12 Traps of Consciousness That Smart People Can Bypass

9 months ago

Do you know why childhood is believed to be a happy period? And why we get surprised when we calculate how much time has passed since our prom? It’s our tricky mind that sometimes changes the reality. We get trapped in a consciousness that depicts the world different than it really is. But there’s a way out.

Bright Side figured out which psychological effects block us from seeing reality as it is and what to do with all this. At the end of the article, there’s a bonus explaining why it’s necessary to keep your goals private.

12. Inclination toward the whole

Our brain doesn’t like unfinished things and non-integral objects and our body shape is usually the one that suffers due to this trait. Our brain perceives any portion of food as something integral and whole, even if it’s too big to be eaten in one sitting. Both a small can of soda and a bottle 2 times bigger, seem to be one portion for us, which means that we will subconsciously want to drink it all. That’s the reason why even now — when we don’t have any scarcity of food, the phrase ’ Finish it, or the food will go wasted!’ can still be heard in many houses.

  • Solution: When starting something new, it’s important to set specific goals that you want to achieve with its help. And you should learn to say ’stop’ not when your plate is empty, but when you are feeling full.

11. Peak-end rule

Which would you choose: to endure pain for 1 minute or 1 minute of pain and 30 seconds of discomfort after it? The sober mind says that we should choose the first option, but the post factum proves that people feel better after the second one. Experiments have proved that these last 30 seconds can erase painful memories. That’s the case study of the peak-end rule. We tend to judge events not on their overall activity but by their ending. An interesting movie might seem boring if it has a mediocre scene at the end, while an annoying colleague will become more attractive if he compliments you at the end of the day.

  • Solution: The peak-end rule reminds us that it’s important for us to finish any and all arrangements on a positive note.

10. Rosy retrospection

Childhood often seems a carefree period and is often remembered with a smile, however, we could have been experiencing more stress in childhood than now. This is explained by the fact that our brain tends to concentrate on positive memories. And it’s not only nostalgia that we are talking about. A not so good trip will seem nicer to you over time because some small annoying details will get erased from your memory.

  • Solution: You can keep looking at pleasant events through rose-colored glasses but you should keep in mind this tiny trick of the mind. The happiest memories are often not exactly as we recall them.

9. ’Hot hand’ phenomenon

One victory attracts more victories — that’s what our mind keeps saying when we are involved in a game or are watching someone play one. In fact, this imaginary stretch of luck is another trick that traps us. If a gamer won once, it doesn’t mean that the fortune favors him and that it cancels out the theory of probability. A ’hot hand’ doesn’t have more luck than a normal one, according to scientists.

  • Solution: Before taking a risk, it’s better to cool down and evaluate the stretch of luck with the cold mind of an observer.

8. Telescoping effect

When did you graduate from school? University? How long have you been working? These questions might confuse anyone. Sometimes, much to our surprise, we realize that more time has passed that it seems. It’s the telescoping effect that makes recent events look more remote and old events look closer. For example, the New Year holiday after a month might seem a distant event, but after a year or 2, you will be surprised at how fast time has passed. Scientists found out that the telescoping effect strengthens with age and a 65-year-old person’s perception of 5-year-old and 50-year-old events is approximately the same.

  • Solution: It’s recommended to keep old diaries and sign old photos so they don’t get lost in time.

7. Planning fallacy

Sydney Opera House was planned to be built within 4 years but the construction went beyond the set plans and took 10 years. The original cost of it was projected to be $7 million, but eventually it turned out to be $100 million. That’s an illustrative example of the fact that even multimillion-dollar projects suffer from a planning fallacy that their creators are exposed to. We tend to underestimate the time required for finishing a deal and look to the future with excessive positivity. Due to the planning fallacy phenomenon our brain doesn’t consider previous experiences, possible difficulties, and attracts the desired result artificially. That’s how not meeting deadlines, being overwhelmed with work, and not keeping promises appears.

  • Solution: Before making a promise or taking on a new project, it’s important to imagine not only an optimistic forecast but a pessimistic one as well. The realistic outcome is usually somewhere in the middle.

6. Impostor phenomenon

People that have reached success and experienced this syndrome often feel like impostors. They feel as if their success was a matter of luck, that it happened by mistake, that they aren’t accustomed to their surroundings yet, and that they didn’t deserve it. So, instead of rejoicing about their achievements and moving on, these people feel anxiety and get stuck. Many public figures experience the impostor syndrome, including celebrities like Emma Watson, in particular.

  • Solution: If you are familiar with the feeling that you don’t deserve all that you have, then it’s recommended that you make a list of any 30 things that you feel proud of. The list will remind you about the path covered and help you recognize your own significance.

5. Streisand effect

Do you remember the phrase ’Don’t think about a white monkey?’ The attempt to drive the thought out of your imagination only makes it more intrusive. In 2003, Barbara Streisand tried to delete the photo of her house that had been uploaded to the internet. Eventually, the photo became so popular that a separate psychological effect has been given this name — Streisand. This effect is defined by the fact that people tend to show more interest in things that are banned.
Not only does this effect work on the information on the internet, but also on sweets that seem to be more delicious if you are currently on a diet.

  • Solution: If you stop restricting yourself and start thinking about ’the white monkey’ then this thought will stop being so intrusive. The acceptance of thoughts and conscious choice work better than restrictions.

4. The IKEA effect

We tend to exaggerate the value of things that we have made ourselves despite their quality. An experiment showed that people who have assembled an IKEA closet with their own hands, valued it more than those who were asked to value the same closet but already fully assembled. And it’s not even only about the effort put forth. Do you remember the ’Inclination to the whole’ effect? The assembled closet gives a pleasant feeling of completeness that somewhat clouds a person’s mind. That’s one of the reasons for high prices for handmade stuff.

  • Solution: It’s important and necessary to value handmade things but it’s worth keeping in mind that for other people the value of a thing may be lower than for its owner and that’s absolutely normal.

3. Illusory truth effect

All information will seem truthful after we hear it several times. That’s the way the myth that ostriches hide their heads in sand appeared and rooted in people’s minds. Repetition makes information so familiar that our brain spends a minimum amount of resources on its processing, and we ultimately stop doubting its authenticity. That’s the exact method marketers use repeating the same ad slogans, making us believe them.

  • Solution: A simple phrase ’Trust but verify’ will help you avoid being cheated and making unnecessary purchases.

2. Just-world phenomenon

Vince Bucci/Invision/AP/East News, © Shameless / Bonanza Productions and co producers

The faith in a just world distorts the way you see the successes and failures of other people. In an experiment, scientists noticed that the viewers watching the process of another person being electrically shocked, switched from empathy to blaming the victim pretty quickly. They drew a conclusion that the examinee deserved these sufferings. Why? Because it’s very convenient to believe that everyone gets those things in life that they deserve, rather than realize that there is no world justice at all. But tragedies are not always the fault of their victims.

  • Solution: If our world is not fair then it means that anything can happen to you? Yes. So instead of focusing on the questions about fairness, it’s better to learn the necessary lessons from this or that situation.

1. The spotlight effect

Has it ever happened that you felt like the center of everyone’s attention when you put on something new? And if you go outside with a spot on your shirt, then you think that the whole street will call you unkempt. In fact, people tend to overestimate the attention of other people toward themselves. Our actions and appearance are not as significant as we think. These things happen because our mind gets into a trap called “The Spotlight Effect.”

  • Solution: Don’t be afraid to be yourself and express your personality. Passers-by are not that perceptive, don’t try to please them all.


Announcing your goals to other people lessens your chances of achieving them. A set of experiments has been held to find out whether that is true or not. The results turned out to be positive. It happens because your mind starts to perceive the goals shared with others as a part of your reality and that makes you feel relaxed. The phenomenon is called a ’premature sense of completeness.’ So next time you decide to boast about starting to jog or going on a diet, you’d better keep it to yourself. Anyway, it’s always more pleasant to show the achieved results, isn’t it?

Which of these effects seems to work best on you? Please tell us about it in the comments!


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"All information will seem truthful after we hear it several times." Which is why the government and news media keep repeating things, even though they're outright lies. Eventually people will believe them as the truth.


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