance.

You don’t need to look very far to see the effects of this. Both planetary well-being, as reflected in climate change, and personal well-being as reflected in, say, the increase of chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity, are a direct result of the failure to attend to the relative intangibility of the less immediate relationship between actions and results.

This Tangibility habit is the ultimate patient and invisible villain. It sits quietly in the dark recesses of the architecture our mind, almost behind our thinking, without any expectation of immediate results. But knowing that in the long term if we don’t wake up to its impact it will prevent us from attending to those things that are essential to our long term well-being and happiness.

When we allow the Tangibility bias habit to operate unchallenged in our life then we neglect the importance of the things we need to do today that are essential to our well-being in the future. Fuck you Tangibility bias. You’re just a dumb habit and when I make a choice to do my practice, even though its outcomes are less tangible I make you smaller and I make me bigger. Amen to that.