Cognitive dissonance and Survival

One day a fox happened across a vine of grapes growing high across a tree. On the vine were growing grapes. Though try and try as he may, the fox could not reach the grapes. The fox finally stopped and concluded the grapes were probably no good anyway and walked away. This is a classic example of cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort one feels when having two contradicting beliefs. In order to quell the disharmony, one postures in a way that creates more internal harmony. The fox convinced himself the grapes were no good in order to not feel discomfort in his lack of ability to reach the grapes. Similarly, a person who buys an expensive car might come up with virtues about the car which may help negate the fact the car is uncomfortable on long trips. When it comes to gear, one may take solace in the fact an item only cost a few dollars as way to make up for the item being dented or bruised. Surely, had one paid full retail would the dent or bruise be unacceptable. Cognitive biases are often used to help firm a position and reduce dissonance.

Cognitive Biases prevent rational thinking and often lead to illogical behavior, so to are how many decisions made when assembling gear in the name of being prepared and survival.

Many people swear by mini kits. They are the last line of defense against ones survivability. It is the kit used when all other options are exhausted, or one’s primary kit has been ripped away from them. It is the last bit of marginal insurance one has against the ability to survive when the chips are down. Sounds great, right? Of course it does. Who doesn’t want the ability to exercise the final option? Any edge one can have increases the odds to a favorable outcome. Even some of the big players in the industry are advocates of mini kits. Have I convinced you to carry one? If I did, congratulations you are among the millions convinced by preying on your fears and using biases, no different than a snake oils salesman would. Now let’s examine, with a little more clarity, the folly in a mini kit.

A mini kit, by definition is, well, mini. That means all the components must be small enough to fit in a small case, historically an altoid size tin. At the same time, there must be a balance in the items and their size that go in the tin, so that most of ones needs are met. This downsizing often borders on the absurd, so much so that it can render some items marginal. In and of itself, it’s still an edge, regardless of the marginal attributes. But the other side of the coin is, people don’t take into account the effect stress and cold have on fine motor skills. The seemingly simple all of a sudden is not so simple as one begins to lose tactile sensation. Every move is a struggle. Add to that, once assembled the kit is hardly ever opened again until such time it is needed. In short, no procedural memory is created with any of the items in the kit. And when it really counts this over confidence one has, because they have a mini kit, contributes to their demise.

Procedural Memory is that unconscious skill one has requiring no thought—Speaking, walking, etcetera. Procedural memories are learned and become second nature. Riding a bike is another learned skill, but once had is often never forgotten, hence the term “It’s like riding a bike.” A life long smoker has procedural memory using a lighter. Instinctively, and often without cause, when someone goes to light a cigarette the smoker cups their hand around the flame to shield it from the wind, even if there is no wind. It is an unconscious action created through repetition. Another example is someone who has trained with a pistol. As their shooting hands reaches for their holster, unconsciously their off hand goes to the chest where it is safe from possible negligent discharge. I’ve often humored at the fact how my off hand would automatically go to my chest when my shooting hand would go to secure my pistol in it’s holster when running, but it is a good example of procedural memory.

So then, if not a mini kit then what? How about a common sense approach. Use items you already use and know how to instinctively use. Why would anyone one want to use, let alone store a spark lite fire starter when one knows how to use a lighter so much better and already has one in their pocket? At the end of the day, it is nothing more than a stripped down smaller version of a lighter minus the fuel. Why would you carry condoms as emergency water carriers if plastic bags make more sense and easier to fill? Also, let’s dispense with the fact our fingers become increasingly less nimble the colder our hands get and more stress we encounter, so why would anyone want anything miniaturized?

Don’t be a sucker and fall for the hype. Don’t become victim of cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias. It doesn’t matter who’s doing what, or why they’re doing it. Even the biggest names and organizations are often wrong and don’t use reason, driven only by biases and dissonance to fit their narrative. Don’t be trolled and fall for their rhetoric. Use sound reasoning in your approach your survival approach

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