Trust your cognitive biases

And why I love diners where the food is just OK.

Taylor Foreman

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“Trying to avoid cognitive biases is not only impossible, it’s a waste of life,” I say to my friend, slapping the cracked formica countertop of our booth, fueled by the cheap coffee always filled to the brim by the elderly waitress.

I forced him to drive to this mediocre diner from the west side of LA (that’s almost 2 hours in traffic). I wanted him to experience my favorite diner.

Why?

The food is low-quality and overpriced. The menu is the size of a novella. The building was constructed in 1946, and the last time the orange leather booths and the off-brown floor were refurbished was in 1978. Cooks bustle behind a brick half-wall, and the waitstaff is an elderly-yet-well-oiled-machine.

I love it.

What’s to love? Nothing “measureable.” LA is filled to the brim with restaurants with a much better cost-benefit on pretty much any conceivable metric. Hey, what can I say? I like a diner.

I found a metaphor to explain why I won’t be talked out of my extreme diner bias.

The optical illusion metaphor

Say, I showed you an optical illusion. Like this one:

You’d look at it and think, “Yeah, cool.”

And I’d say, “See how the middle line is actually the same length?”

And you’d say, “Yes.”

And then I’d say, “Well, we agree then — your visual system is subject to creating a false impression under certain circumstances, yes?”

And, now suspicious of my motives, you’d say, “…yes.”

And, then, drooling, I’d say, “Well, therefore, you’d have to agree with me that you should never trust your eyesight again!”

Ha! Gotcha! You have to agree!

The Bible of this kind of thinking

I was a traveling salesman for a tech startup when I graduated college — I drove all over the country listening…

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Taylor Foreman

Essays bridging mythic meaning and the modern world. Click here to have them appear in your inbox some Saturday mornings --> https://www.taylorforeman.com/