If You Believe, You Can Achieve!

Money, Brains, Debt, Lean Management, MudaSeveral months ago during a meeting a fellow associate went to the wall switch to drop a projection screen. He pressed the button; the screen came down about two inches from the ceiling and then stopped. He tried again with no results. He then tried to retract it back but it didn’t move. He pressed both up and down several times but it still didn’t work. He turned perplexed and stated the fact that the screen seemed to be broken.

Another associate, who had witnessed this, walked up to the button and pressed both up and down several times. He then announced to the group “yes, it appears broken.”

Still, a third person that had seen both attempts apparently didn’t believe it. She walked up to the button, pressed both up and down several times to no avail.

Shortly thereafter one of our organizations executives walked into the room. She was advised of the technical glitch to which she immediately began pressing the button several times as well.

How many times did the button have to be pressed for this group to be convinced that the screen was not going to come down?

I believe I may never run out of examples to use the famous Einstein quote “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result.”

Why humans have a tendency to repeat the same mistakes may actually be rooted in the way our brains are designed.

This article was featured in the Festival of Frugality hosted by the Pragmatic Environmentalism and Carnival of Money Hacks at Passive Income Now. Please check out this festival for many other great articles about personal finance.

Professor Kevin Dunbar of Dartmouth University has helped to uncover why people seem to disregard factual information. In an effort to understand why scientists sometimes disregard information contrary to their hypothesis.

Dunbar showed two videos to groups of students. One had two different sized balls falling from a tower at the same rate (Galileo’s famous experiment from the leaning tower of Pisa). The other video had two different sized balls falling with the larger seemingly falling faster.

One group of students without a background in physics had a hard time believing two different sized balls fell at the same rate. Watching the videos while being scanned by a fMRI machine the Professor noted increased activity of the anterior cingulate cortex(ACC). This portion of your brain is associated with perceptions of inaccuracies. Neuroscientists refer to this as an “Oh crap” circuit.

Another group of students had a background in physics. When they saw the accurate video, their ACC circuit did nothing, but when they saw the video with two balls falling at different rates their ACC circuit lit up like Christmas lights.

We all have this switch in our brain that is triggered when we perceive something is wrong. What I found more interesting was that the Professor also tracked the activity of our dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DPC). This area of the brain is like a video editing machine. When we identify something we don’t believe in our DPC expertly removes this unwanted material from our mind’s eye. Naturally we simply ignore information contrary to our beliefs. We see what we want to see.

So what do ACC’s, DPC’s and physics have to do with personal finance? Simply this, the content doesn’t matter. Physics or finances, we are prone to ignore our mistakes that we don’t fully understand.

If we don’t know that gravity has the same effect on two different sized objects how can we believe in it when we see it. If we don’t know how, or believe in our own ability, to control our financial destiny we will be more likely to ignore or simply accept our lot in life.

Taking the time to learn about financial management and believing that we can achieve wealth may be the difference between those that dream and those that achieve.

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photo by wsuph001

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