Common Outlook Consulting Inc. New Perspectives
June 2016 - Issue # 16-06
Founder's Message

In the Executive Master's Degree I recently completed at INSEAD, one of the professors teaching in the program (Enrico Diecidue) gave the class a great example about how people tend to rationalize decisions or points of view.  


In the example, participants in the study were asked to say what they would pay for an unmarked 'expensive' bottle of champagne. Just before submitting their bid, they were asked to tell the researchers the last few digits of their social security number. The bids were then assessed. Consistently, the people who had high social security numbers bid higher than the people who had low social security numbers. This study was meant to demonstrate the power of anchoring (about which there is considerable research to support the finding in this study).  


The most interesting part to me, however, was what Professor Diecidue said next: despite the obvious bias in the distribution of their bids based on their social security numbers, all parties were able to come up with seemingly legitimate reasons to justify their bids - and when challenged, insisted their bids were 'legitimate' and based on the merits! Wow.  


To me, this shows just how problematic - and dangerous - it can be to get too 'stuck' on our point of view in any given situation, without adequately challenging it.  


As such, this month we're looking at our ability to rationalize and how those rationalizations justify self-favourtism, and in the process, trap us in prisons of our own making.  



"The truth is, most people who do what you'd call 'wrong' do it for what they call 'right' reasons."
~ B. Sanderson, Warbreaker

"Everybody makes excuses for themselves [that] they wouldn't be prepared to make for other people."
~ Rebecca Goldstein


Rationalizations are easy to come by; the truth is a little harder. So when you think you've got it 'right', think again. Always be wondering whether there's a better point of view out there.


Coming Up  
July will bring you our "summertime surprise". Watch for our next Newsletter to discover what it is.




Our days are full of rationalizations1... indeed, we are an extremely adept species at being able to dance around the real reasons behind our decisions and behaviours, and highly skilled at making them appear reasonable, justified, and even laudable.  


Small wonder, for rationalizing helps us tolerate or avoid the anxiety, aggression, hostility, resentment, or frustration we may have about difficult situations or decisions. In fact we are so adept at rationalizing that our reasonings spring to mind the split second after a decision is made or an action is taken... and very often, without us being fully aware that we have skipped over the real reason or truth.

Read more


Peter Hiddema


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