It's human nature to let ourselves judge a book by its cover and assume that when something looks good it must be good. Here's how to recognise that illusion and make better decisions.
Photo by Sterling Satellite
Dr Alex Lickerman, over at Psychology Today, examines our tendency to accept the appearance of quality and illusion of expertise over the real thing. Lickerman argues that companies rely on our prejudices and make more of an effort to look good than to actual be good, simply because it's a lot easier. Furthermore, companies have a tendency to hire other large companies for the same reasons. Lickerman explains how this is not only unfair but also foolish:
The quality of large companies often suffers because of their size, which is often directly responsible for daily errors and omissions of communication, for example. Further, the larger the company, the more responsibility for outcomes becomes diffused, often preventing any one person from feeling accountable for the quality of any one project.
Furthermore, it's assumed that small companies aren't experienced enough to handle the issues of large companies by virtue of their size. Lickerman notes that, in many cases, small companies are formed by people who've left the larger companies and, as a result, have more experience in working with bigger companies than anyone else.
We make these same prejudiced choices as individuals because the quick pitch is the one that wins out in most cases. So what can we do to counteract our prejudices? Lickerman suggests that we 1) recognise an effort to look professional isn't an indication of professionalism, 2) understand that bigger isn't necessarily better, 3) get references when you're not sure, and 4) be aware of your prejudices and think twice when you see them enter your decision-making.
Ultimately, we're not going to be able to avoid our prejudices in all cases, but hopefully being a little more aware can keep us from making bad decisions that come from hollow enticement.
The Illusion of Expertise [Psychology Today]