Discover more from The Wisdom Project
🧠The Fault in our Narratives
Wisdom Letter #163
Hey friend 👋
Today we will discuss a cognitive limitation called The Narrative Fallacy.
It’s the vulnerability of our brain in falling for narratives.
We take random pieces of information and form well structured narratives from them. Even when no logical narratives exist.
Love this quote from Taleb -
“We seek explanations even to the point that we will manufacture them”
Before we dive deeper, let’s look at the find of the week -
🤩 Find of the week
This week’s find is the the Health Squeeze newsletter.
In 5 minutes per week they share interesting healthy habits via email. If you’re interested in health research, news or even practical health tips then you will like this newsletter. Check it out.
Now, onto today’s topic -
The Narrative Fallacy
🤔 What is it?
The Narrative Fallacy is the concept that our brain tends to fall for well crafted narratives, even when they are far from the truth.
It was coined and further explained by Taleb in his seminal books : Fooled by Randomness & The Black Swan.
We have this tremendous urge to make sense of everything. To rationalize everything. To fit every event in a neat pattern or a smart story that explains everything.
The narrative fallacy works against us when its used to influence our behavior. And it works for us when we can use it intelligently to our advantage.
Why does it happen?
Our brain works on stories. It craves for patterns in everyday mundane events. That’s why we find it hard to memorize a bunch of random facts, but can easily remember the most elaborate stories.
Our brain is a pattern matching machine. It uses patterns in every piece of data to make better sense of it.
And its great, its very effective.
Thousand of years of evolution is evidence that this pattern matching algorithm works, and works really well.
Sometimes we even look for patterns where none exist. Many a times we don’t realize we are being influenced by the pattern matching tendency of our brains.
And its this ignorance that works against us.
The Narrative we fall for
There are different types of narratives we fall for -
All religions use the power of narratives to explain the unexplainable. When we don’t have the anwers for the big questions in life, we turn to the narratives that religions provide and hold on to them. Doesn’t matter if they’re accurate or not.
This includes modern religions like Democracy vs Authoritarianism, Socialism vs Capitalism, Conservatism vs Liberalism etc.
We often fail to realize that these are just narratives, not hard truths of nature.
Perhaps the biggest impact of the narrative fallacy is how it deludes us about our own success or failure.
Ever hear about the college dropout who became a tech billionaire?
There are thousands who don’t make it.
But we love to hear the stories of success and believe that we can live those stories ourselves.
Me vs Me
Another way the narrative fallacy impacts us personally is that we misinterpret the role of luck and skill in our lives.
Its very easy to fall for your own narrative.
A lot of success in life can be attributed to being at the right place at the right time. There’s an element of randomness and luck in every aspect of life. We often forget this fact when the times are good and life is going well for us.
And the reverse is also true. When times are tough, we rush to attribute our failures to just bad luck, or to some other third party or person which is beyond our control. We tend to shirk responsibility away.
When we start believing in our own false narratives we indulge in a kind of victim mentality that can prevent us from getting out of a rut and improving ourselves.
For a deeper discussion on The Narrative Fallacy and how we can tackle it read our older issue -
In it we share 5 practical tips on how to tackle the narrative fallacy.
Like what you’re reading? Get more of it in your inbox every Sunday. Improve your decisions, think better to live better!
Already a subscriber? share it with a cool friend 🙏
Quote to think about -
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.”
- Richard Feynman
Question to ask yourself -
Which narratives in your life do you believe in very strongly? Are they backed by real data and evidence, or is it a story someone has told you. More importantly, is it a story you are telling yourself?
Think about it!
More from us -
How can we help you?
Whenever you’re ready, there are 3 ways we can help you -
📈 Make better decisions across health, wealth and relationships. Learn the mental models for busy professionals here.
💪 Build new habits, shed bad habits, become the best version of yourself here.
🧠 Find your Mastermind here.
Help us Improve
Help us improve this newsletter. Just hit reply and share what you thought of this issue, or click on an emoji below 👇
Thank you for reading 🙏
That's our time this week. See you next week 👋
If you’ve not been having fun here, please consider unsubscribing.
We don’t mind.
No hard feelings.
We would prefer it if you unsubscribe than not open the newsletter.
But if you do enjoy it.
Please do us a favor, please ask one of your friends to subscribe.
We rely on word of mouth to grow this newsletter.
It would mean a lot to us🙏
Ayush & Aditi
PS: If someone cool shared this with you, then make sure you sign up to stay in the loop :)