Psychology

Head In The Sand? How The Ostrich Effect Thwarts Your Success

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Have you ever tried saving money, but then went shopping and avoided checking your savings account? Or maybe your New Year's resolution was to lose a few pounds, but you never actually weigh yourself to see if you're making progress. If so, you may be a victim of the ostrich effect: the motivated avoidance of negative information.

Trouble Will Find You

Common knowledge tells us that ostriches bury their heads in the sand when they're scared or threatened. Despite this being a myth (it only looks like they're hiding their heads underground because that's where their eggs are kept), it's where the ostrich effect got its name. Researchers from Hebrew University observed that people tend to deliberately "bury their heads in the sand" to avoid unpleasant information, such as credit card statements, overdue bill notices, and in their study's case, market fluctuations that affect personal investments. Another study reports that 20 percent of people enrolled in a weight loss program never actually weighed themselves!

While "out of sight, out of mind" can be a tempting philosophy to follow, it's only a short-term remedy for a problem that will continue to exist no matter how long you ignore it. People succumb to the ostrich effect anyway because of the desire to escape negative feelings or protect their self-esteem. No matter what, you're only delaying the inevitable. Regularly monitoring your standing in terms of reaching your goals, whether it's saving money, losing weight, or something else entirely, is the best way to get closer to attaining those goals.

Keep Your Head Up

Avoiding negative information can be tempting—after all, who likes bad news? But refusing to face the music can really hamper your goals. So how do you avoid this tendency? One way is to put your monitoring on a schedule: if you're trying to save money or lose weight, for example, make it a habit to check your accounts or weigh yourself first thing in the morning, every morning. That way, you don't need to think about how bad it'll be or expend any mental energy on whether or not to do it—you just do it, and move on with your life. Your goals will be better for it.

Watch And Learn: The Most Helpful Content On Negative Tendencies

The Ostrich Effect

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