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Application of Cognitive Revolution Theories in Coaching Practice

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Selective Perception Breeds Selective Recollection

The way one sees the world and the way one experiences the world differs due to the brain’s incredible ability to fill in the missing information. The brain continually takes in so much information that in order for memories to be stored, they are compressed. A computer processor is a commonly used analogy to describe cognitive functioning because computers also compress large files when storing them. Large computer flies, like memories, lose some of their quality when they go through the compression process. In order for the brain to store a lifetime of memories, it distills each one down to Cliff’s Notes version of the event. Gilbert states, “The fact that we often judge the pleasure of an experience by its ending can cause us to make some curious choices.” (Gilbert, 2007). Gilbert is saying that in the storage and distillation process, the memory of a great night may be reduced to the miserable last half hour where a friend throws up on a pair of new shoes because in the distillation process the brain exaggerates the lousy part of the experience leaving one to remember the whole night as a bad memory.

In contrast, when one thinks of something pleasurable, system one (once again overlooking system two) tends to let the imagination take one’s expectations to the most pleasurable extreme, disregarding millions of other possible scenarios and setting up a situation where anything less than the imagined scenario leads to disappointment. (Gilbert, 2007) Ariely describes this phenomenon in behavioral economics as the endowment effect or the idea that what place a higher value on things once we own them. The first principle of the endowment effect states that people love what they own, simply because of the memories and fantasies they have about it (Ariely, 2010). The value that is placed on memories, which Gilbert claims are faulty and full of the brain generated augmented reality, explains system one’s eternal optimism approach to setting extreme expectations about future experiences, but the constant unfulfillment of these high expectations can lead to feelings of discontent, hopelessness, and unhappiness. (Gilbert, 2007)

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