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How Your Brain Can Help (or Hurt) Your Career

The brain is arguably the most definitively valuable tool to which we have access. If our lives and careers are a ship whose charter is based on a sequence of certain decisions, the brain is the captain steering its course. But how well do we you know it? Probably not very, according to some experts – and an interesting (free) quiz.

The brain is arguably the most definitively valuable tool to which we have access. If our lives and careers are a ship whose charter is based on a sequence of certain decisions, the brain is the captain steering its course. But how well do we you know it? Probably not very, according to some experts – and an interesting (free) quiz.

Fork in the Road

(“Fork in the Road,” Photo Credit: J_CMac/Flickr)

Ever considered the possibility that you haven’t veered from a career path you dislike simply because you’ve been on it for so long? Some experts cite the nature (or absence) of rational thought as a basis for the argument that this is not only a possibility for many of us – it is a more-than-likely probability.

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According to mathematician Spencer Greenberg and his organization ClearerThinking, a not-for-profit that creates “decision-making tools,” the way we use our brains to perceive the world and make decisions may not be as rational as we’d like to believe. 

“When you make decisions, whether about what career to pursue, who to date, or how to manage your savings, numerous cognitive biases can interfere with your choices,” says Greenberg. “Even highly intelligent people frequently hold irrational and inconsistent beliefs, or engage in self-defeating behaviors. Having an unusually high IQ isn’t enough to protect you from bias.”

Using what Greenberg calls the “sunk cost fallacy” as one example, which he defines as “a glitch in our thinking,” we may “continue along our career paths or stick with projects simply because we’ve invested so much time in it already.” 

Furthermore, he claims, “we often misinterpret weak evidence as strong evidence, which can cause us to make an ill-advised stock trade or real estate investment,” or, arguably, to add to this list, a major job decision or career move.

Using a quiz meant to assess what type of thinker we are based on our levels of cognitive and quantitative reasoning, Greenberg/ClearerThinking classifies people according to one of 16 “reasoning styles,” such as “Detective,” “Inventor,” “Journalist,” “Lawyer,” “Executive,” etc.

So, what what type of thinker are you? Why have you made the choices that you have, and are there decisions you could or should be making, but aren’t? Are you a “Rationalist,” a “Free Spirit,” a “Card Sharp,” or something different? What, exactly, does your brain look like?

If you’re curious, take the free quiz and attempt to find out. It’s 21 questions long, and can take anywhere from five minutes to five hours to complete, presumably depending on what type of thinker you are (10-15 minutes is probably a reasonable estimate). 

Even if you’re not convinced by Greenberg’s reasoning (pun intended), don’t believe that his examples apply to you, or consider the idea of taking a test to assess rational thought as inherently irrational, the quiz is still an interesting exercise in holding a mirror up to your brain, and considering the way you do (or don’t) filter information and make decisions that impact your life and career.

Tell Us What You Think 

How has rational (or irrational) thinking impacted your career? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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3 Comments on "How Your Brain Can Help (or Hurt) Your Career"

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“continue along our career paths or stick with projects simply because we’ve invested so much time in it already.” : This has nothing to do with any fallacy or anything like that. It’s simply because all of us are serving our debts – mortgages, cars, student loans etc. Not only that, we have kids, and we need to fund the exorbitant costs of their colleges. And we have to worry for our retirement. Do you honestly expect a typical mid career 6 figure earning professional to give it all up just because he/she thinks it’s not “proper to stick to… Read more »
Cassidy Rush
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I see what you did there ^

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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The quiz says I’m a skeptic, but I don’t believe it. (Sorry. I am so sorry.)

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