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Label hacking

Welcome to Love Mondays, a weekly newsletter designed as a 3-minute hit to fire up the other 10,077 minutes of your week.

Labels are a mental shortcut. Generalisations fast-track context. Quick reference points communicate our coordinates on a complex map. However, these labels also polarise, distance, and over-simplify the world beyond relatability. The good news? We can hack our own label production line using curiosity.

How many labels have you applied to yourself already today? Write them down.

Consider: how do we label people in our life and work?

Practice: questioning why we label people in different ways

Decide to: hack our labelling shorthand using curiosity

Think quick.

In their paper “Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases” (1974), Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky identified three different kinds of heuristics: availability, representativeness, and anchoring/adjustment. Each type of heuristic is used for the purpose of fast-tracking decision-making. Heuristics are mental shortcuts that can facilitate problem-solving and probability judgments. These strategies are generalisations, or rules-of-thumb, reduce cognitive load and can be effective for making immediate judgments, however, they often result in irrational or inaccurate conclusions.

The thing about heuristics is that they aren’t always wrong. However, when they are applied to systems such as politics, employment, academia, and economics, these generalisations stigmatise and pigeonhole groups of people, sometimes closing off access altogether.

Perhaps we can make a case for using heuristics as a starting point, but when a strategic decision is being made, they certainly shouldn’t be our endpoint.

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