‘Einstellung’ literally means “setting” or “installation” in German. The boiled down definition of the Einstellung effect is ‘a mechanized state of mind’, that is, where the same ideas or solutions become our default answers, because they are set in our minds. Based on past experiences, your brain will choose familiar solutions to a new problem even if alternatives would be more efficient or solve the problem better or faster. It is the process of how we decide what to believe.
Good thoughts block better ones because our brains are programmed to save energy. Your brain figures that once you’ve hit on a successful way to do something, why change it? If ain’t broke, why fix it, right?
The problem is this cognitive bias ends up substituting potentially better thoughts with mediocre ones.
In the farmer-consumer world this means that both farmers and consumers can be victims of a mechanized state of mind: since there is an overload of information thrown at us every day and no one has the time to sort through it all, consumers default to information they’ve gathered from not always credible sources. Farmers, on the other hand, often default to the ‘consumers don’t care/don’t listen/ugh, consumers are so ignorant about farming’ state of mind.
The problem with both of these situations is that we will be less inclined to look at the conversation or situation objectively or worse still not look for opportunities to engage constructively with each other.
Research has shown that older children and adults tend to exhibit non-continuity theory: they pick a reasonable rule and assume it to be true until it proves false.
Since we can’t exert the same mental effort to process every single piece of information that comes at us, our brain picks and chooses those pieces that are important and/or interesting and/or relevant to us and focuses on those. This leads to a shortcut where we end up missing or ignoring other relevant information in our environment and defer to default settings to make decisions.
Therefore, to break the Einstellung effect’s hold on our brains, consumers and farmers need to escape the rigidity of their behavior by engaging in conversations, listening actively, asking questions, arguing intelligently, and building constructive, forward moving dialogue.
To move forward new ways of thinking are needed. “By looking beyond familiar strategies to something truly outside the box, we can achieve what’s believed to be impossible.” – Alexander Zwissler