Week 44 in the year of our Lord 2021

Cognitive bias in reading the signs of the times

5 minutes to read

A few people are finishing up their advance reviews of our book (this is an image; you can’t click the links):

The Man’s Life’s thoughts on It’s Good To Be A Man

The best part about the book is that Michael got so sick during the second edit that he couldn’t write. He just wrote out or recorded rough notes, and sent them to Bnonn.

The result is a second draft that is neither Michael nor Bnonn. It’s us. It’s the product of brotherhood. The book was created by practicing what it preaches.

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There are a few common cognitive biases which we see commonly disabling Christians who ought to be thinking more critically about what is happening around us:

  • Normalcy bias makes it difficult for us to consider a “worst-case” situation, or adjust for a serious failure or disaster. Very simply, we assume everything will tend toward normal.

    As one researcher put it: “A normalcy bias causes us to assume that, although a catastrophic event has happened to others, it will not happen to me. If it does, we are shocked and unable to cope with it effectively, often under-estimate its full effects.”

  • Optimism bias exacerbates this: we tend to over-estimate the likelihood of favorable outcomes. There is a similar effect called the valence effect, which is where people expect that good things are more likely to happen than bad things.

  • The ostrich effect synergizes—we use the word advisedly—with these as well: people tend to avoid disagreeable information in favor of that which supports their existing desires.

  • Projection could perhaps be added to these. People interpret what various authorities are doing based on what they would be doing in that situation. This causes people who have basically sincere motivations to be utterly blindsided by sociopathic liars like those currently running the West.

These biases have led to a downplaying of the severity of our current situation. But that’s only one ditch.

There is another, which is this: Responding imprudently, once we recognize the very precarious situation we are in.

Again, you can see various cognitive biases at work:

  • Clustering illusion. This is where we wrongly over-estimate the importance of small clusters or patterns in a large data-set. This often pairs with the well-known confirmation bias—related to the ostrich effect—where we only focus on information that confirms our existing preconceptions. You see a lot of this with libertarians.
  • Belief bias. This is where we accept or reject various arguments or evidence, based on how plausible we think their conclusions are—rather than based on how good they actually are, and whether they support the conclusion well in the first place.

So, do we think everything will crash down around us in the coming months?

It is plausible. There are real indicators. It could happen. God is judging the West, and if you look at our relatively recent history, we have made a very good go at defiling every possible law he has given us, in the most lascivious ways possible. Considering the patterns given to us in Scripture, the theological term that historians might well use, looking back at whether we deserved whatever is coming, will be “good and hard.” And we do mean whatever.

That being said, many of the doomsayer types are relying on clusters of data that confirm pre-existing apocalyptic tendencies.

We love that the first line of Kipling’s poem, “If,” is:

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…

That’s where we are at right now. We need cool and calm thinkers. It’s foolish to ignore the signs of our time—but there is a danger of overreacting.

Here are two interrelated tendencies we’ve observed among men:

  1. The less a doctrine demands immediate action from them, the more dogmatic they are about it, and about its theoretical application.
  2. The more a doctrine demands immediate action from them, the less dogmatic they are about it and its theoretical application.

Why? Probably because the immediacy and reality brought on by the demand to act is humbling. In other words, we’d have to have our own actions in line with our principles.

If the past year has taught us anything, it is that it’s much easier to boast about what we would do, when that is far off and unlikely, than actually doing the hard thing when it comes.

1 Kings 20:11 wisely says, “Let not him who straps on his armor boast himself as he who takes it off.”

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Talk again next week,

Bnonn & Michael

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