Don’t Think Fast
These psychological pitfalls may play into the home purchase process
Israel’s finally returning to “normal.” Our borders are slowly reopening. People can finally come to visit beloved family members, daven at favorite holy places, and start arranging plans to move to Eretz Hakodesh. With record-low mortgage rates in Israel and surging numbers of hopeful future olim, this seems like the perfect time to make that move.
Just thinking about such plans can make people very emotional. And when one compounds those feelings with the intense stress, anxiety, and disruption many of us have been living with — practically as our emotional baseline — for the past year or so, our desire for consistency, security, and home can become most powerful indeed.
While this potent sense of longing can be the impetus that stirs us to finally act, we must be careful not to let emotion overpower our seichel…
Mr. Gordon knows this is the year he’ll finally buy in Israel. He’s really and truly ready. Having recently watched his two brothers-in-law purchase apartments in Yerushalayim, and now having seen his best friend go through the process, Mr. Gordon feels like he’s practically been through it himself. He’s even read tons on the topic… So, when a good opportunity arises, Mr. Gordon doesn’t think twice or even seek another opinion. Why should he? He’s virtually an expert on the topic…
Maybe this scenario sounds exaggerated. But stories like this happen all the time — and not just to the foolhardy. Our brains are hardwired to take shortcuts, especially when it comes to making tough decisions. These neural shortcuts allow our unconscious mind to deal with a lot of incoming information — while leaving the conscious mind to make decisions. These shortcuts are really helpful. They’re what make us duck when we see an object flying at our head. But the same shortcuts can also lead us to make poor choices; they can cause us to put stock in false expertise, including our own.
Did you ever notice that your eye is naturally drawn to the person wearing the brightest colors? Or you pay attention to the loudest person in a room? Or you spot the tallest people first? Even if they’re not offering anything worthwhile or useful, we just pay them more attention. Why? Blame your brain and those shortcuts.
False expertise is misidentified competence. We (subconsciously) avoid doing the harder work of seeking out real experts. We look where it’s easiest to find a “pro,” perceiving expertise where there is none, or evaluating proficiency using irrelevant measures. Sometimes that means looking to friends or acquaintances because they’re convenient and accessible, rather than researching and contacting true pros. And sometimes we even look to ourselves, convincing ourselves we have the experience, knowledge, familiarity, whatever — even when we don’t.
Even when everyone in a group recognizes who the true expert on a particular topic is, research shows that 40 percent of the time the group still defers to the most extroverted person, even if he has no real experience in the matter. Other studies have shown that “airtime,” i.e., the quantity of time spent talking, is a greater indicator of perceived influence than actual expertise. Kind of shocking, right?!
Guess who’s the loudest, most frequently heard voice in your head? Uh-huh. It is easier to just trust our own instinct and believe in our own research, experience, and expertise, especially because we often overestimate our own knowledge. But we owe ourselves intellectual honesty.
Are we overclaiming? Professing to know things we really don’t? People who believe they know more than they actually do are less inclined to pursue further education or seek advice from others. Something to bear in mind!
Through the Looking Glass
The Klein family was super close to signing on a dirah in the new Prestige Project. “Maybe we should just get another opinion on it,” Mrs. Klein said to her husband. Though the Prestige Project was most reputable and the company’s lawyer top-notch, Mr. Klein agreed. He immediately called his old yeshivah buddy. He and Menachem not only went back years, they saw eye-to-eye on everything from current events to hashkafah, from food to investments. And he could trust Menachem with this personal information. As soon as Menachem heard about Prestige, he concurred with Mr. Klein. “A great idea! If I had the money, I’d do it myself.”
Mr. Klein shouldn’t have gone to Menachem. Instead, he should have approached someone who’d challenge his opinion and ask tough questions.
Mr. Klein had been “seeking a mirror,” falling victim to “looking-glass merit.” It’s natural to seek validation. When we find someone who agrees with us or is like us, it reinforces our own value. This unfortunately leads us to choose confidants and advisers based on similarity — not merit.
In such a scenario, we’ve already made our minds up. Now we just need someone — some just like us — to reassure us and confirm our choice. This is a kind of confirmation bias; we already think something is right or good for us, so now we just need to find evidence (or yes-men) to prove we’re right. Seeking the advice of like-minded people feels good, making us think we’re right. But it isn’t necessarily so…
The Hard Work of Good Decisions
Important decisions are usually the most stressful to make. They’re multifactorial and involve a lot of uncertainty and usually some time pressure, too. With no single right answer and an overabundance of information at our fingertips (often from conflicting sources!), making those choices can become downright overwhelming.
Enlisting the help of an expert to present the relevant data and reliable information, and to sift through all the “noise,” isn’t a luxury. It’s just smart.
Thomas C. Redman, president of Data Quality Solutions, wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “Before you jump to a decision, you should ask yourself, ‘Should someone else who has time to assemble a complete picture make this decision?’” He says you should also be asking yourself, “Do I really have a broad enough perspective to make and defend this decision?” He advises asking yourself what would happen if you moved in the opposite direction of your original choice, saying you should even gather data to defend that opposite viewpoint. Then he suggests reevaluating your decisions with all that data.
It’s a big job. But it’s the wise way to do things. Or, he says, you can just get “the right people involved” and “subject your thinking to someone who will really challenge it.”
The Getter Group will not make your decisions for you. But we’ll ask the tough questions. And we’ll present the full perspective. We’ll piece together that complete picture, giving you the background and relevant data to make educated decisions. You’ll know why you’re making your choice, you’ll be doing it from a place of strength, and you’ll be going through a real process to arrive at your answer. Get the right people involved. Call The Getter Group 718-473-3950 or email email@example.com.