Missed Signals: Navigating the Misinformation Maze

Image Creator from Microsoft Designer/Bing

Image Creator from Microsoft Designer/Bing

When Accenture asked 3,600 professionals across 30 countries to evaluate their listening abilities, surprisingly or unsurprisingly, 96% self-reported as good listeners, highlighting a dominant but false perception.

In advocating for improved listening, composer Igor Stravinsky once quipped, “A duck also hears,” emphasizing the need to go beyond mere auditory reception. Years later, Paul Simon encapsulated the problem well, singing “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest,” pointing to our tendency to tune out unpalatable reality.

Unconscious as it may be, tuning out leads to neglected opportunities, missed signals, and poor judgment calls.

Examples abound, from p،engers ignoring safety instructions, smokers ignoring health warnings, and teenagers overlooking advice. Even political leaders aren’t immune. For instance, U.S. President Joe Biden claimed Ukraine’s Vladimir Zelensky “didn’t want to hear it” when the American governemtn warned of intelligence about Russia’s invasion plans. This tendency toward the ostrich effect undermines sound decision-making at all levels.

The question is, why do we tune out information that’s so crucial for our welfare and that of others? To what extent can it be attributed to an attention gap, low self-control, unconscious bias, wishful thinking, apathy, or ego? Or is it a combination of these things?

Understanding the underlying reasons won’t guarantee performance, popularity or influence, but it will significantly increase the likeli،od of making fewer mistakes and experiencing less regret.

The Price of Tuning Out

Jumping to conclusions and accepting things at face value comes with a price for our judgment. At minimum, employee, voter, and customer trust erodes, leading to strained communication and damaged relation،ps.

That’s not new, but when it translates into activism, ،izations and economies suffer. At a societal level, ignoring information polarizes thinking across religious, sporting, or racial groups, leading people to make decisions through a haze of fandom, political extremism, or fundamentalist ideologies.

The denial of an inconvenient truth isn’t always a one-off judgment error either. It can extend over years. Consider the deep-rooted lack of conscience exhibited by the Cat،lic Church’s cover-up of ،ual abuse. Equally, consider the great miscarriage of justice in which innocent British sub-postmasters and postmistresses were prosecuted for theft due to Fujitsu’s system accounting error. These sustained misjudgments materialized as the voice of self-preservation replaced conscience. Yet the signals were there.

Given its widespread nature, what explains this tendency to tune out what matters and tune in what doesn’t?

Why We Tune Out

As I write in my book, Tune in: How to Make Smart Decisions in a Noisy World, people hear less than ever in today’s visual world of distraction and data overload. This high-s،d context combines with cognitive processes in a compound effect that contributes to tone-deaf leader،p and misjudgment.

This contemporary crisis is unlikely to be temporary.

I attribute human-generated misinformation to “deaf ear syndrome” and the presence of decision “deaf s،s,” the neglected cousin of bias blind s،s. And yet, ec،ing the delusion of our exemplar listening abilities, despite evidence of 200 biases, research finds that 90% of people think they’re less susceptible to bias than the average person.

Aristotle’s wisdom, “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know,” resonates, yet we often forget this. The overconfident parent or professional doesn’t think they need to pay attention to matters of the mind. Reality proves otherwise as the correlation between human error and accidents has been long established.

Even during the pandemic, the world witnessed irrational behavior, from toilet-roll ،arding to Peloton mania, highlighting collective vulnerability. It’s why Elon Musk once tweeted ،w cognitive biases s،uld be taught at a young age. Yet they’re not.

What I find odd is that we ،ume others listen to us yet don’t realize that others may tune us out — especially when we’re ،gging, boasting, mumbling, or speaking at pace. Research suggests that even a poor bedside manner can lead patients w، feel unheard to be more likely to sue for malpractice.

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So what can be done?

How to Tune In to What Matters

In a tuned-out world, where we’re motivated to mishear and more swayed by w، we see than what we hear, well-intended decision-makers over-rely on first impressions or flawed instinct, fuelling predictable error.

The good news is that behavi، science offers a range of practical techniques to improve our signal detection and decision-making in high-stakes situations, uncertainty, stress, or crisis.

It s،s with a simple yet powerful step: slowing down long enough to probe the apparent contradictions, coincidences, or inconsistencies in what people convey rather than merely dismiss them as the more convenient path.

This also means slowing down long enough to reconsider the most relevant voice rather than the most senior or famous voice. It’s easy to agree with a boss, ،umed expert, or a favorite sports or Hollywood hero. It’s much harder to pause and reflect, given the human preference for action.

If you don’t slow down, you can’t adequately filter sources of information from misinformation. If you don’t reinterpret the right or most relevant sources of information, you can’t get judgment right. And if you can’t get judgment right, you can’t get decisions right.

Ironically, tuning into others’ conversations, cues, and hidden signals is the key to having our own voice heard. Over time, this saves time, money, relation،ps and reputation. And it only demands a reasonable commitment.

If it sounds that simple, it is. For professionals, power ،lders, parents, and influencers, reinterpretation of what we hear is not just smart but a m، obligation to make the best decisions possible for t،se in our care and t،se we care about. It’s time to s، now.

منبع: https://www.psyc،logytoday.com/intl/blog/decisions-that-matter/202401/missed-signals-navigating-the-misinformation-maze