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Into the mind of Mr. X

What fascinated me about this journey into Mr. X’s mind is how his opinion has changed several times in less than 10 months, often taking extremely contradictory positions. It is usual for a human being to change his believes slightly in the long run, but such drastic changes as the one just described lead us to wonder what Mr. X really thinks. Is it possible that a person in 10 months can go from being a convinced supporter of the importance of staying at home to fight the Covid-19, terrified by the vision of 70 infected and 2 deaths, to not believing in the danger of the same virus, after 1,200,000 infected and 45,000 deaths? What prevents Mr. X from building a consistent thought?

Reading this article one may laugh at Mr. X, thinking that he is simply a person with unclear ideas, who is not afraid to contradict himself, despite looking like a fool.  However, I am sorry to inform you that what happened to Mr. X is something everyone is susceptible to, at different degrees. I challenge to find a single reader who in the last months has not given his theories on Covid-19, or in general has not given in his life his own point of view on something extremely outside his area of competence.

The social media have speeded up the process for which we are all becoming a little bit like virologists, statisticians, politicians, economists, football coaches and so on. Maybe we don’t show it as Mr. X, but in the private sphere, in our own home, watching the news, on WhatsApp groups, we start to pronounce judgements.

The easier it is for us to pronounce on a subject we don’t know about at all, the harder it will be for us to change our minds.

And that is precisely for this reason that it is important to study what has happened in Mr. X’s mind over the past few months. Understanding what happened to him can prevent it from happening to us.

Among the many traps Mr. X has fallen into, I’d like to focus your attention on three of them: the Availability heuristic, the Dunning-Kruger Effect and the In-group Bias.

For those who are unfamiliar with these concepts:

  • Availability heuristic is a mental trap that occurs when one tends to estimate the probability of an event on the basis of the vividness and emotional impact of a memory, rather than on its objective probability. This is because it is based on the first examples that come to mind. The Availability heuristic can concern us whenever there are events or factors particularly present in the media. If a certain event or phenomenon is amplified by newspapers and television, people are led to think that it is more important than it actually is.

  • Dunning-Kruger Effect is a cognitive bias in which people with low ability at a task wrongly overestimate their ability. This tends to occur because a lack of self-awareness prevents them from accurately assessing their own skills.

  • In-group Bias relates to our tendency to attach higher values from opinions and actions of others who we identify with and a level of distrust to actions and opinions coming from other groups.

Now, let’s take deeper dive into Mr.X’s mind by looking some analytics from Google trends

(scroll down to go to the next page)

By Lorenzo Marchetti

Laureato in economia aziendale e management con lode alla Bocconi, ora frequenta la specialistica in International Management, sempre alla Bocconi.

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