After Brexit, football fans had to hold their hearts as Messi resigned from international football, an apt maneuver by the name of ‘mexit’.
It is an interesting psychological phenomenon to find out what is going on in his mind while he made this decision and continues to defend it. It can help us to look at some of Messi’s statements:
“It’s been four finals, I tried”
“It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn’t get it, so I think it’s over.”
“For me, the national team is over,” Messi said after defeat by Chile in the Copa America final.
“I’ve done all I can. It hurts not to be a champion.”
A psychological analysis of these statements reveals a cognitive bias or a thinking error called ‘all or none thinking’ or ‘black and white thinking’. In this type of a thinking pattern, we feel that there are only two alternatives, usually extreme ones, like good or bad, success or failure, right or wrong. In this case, it would apply as either Messi is a champion, or he is not. He was so distressed by the loss of the penalty that he fell prey to this thinking and could not rationally think through it.
Why did Messi fall pray to this thinking error?
Messi was probably very emotional after the loss of the penalty. After an emotional event, we are not able to think rationally as we feel overwhelmed. Therefore, a basic part of our brain takes over which can only understand the world in simple, black-and-white terms. Therefore, it is most important to not go for a rushed decision following an emotional event. Not only is there a danger of making the wrong decision, but later, even when we have second thoughts, we will stick with our first decision in order to appear consistent.
How to avoid the error?
It is best to calm down before you make decision as the more complex part of your brain can take over. Being aware of the brain’s pitfalls and cognitive errors helps to stop falling prey to them. Lastly, don’t shy away from retracting from a hasty decision.
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