The term generally refers to behavior that is an outward manifestation of ‘disconfirmation bias’. We discussed that in a previous post. There we learned that disconfirmation bias is “the tendency to accept supportive evidence of a belief uncritically, but to actively refute or discount evidence that challenges that belief.” Shiny object syndrome can be thought of as a symptom of disconfirmation bias.
How so? Well, there are a few ways.
- Sometimes in an effort to discount evidence that challenges our belief, we may allow ourselves, and also encourage our listeners to become unduly distracted and enamored by other unrelated details. We may make a great issue of an otherwise unimportant thing. Those other details are like a ‘shiny object’ that distracts attention from the real issues.
- Sometimes it’s more serious. Sometimes we are trying to distract others from seeing our own failures. Politicians have perfected the art of deflecting attention from their own questionable activities. But this may happen to a lesser degree in manufacturing environments when the consequences of ill-fated designs need to be minimized to save face. Being ‘penny-wise, pound-foolish’ is often at the root of these situations.
- We can actually use shiny object syndrome to our advantage when presenting an important proposal to someone with chronic disconfirmation bias disorder. We may distract the sufferer from attempting to refute legitimate evidence by giving them a shiny object to focus on.
- In sales situations, the figurative shiny object may be used by a salesperson to distract the buyer from asking difficult questions about the item for sale. In some cases, the shiny object is actually the item for sale.
There are probably other manifestations of shiny object syndrome that we have not cataloged yet. But now that the phenomenon is documented, other examples are likely to surface.
When not on the lookout for behavioral disorders, we make gas analyzers for oxygen, carbon dioxide, methane, hydrogen, and many other gases.
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