We humans have a strong tendency to believe what is presented to us, without applying even a minimum of reflection or logical reasoning. Instead we try to come up with explanations in hindsight, for why we thought it was true.
Here is an entertaining list of April Fool’s Day jokes people actually believed in.
In case you did not know: you can be punished for drinking alcohol while surfing the internet.
Or the fact that in Norway we have two suns. The normal one and the midnight sun.
What You See Is All There Is – WYSIATI
What You See Is All There Is. That is what Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, wrote about in his book “ Thinking, Fast and Slow” . It is about our strong tendency to jump to conclusions based on limited evidence, and information.
The main reason is that such a story is easier for us to understand. And we believe more in what makes sense to us, than complex scenarios that would involve massive brain effort for us to grasp. What we understand easily makes us more convinced that we are right. Not the amount or quality of the evidence.
I have yet to found anyone who does not believe in climate change, who can claim to have any profound knowledge on the subject. Or on how science works at all, for that matter. Overconfidence is, according to Kahneman, a manifestation of WYSIATI.
Therefore, WYSIATI can have dire consequences. From world leaders denying climate change, to public support for Hitler, or any other noxious authoritarian figure.
No human being or sector are vaccinated against What You See Is All There Is. That goes of course for the aid and development sector, as well.
Here are two examples from the excellent “What Went Wrong?” project in Kenya:
“No answer: Kenya’s gender-based violence hotline fails to connect.”
“Promises kept? Residents stranded in temporary shelters after housing project stalls.”
My take is that WYSIATI was very much involved in the failure of these projects.
We need to bear in mind that we are constantly being duped, by ourselves or others, often unintentionally.
Ask yourself, if there might be more to an issue, than what is in front of you. And that some missing information would might alter your opinion or decision all together.