The Problem With Too Much Logic

Psycho-logic, coined by the great Rory Sutherland is the logic by which human beings function (by default). The common cognitive biases, mental errors, and System 1-driven choices exist for a reason. They make us human. Yes, they have drawbacks and we should be aware of our biases. But, being too logical, as we’ll soon learn, can have detrimental effects as well.

I shifted to Bangalore from Mumbai recently and I got a pretty nice place for myself and my partner. The society is modelled after a park with lots of greenery. I despise too much concrete, and out of the 25ish places we visited, this one stood out.

Yes, this place isn’t without its flaws. Any rational person would notice that the society is a bit old, the maintenance charges are high, and the bathroom fittings aren’t stylish.

As much as I adore the design of a good wash basin, it’s not a must-have for me. But I do need a place with lots and lots of trees and plants. On that aspect, this place is a catch.

I realised that if I choose a house the way most people do, I would end up competing with a lot of people for the same houses. On the other hand, if I look for a place using wildly divergent criteria and eccentric tastes, I’ll find a place that was relatively undervalued.

When most people look for a house, their order of search is as follows: price, location, age and size, other parameters such as security, amenities, etc. “How does it feel like to walk inside the society” doesn’t exist on the list. The fact that it isn’t quantifiable devalues it further. But if you value something that others don’t, you can enjoy a fabulous house (or pretty much anything else) for much less.

Hence I put more emphasis on the garden value of the society than on the number of bedrooms. This eccentric approach surely isn’t without drawbacks. We had to pass a pretty great place next to a lake just because it was all concrete and no green. On any given day, we would be spending more time inside the society than beside the lake, so we passed and took the place that’s just 800m away from the lake.

My place might be a bit old but I don’t look at it that way. In my mind, it doesn’t suffer from age, it has a vintage look. Also, did I mention it’s cheaper than similar societies in the locality!

You have to be logical, especially when you are making public decisions around a business or investment, but when it comes to “being happy” too much logic is unhealthy.

Logic is a good way to defend a decision, but it is not a good way to make a decision. Logic that works in theory may not work in practice. A place might meet all the important criteria on paper but still may not be liveable. A person might meet all the textbook criteria of a good partner, but life might still be hell with them.

It doesn’t pay to be logical if everyone else is also being logical. Conventional logic is a straightforward mental process that is equally available to all and will therefore get you the same place (and same life partner) as everyone else.

But if you have an eccentric yardstick, you have an edge. You can look at things from a different perspective and get what others don’t. This also helps you get out of status games because you no longer value the metrics that others do.

Cultivating eccentric taste is as simple as paying attention to things that aren’t easily measurable, such as walkability, garden value, warmth of neighbours, architectural quality, etc. One of the reasons Apple products feel so beautiful is because they pay an insane amount of attention to these factors.

In conclusion, we should be wary of paying too much attention to numerical metrics. Numbers (such as number of rooms, floor space, journey time to work, height and colour of the person) are easy to compare, and hence monopolise our attention. Walkability or sense of humour do not have numerical scores, and tends to sink lower in our priorities. But there is no reason to assume that something is more important just because it is numerically expressible.

Logic has its limits. It’s good to know where logic ends so that we can calibrate our plans accordingly.

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