Tunnel Vision

Tunnel vision is both an actual physical condition, and a metaphor for a myopic type of thinking. In the former, people who experience tunnel vision have a loss of peripheral vision that results in a constricted, circular field of vision akin to looking through a tunnel. In the cognitive metaphor, tunnel vision refers to a resistance to considering alternative points of view or potential solutions to a problem. Whether due to conviction in one’s position or mental laziness in exploring other options, tunnel vision can be dangerous and lead to deleterious outcomes.

Motivated reasoning is a closely related concept to tunnel vision, in that both phenomena feature someone being predisposed to a specific belief or outcome. In both there is a tendency to back a certain course of action even before evidence is available or fully examined, and to continue to hold that position regardless of any new evidence that may come in that challenges the preferred narrative. Tunnel vision can lead to bad decisions, because focus is being placed on a favored outcome while ignoring potentially much better solutions or courses of action.

How to avoid tunnel vision

  • Get a second opinion
  • Have a brainstorming session to evaluate other points of view
  • Take a break for a while and come back to the problem or issue again after some time away from it
  • Do thought experiment exercises where you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and try to imagine how they would solve the problem, or what decision they might make given their own interests and beliefs.

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