The Magnification Bias

The moon looks bigger to us when we see it against the background of a large cloud than against the background of a small cloud. The moon is the same, but because the large cloud is large, the moon looks bigger. The video below illustrates this illusion very well.

The clouds in our minds

We often hear people say my mind is clouded with doubt that I could find a solution to my problem. The dark moon of the problem has a big background of doubt. Our problem looks bigger than really it is. The more we focus on the problem the larger the cloud becomes and the bigger the problem gets.

Magnifying the problem and making it bigger than what it really only darkens the problem and make the clouds in our minds rainy with more doubts. We fall into despair and lose our direction and rationality to solve the problem.

What is surprising this tendency to make problems bigger by focusing on them can have a positive effect if we focus on the good aspects and learning opportunities the problem provides us.

We do not focus on the solutions or opportunities accompanying problems because of our negativity bias. We tend to focus far more on problems so that they look bigger. This negativity bias leads to the magnification bias. One distortion leads to another distortion and one bias produces a bigger new bias than the original one.

This bias compounds because most writers tend to focus on negative issues and draw other authors to focus on them. The result is that the issue gets bigger than it is and readers see the problem much-expanded out of the scale of their ability to cope with it.

I do not want to fall into this trap. I want to share two stories that serve as great examples of how we may turn the magnification bias to our advantage.

The Positive Side of the Magnification Bias

I shared a story recently to show how most people failed to solve a problem because they focused on their negativity versus one person who focused on the positive side of a problem and solved it very creatively.

The first story is about a recent graduate medical doctor who accepted an offer to work for a hospital abroad. Only a few days after he joined the hospital he was called to meet with an influential chief. His colleagues warned him that the chief was worried because his favorite horse was very ill and because there are no veterinary doctors around the chief consulted with medical doctors.

He was worried, but then paused to think about this conflict. He did not want to anger the chief because if he did he would lose and the chief. It is a lose-lose situation.

He decided to give the horse an injection of vitamins because the horse would not have been hurt by it and with luck the horse could recover. It is now a different situation. If the horse recovers, the chief wins and he wins. It is a flip of the lose-lose situation.

This medical doctor focused on the possible solution and not the problem. The solution became bigger in value against the background of reaching a win: win situation. His treatment was successful and he received many rewards.

The second story is the inspiration of Amina Alami. She shared a post again showing that miracles could happen if we focus on solutions. In her post she shared the story of during a momentous battle, a Japanese general decided to attack even though his army was greatly outnumbered. He was confident they would win the battle. However, his men were filled with doubt. They stopped at a shrine. After praying, the general took a coin and said,” I shall toss this coin, if its heads, we shall win. If not, we shall lose. Destiny will now reveal itself. “He threw the coin into the air and all watched intently as it landed. It was heads. The soldiers were filled with confidence that they vigorously attacked the enemy and were victorious. After the battle, a lieutenant remarked to the general, “No one can change destiny.” “Quite right,” the general replied as he showed the lieutenant the coin which had heads on both sides.

The soldiers focused on doubts.

The general focused on solutions.

Therefore, the general did a small trick. He tossed a coin with two head. This little trick filled the hearts of the soldiers with hope and so they won the battle.

Our thoughts lead to our actions. If we act out of fear and doubt our actions shall be fuzzy like a photographer taking a photo with shaking hands.

The general with his double-headed coin managed to change the feelings of fear and doubt into feelings of confidence. No, wonder their actions became actions of victorious.

Turn the magnification bias to your advantage. Magnify possibilities and not doubts.

Ali Anani
Ali Anani
My name is Ali Anani. I hold a Ph.D. from the University of East Anglia (UK, 1972) Since the early nineties I switched my interests to publish posts and presentations and e-books on different social media platforms.






"No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it."


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