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Typical mind troubles

human_brainA long time ago, in some class I don't remember anything else about, and in an unknown grade level, I remember the teacher going over the topic of logical fallacies. From that day, I remember mostly the ones with funny names: the "bandwagon fallacy" (everyone believes it, so it must be true!), the "red herring fallacy" (bringing in unrelated), the "ad hominem fallacy" (it's wrong because you're stupid), and lastly "hasty generalization". There's a particular variety of "hasty generalization" which is very important to me.

"Hasty generalization" is basically when a person takes a trait of one member of a group and applies it to all members when there is insufficient reason to do so. Most people can see why that's not good: stereotypes, racism, sexism, etc, but that's not really what I'm talking about here.

The thing I'm talking about is generalizing your own mind onto everyone else. Taking your personal experiences and thought processes and assuming other people experience things the same and think the way you do. This is done mostly unintentionally.

This sub-fallacy has been given the names the "me too" fallacy and the "typical mind" fallacy. And it goes a little something like this:

  • I lost 25 pounds, therefore weightloss is easy!
  • I wake up at night sometimes and fall back asleep, therefore insomnia doesn't exist.
  • I get nervous sometimes, too, but I just deal with it, therefore anxiety disorders don't happen.
  • I have trouble concentrating when things are boring, that's supposed to happen, therefore ADHD is just made up.
  • I get sad too, it's just part of life, therefore depression is people being melodramatic.
  • I learned to make small talk and interact socially, therefore autism is just nerds being anti-social.
  • I also feel sad during winter, it's normal, therefore "Seasonal Affective Disorder" shouldn't be a problem for anyone.
  • I quit smoking in 24 hours no problem, therefore it's equally easy for everyone.
  • I left home with just $10 and a change of clothes, therefore everyone can be successful.


Everyone has a different lived experience. They have different genetics. The have a different history of illnesses. Just like we all have different facial features, heights, and body shapes, the difficulty of doing a particular thing is going to vary. It's be weird if it didn't. Experiences don't always generalize.

For most people, running a 10K is not "easy". Even if you are a runner, it's probably not effortless: you have to exert significant energy and willpower to do it, and if you're not a regular runner, a 10K is an awesome achievement.

You ran a 10K: Great! But your friend is running a 10K, up a mountain, in 100F temperatures.

You lost 25 pounds: Great! But your friend, due to genetics, depression, and/or a bad situation, is working much harder to so the same.

And you can't assume your experience can be scaled up, either: Successfully running a 10K doesn't mean you know how easy it is to run a marathon, much less an ultramarathon. Maybe you could use your same techniques to run a marathon, maybe you couldn't… you don't know because you didn't run a marathon.

You lost 25 pounds: Great! But your other friend is running the ultramarathon of losing 100 pounds.

Your experience may or may not apply to other people in the same situation, much less those in different situations.


I'm glad you quit smoking so quickly, but that doesn't mean it will be the same for everyone else.

I'm glad you have a handle on insomnia, but that doesn't mean it will be the same for everyone else.

I'm glad you were able to lose weight, but that doesn't mean it will be the same for everyone else.

I'm glad you were able to work 2 full-time jobs and pull yourself out of poverty, but that doesn't mean it will be the same for everyone else.

I'm glad you overcame your depression without drugs or therapy, but that doesn't mean it will be the same for everyone else.

I'm glad you manage to focus on tasks without medication, but that doesn't mean it will be the same for everyone else.

I'm glad you can deal with anxiety, but that doesn't mean it will be the same for everyone else.


I'm glad you accomplished the thing, but understand it's different for different people, so quit judging, and mind your own business.

2016-05-17 #skeptical-zen  
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