Pulitzer Prize winner Joseph T. Hallinan offers insightful information in his book WHY WE MAKE MISTAKES. He writes:
"In many cases, our mistakes are not our fault, at least not entirely."
That's good news!
Hallinan's insights can be applied to our mistakes at the bridge table.
"If multiple people make the same mistake, then that should tell us something about the nature of the mistake being made: its cause probably isn't individual but systemic. Any systemic errors have their roots at a level above the individual."
Hallinan gives examples to prove that we're "all afflicted with certain systemic biases in the way we see, remember and perceive the world around us, and these biases make us prone to commit certain kinds of errors." In a chapter titled "We Like Things Tidy," he says that if we were to ask someone the direction from San Diego, California to Reno, Nevada, most would say, correctly, that Reno is north of San Diego. Then ask whether Reno is east or west of San Diego. Most of us make the mistake of thinking Reno is East of San Diego. The author writes: "The problem is that in remembering maps, we systematically distort them. We straighten curved lines, make odd shapes more symmetrical, and align parts that shouldn't be aligned. In short, we clean up the picture. We like what is referred to as information hierarchy; everything tidy."
Do bridge players have systemic biases that could be causing avoidable errors? We like to tidy up the rules and try to get by with as few exceptions as possible. Because of our bias for high cards, we often ignore small cards when they could be the key to success. We may hear, "I didn't get any cards all day," when many of the key decisions are made from the hand with seemingly few assets.
Thinking about why we make mistakes, and then figuring out how to do something about them, is a good way to improve our enjoyment and results. Hallinan offers ideas that could be relevant to our bridge game!