3 MIN READ | Cognitive Psychology

Mario Maresca

Those Insidious Ice Cubes: How Do We Brainwash Ourselves

Cite This
Mario Maresca, (2020, February 7). Those Insidious Ice Cubes: How Do We Brainwash Ourselves. Psychreg on Cognitive Psychology. https://www.psychreg.org/brainwash-ourselves/
Reading Time: 3 minutes

An image of laughing about, because it was born for this purpose: Four different alcoholic drinks, vodka, ouzo, whiskey and gin – each with the addition of ice – seem to have harmful effects on some of our internal organs, respectively kidneys, liver, heart, and the brain.

The brilliant image concludes that it is the fault of the ice, the only thing visibly common to all combinations. It is clear that there is also alcohol, but that is in disguise, hidden, told with exotic names. And then many like it!

The intent of the person who designed the image is ironic; it must amuse the viewer. It made me smile a lot, and then it made me think: everyone finds their own excuse to get the accounts back and to make sense of the things that happen.

Above all, we tend to build our justifications for making ears as a merchant when we confront ourselves with something that we would not like to hear, that could hurt us, that we don’t like, that requires commitment.

The human nature

I am passionate about how we, typical of us human beings, can be irrational. Better, we erroneously tend to overestimate our reasoning skills. When facing an event, we are usually satisfied with the first explanations, the ones most at hand.

From here, we begin building on our castles of considerations, precarious as the roots from which we start. The good news is that the intelligence and culture we invoke in full voice have nothing to do with it.

When we have to elaborate on an event, a (typical) human being goes through a series of complex processes. We capture data, give a label, attribute a subjective value, mentally re-elaborates them, and produce a result.

The process behind convincing ourselves of something

All this process would be consistent with what we want to achieve or do from the event itself. All this will then be available for subsequent reworkings of the experience and will be an obvious starting point when an opportunity arises that will resemble something similar to the event already experienced.

The problem is that, without realising it and in good faith, we often acquire the starting data in a vague, insufficient, and superficial way without considering everything is individual, personal, and partial.

The elaboration will be incomplete and inadequate, and the product will be far below optimal. On the other hand, everything tends to become annoying when our product of the mind, absolutely individual, is glorified to the level of objective truth, and we are ready to defend it at all costs.

How do we behave?

  • None of us can manage complexity, overly multifaceted, and ever-changing.
  • Emotions play a crucial role. Especially if we are under stress, and the stimuli that overwhelm us are too many.
  • When facing complexity, human perception, already usually vague and insufficient, as well as subjective and individual, becomes even more so.
  • We tend to make our choices based on our mostly inaccurate and fallacious shortcuts of thoughts and biases

Factors that affects our thoughts and biases

  • What we think doesn’t threaten our status quo
  • What doesn’t imply an expenditure of energy perceived as excessive
  • What we believe wouldn’t harm or penalise us
  • What seems to save us or improve our lives
  • What sounds familiar to us or already experienced
  • What seems quick, which doesn’t take too long
  • What seems close, at hand
  • What has been done (or said) by someone we think is similar to us


Whether we like it or not, it is quite right that the ‘gut’ rules, the head justifies. For all that’s written, it would be essential to continue to cultivate a healthy doubt, to curb the urge to make a judgment, to evaluate the alternatives, especially those that could disconfirm our position, instead of those that make us right and comfortable.


Image credit: Freepik

Mario Maresca is an Executive and Systemic Team Coach, dealing with a wide range of top and middle managers in an intercultural environment.

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