Barn Door

May 29, 2020

Each time I take a quick glance at the lines below, I am surprised by what my brain wants to see versus what I can logically assess using a ruler or a little more concentration.

A close up of a watch

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Why does the top line consistently appear longer?

There are several theories on why.  Regardless of which ones are correct, the importance is how our brains process information and what it WANTS to see!

If a quick view of 2 simple lines creates this perception, just think of how perception may lead you astray for matters that are complicated and time sensitive.

You remember the 2017 Oscars error?  Warren Beatty gets handed the “supposed” card for best picture but it is the wrong card.  The card he holds is for the winner of best actress and lists the associated movie.  He shows it to Faye Dunaway.  She tunes in to what she wants to see and in turn they announce the wrong winner.

In the Aviation world there is a condition called the Barn Door effect.  In short, pilots proceed to destination when they can see the airport or when others have just landed in advance of them even though all the signs suggest they should not proceed.  This condition is so common that pilots use the term “get there-itis”.

We may not be pilots or actors, however we all have fixated on goals in our lives.  The more we fixate the more we are subject to illusions. Denial and disbelief are hardwired into our brains.

Is there a solution or methodology to address this?

Following are some ideas:

  1. When events deviate from expectations, it can be really difficult to mentally     accept what is taking place.  Asking clarifying and “confirming”  questions of yourself or others.  The situation may feel inappropriate but can save you from a much bigger problem.
  2. Understand that the more stress you experience in a situation, especially one that is time sensitive, the more likely you are to freeze and do nothing rather   than run away.  This is part of our animal makeup for how we deal with predators.  In the Deepwater Horizon disaster, it took more than a minute to sound the general alarm after explosive gas started enveloping the platform and even longer to disconnect the rig from the well.
  3. The more you get used to admitting you made a mistake and make mistakes, the easier changing your course of action becomes.  By admitting that you     don’t see the “lines” as the same length, it becomes easier to make a good decision because you know the hard-wiring in your brain is playing tricks on you.

This condition finds itself in many aspects of our lives.  You want to close a business deal you have been negotiating for months and may find yourself accepting terms you shouldn’t.  You don’t check your email before sending because you want to be done work for the day.

When a horse sees a barn door, it races towards the stable, its mind unchangeable.

Getting fixated on a goal is a noble cause

When the finish line is within reach of your goal, be on alert that you are nearing the “barn door” and subject to this bias.   Between a finish line in sight and time constraints, the barn door effect can lead to poor decision making.  Being aware that we are all subject to this effect will help you avoid future problems.

Have a great weekend, Karl

I remained too much inside my head and ended up losing my mind.  Edgar Allen Poe

Karl Choltus

Deep thinking Canadian sharing thoughts created in the shower.