Control is an Illusion

We interact with a monumental amount of information on a daily basis, whether it’s a side conversation with a friend, a TV ad or social media news feed.

Naturally, most of these interactions are managed by our own brain autopilot “The Unconscious mind“. Therefore, rarely we have the tendency to judge or question our perspective about things in a sequence of quotidian events.

In a recently published Ted talk, Julia Galef introduced and defined the term Motivated Reasoning as the “soldier mindset”, referring to the fact that humans’ daily interactions may have an embedded bias toward a certain behavior or attitude.

For example, a social study showed two cases for a little girl standing lonely on the street. In the case where the girl was presented as rich and well-dressed, people attempted to interfere and see if she needed help, and when she was presented as a poor girl, people abstained from reaching her.

Although some may interpret the study as a clear evidence for the materialistic world we live in, the truth maybe different. That the people may have posited the poor girl is more likely to be homeless rather than lost or needy.

Motivated Reasoning is a phenomenon in which our unconscious motivations, our desires and fears, shape the way we interpret information. ~Julia Galef

As the people decision to interact or refrain in a certain situation are based on risks, “Motivated Reasoning” can be referred to as the Risk-aware mindset or the conscious mind. The risk-aware mindset operates and make decisions based on previously learned experiences.

On the other hand, the unconscious mindset or as some may refer to it as the brain’s “autopilot”, is the Risk-free mindset. Whereby the reaction for a situation is based purely and entirely on the environment input. The kids mindset can be a perfect example for such a case, whereby less (or no) previous experience can interfere with a kid reaction for a given situation.

The aforementioned psychological facts can be illustrated in the following flowchart

Flowchart for a Basic Human Reaction Model

The input refers to all the details captured by the human senses (awareness), the natural reaction is the risk-free reaction whereby the response is characterized purely based on the input, the predefined reactions are the risk-aware reactions which represent reactions based on our very own experiences.


Moreover, the thoughts represent the bias of the system (W1 and W2) which is our tendency toward being risk-free or risk-aware.

The illustrated system characteristics are very basic and abstract, however, they maybe capable of providing a sufficient understanding about the human behavior in interactions. In which, what is being showed on the surface doesn’t necessarily fully represents what’s being held inside, as the closest thing to our control (our own body) is not fully under our control.

Have any thoughts? please leave a comment.


3 thoughts on “Control is an Illusion

  1. Jenny kahaleh says:

    Intresting!!! The thing is that w’ve been raised to increase the pre-defined reactions (count to 10 before you think or speak)


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