Shortcuts (Repost)

These are reposts of a series I did years ago on mental shortcuts.

Photo by Jeremy Perkins on

We humans laud our superiority over the rest of the world. We even claim to be better than other humans. The chief attribute we compare is intelligence.

An interest of mine regarding Psychology in college was failures of the mind. Phineas Gage suffered a brain injury that drastically changed his behavior. That was really cool! Yet, that and other cases are relatively rare. More universally, the brain works much more nuanced than most people give credit. I think much of the problems of society tie back to how the brain works and maybe even societal attempts at glossing over the limitations.

Rather than one really long post, I am going to break these up into several. And much of this has been bumping around in my head for months, but I took a few hours to lay it all down.

  1. Illusions
  2. Labeling
  3. Math
  4. Multitasking
  5. Rules

For going on a decade, I have called these Cheating. Rather than taking in all the information, completely processing it, and strategically acting upon it, our brains selectively attend to a small portion, throws out even more, and acts upon incomplete information. Most of the time it works. Much of the time it doesn’t and we have no idea so we just think it works. Every once in a while we get burned by our brains not following the rules we expect them to follow. So to make this more palatable, I am going to try calling these Shortcuts.

Shortcuts: Multitasking (repost)

These are reposts of a series I did years ago on mental shortcuts.

(This post is part of a series. Intro > 1. Illusions > 2. Labeling > 3. Math > 4. Multitasking > 5. Rules)

Photo by Hassan OUAJBIR on

This one combines the worst of Illusions and Math. We trust our senses and inadequately assess risk.

We have limited capacities for attending to what happens around us. Two or more objects are not being held at the same time in memory. We switch between them. Once we have copied them from long term or permanent memory into working memory then short term, we can find those copies pretty quickly again. The more complicated the behavior and the more dissimilar the two or more tasks, the worse we multitask. By worse, I mean we are more prone to error and take longer time.

Given all the research and media coverage on how bad we are at multitasking and risks associated of texting and driving, I see people doing it daily. A law here allows police to write tickets to people who do it for the past few years. Texting is also pretty bad even on hands-free devices. Like other risky behaviors, these approaches are unlikely to stop humans from putting themselves in dangerous situations.

(This post is part of a series. Intro > 1. Illusions > 2. Labeling > 3. Math > 4. Multitasking > 5. Rules)

Diaper math

white blue orange and yellow drawstring bag

Photo by Public Domain Pictures on

Pre-parent, I was aware of parents complaining about diapers. The complexity staggers the imagination.

Some brands work better than others, so one has to find the right balance of cost to failure rate. Get a bad model and one pays by having to get the poop out of clothes or even worse throwing away items.

Then there is the timing of switching the size. Each has a maximum weight limit, but I swear it seemed like when Fleur was close to the max size, there were more blowouts.

Comparison shopping even within a specific model is a pain because each store has different size boxes. So, you cannot just look at the price on the box. Instead, you have to try to calculate the cost per diaper to find the best deal.

To keep from going to brick and mortar stores, one might go online to get prices and do the math to save the amount of travel to just one store. One store’s website lists a 136, a 140, and a 144 count box of same brand, model, and size. $7 price difference between the largest box and the others which are the same price. Which comes out to about 4 cents per diaper difference.

The stores also know they overprice them and somehow when we need to buy again, they always have some kind of deal. The same store as above likes to offer a gift card if you purchase over a certain amount AT THE SAME TIME doing a multiple amounts off for buying them as a pickup.

So, the formula is: ([(list price – discount) x number boxes] – gift card) / (number of diapers per box x number of boxes)

Huggies, I think is trying to be as confusing as possible. They have three similar sounding models:

  • Snug & Dry
  • Little Snugglers
  • Little Movers

I think this is mainly due to the fact the size 3 hits all three models. Once we get to size 4, I think it goes back to just have to decide between a couple models again.