Monday, April 30, 2012

Carl Von Cosel and Elena Hoyos - Undying Love or Morbid Obsession ?

There are many types of stories about love, some about unrequited love, others about mutual but tragic love. This is none of those stories, or maybe it is a bit of both. However, one thing is certain, it’s definitely a story about obsession, an obsession that defies death: Karl Tanzler obsession for Elena Hoyos.

Karl Tanzler becomes Carl Von Cosel 

Karl Tanzler left his wife and children in 1927 and moved in Florida. There, he changed his name to Carl Von Cosel and started working in a hospital where patients with tuberculosis were treated. He also claimed that during his childhood he had visions of his dead ancestor Countess Anna Constantina Von Cosel (one of the reasons why he changed his name) who told him that his true love will be a dark haired exotic woman. Whether that claim is true, we do not know, but he did meet his exotic love.

Meeting Elena Hoyos

It all started when Elena Hoyos was committed to the hospital, suffering from tuberculosis; she was known to be a great beauty and Von Cosel was one of those who fell in love with her. This was the beginning of his struggle to keep her next to him, no matter what the consequences were. He tried all the treatments possible to save her, even unorthodox treatments like herbal medicine, X-Ray treatment, and other types of treatment that involved electrical equipment. One of his most unusual treatments involved a potion that contained gold flakes but he also administered electric shocks to her. On a more personal level, he did his best to please her and make her happy, showered her with gifts, but it seems that she didn’t return his affection. However, he hoped that if he managed to cure her terrible illness she would eventual come to love him.

The death of Elena Hoyos

In 1931, just before Halloween, Elena died and was buried in an above-ground mausoleum ordered by the doctor, because he thought that groundwater would have contaminated her body. He would regularly go to her grave and take care of it, which didn’t alarm her family since they trusted him and knew his special connection with her. Little did they know that he was trying to take Elena’s corpse from the grave as his connection with her was more than anyone could possibly imagine. During his visits to Elena’s grave he had long conversations with her and he even installed a telephone so that he would feel close to her even when he was away. Apparently, he also had seen her ghost telling him that he needed to take the corpse and he was also trying to preserve her body with formaldehyde.

When obsession becomes pathological

In 1933, he stole her body from her tomb and brought it home after losing his job from the hospital. He attempted to preserve her body the best way he could using big amounts of preservatives; this proved difficult since she was already dead for two years but he used a lot of perfume to conceal the smell of her rotting flesh. Piano wires were used to string her bones together and keep her skeleton intact somehow, her eyes were replaced with glass replicas because they had also gone rotten, he also created a type of skin for her made from a mixture of silk with wax and plaster, and used rags when her insides became so putrefied she had lost her shape. He continued this process to preserve what was left of his dead obsession, including making a wig for her when her hair was almost gone. All this led to the creation of a macabre doll with some remains of her that was meant to give him some comfort through the illusion that she was still somehow with him.  He spent his days talking to her while she was placed on a large bed and wrapped in cloth veil, acting like they were together and playing music for her on the organ, adding to the creepy scenery. What’s even most shocking is the fact that after the discovery of her body, the doctors also discovered during the autopsy that he had created a tube that somehow resembled a vagina, so he also had sexual intercourse with Elena’s dead body. After his arrest one of the doctors who performed the autopsy declared:

I made the examination in the funeral home. The breasts really felt real. In the vaginal area, I found a tube wide enough to permit sexual intercourse. At the bottom of the tube was cotton, and in an examination of the cotton, I found there was sperm. Then I knew we were dealing with a sexual pervert.

The discovery and arrest

Elena’s sister wasn't seeing doctor Von Cosel at the tomb anymore and there were also some rumors that he was behaving bizarre, so she began to believe that something might have happened, especially since he showed a morbid obsession since the beginning. She asked the authorities to open the tomb and was surprised to see that the body of her sister wasn’t there anymore. When confronted Von Cosel, he invited her inside and she was obviously shocked at the sight of the sinister image created by him. He was soon arrested and found mentally capable to stand trial on the charge of "wantonly and maliciously destroying a grave and removing a body without authorization." However, the case was dropped and he was released. Elena's body was showed to the public, almost 6,800 people, before her last burial.

Later life and death

He moved in Pasco County, Florida in 1944 where he apparently used a death mask to create a life-sized effigy of Elena. It has been speculated that he had taken the body of Elena even after his arrest but there was no evidence that the effigy he created contained any human material. However, his morbid obsession continued until his death in 1952 as he lived the rest of his life with the second doll that resembled Elena.



Undying Love: The True Story Of A Passion That Defied Death

Skullduggery: 45 True Tales of Disturbing the Dead

A short documentary about this case: 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Abortion History II - Abortion In Medieval Times

During the medieval period the perspective on abortion and contraception in general was greatly influenced by theological writings. But there were many methods still used since antiquity and many late antique authors had a great influence on how abortion was performed. Authors like Celsus, Pliny, Galen, Oribasius, Marcellus Empiricus and Aeitius prescribed different drinks, suppositories, lotions and physical manipulations that were meant to help women get rid of their unwanted pregnancy. There were also some chirurgical methods and some superstitions that were also used whenever a woman wanted to have an abortion.  

Theodorus Priscianus created quite a stir with his book on medicine, especially the part that was related to different gynecological issues. He was influenced by Hippocrates and although he believed that helping women lose their pregnancy was in a way profane to medicine, he saw some exceptions that were meant to be taken into consideration by practitioners. Some of the exceptions mentioned were cases when there was a certain uterine disease or an inappropriate age that could endanger a woman’s life. So there was this new problem: should a doctor get rid of a fetus to save a woman’s life or, as some religious people believed, they shouldn’t act and let God decide. Opinions were different and while some believed that they shouldn’t interfere with God’s work, others proceeded in prescribing different methods for abortion when it was needed.  

One of the most extreme methods of abortion during the medieval period was, of course, a chirurgical practice called embryotomy. Simply put, this was the removing of a dead or alive fetus from the mother’s womb due to some complications that could endanger her life. It seems that this was a fairly common practice whenever complications appeared and there are some archeological discoveries that point in this direction. For example, a decapitated infant with other multiple mutilations that has been found at a gravesite in Poundbury Dorset buried without the mother shows that she probably survived after undergoing an embryotomy. When talking about surgical methods we cannot forget about the caesarian section; but this was used to save the fetus and not the mother. Both these operations were performed by doctors, surgeons and probably midwives. The 2nd and 3rd century theologian Tertullian describes embryotomy as a cruel necessity and it seems to be a difference between this emergency procedure and other invasive methods of abortion. For example, some practitioners used knitting needles or coat-hangers to puncture the amniotic sack or pierce the fetus in order to provoke a premature labor.

Tertullian described some surgical procedures that were similar to what now is known as dilation and evacuation. The tools used in this procedure were described as a "nicely-adjusted flexible frame" used for dilation, an "annular blade" used to curette, a "blunted or covered hook" used for extraction and a "copper needle or spike". He considers that this practice dated back to ancient practitioners such as Hippocrates and Soranus. But his view on abortion was definitely one that rejected it even when the pregnancy was in an early stage; he considered that we cannot kill what has been conceived in the womb. Other theologians such as Clement of Alexandria and Methodius of Olympus went so far as imagining how the apocalypse would be for aborting mothers. It seems that the children ”born due out of time” were saved by God; their mothers, however, had a cruel eternal life – their breast milk would leak and it would congeal thus giving them extreme pain.  

Pope Callistus was criticized due to his complicity in abortion as he allowed noblewomen to take up partners without legal marriage. A common practice was to corset themselves to be unable to carry a pregnancy to full term, because they did not wish to have a child with a commoner or, worse, a slave. But the methods of abortion were scarcely described by theologians; Ambrose of Milan, Jerome and Augustine mention some potions used in abortion.  

Some of the abortificent potions that were prescribed during medieval times contained emmenagogues, plants that will increase blood flow in the pelvic area. There were many recipes that were passed since antiquity and became quite popular during medieval times, being often quoted in medical texts.

These potions were called aborti venena (abortive potions) or sterilitatis venena (potions for sterility), which usually contained some poisonous substances. Pessaries, suppositories and infusions were also used to induce abortion by inserting them into the vagina. Pessaries were actually tampons made of wool, soaked in a mixture of herbs that were either used as a contraceptive method or a way to provoke miscarriage. Pills were taken orally but contained mixtures of herbs as well; there were also cataplasms, poultices or compresses that were applied externally. Some abortions also included a sort of massage to relax the body during the procedure with the help of different ointments. It is interesting to see that nowadays almost the same methods are used to induce labor in the first weeks of pregnancy; the famous mifepristone and misoprostol are synthetic versions of the potions used in medieval times.  Some mixtures contained belladonna, honeysuckle, cedar oil, cabbage leaves or mandrake. In Germanic folklore the prostitute root is mentioned, which is the root of worm fern, another contraceptive herb.

Fumigations were also popular and they can be described as a method of steam vaporization that involved introducing different substances internally by making a woman seat over the steam produced by a fumigation pot. Sponge baths and bathing in general are also connected to abortions during antiquity and early medieval times. For example, Priscianus mentions having two baths as a part of an abortion treatment. However, baths were also often used for a difficult or long birth process.

Bloodletting was a common practice for most medical problems and obviously it was a cure for pregnancy too. It is pretty obvious why women who underwent phlebotomy had an increased risk of miscarriage.

Hebrew books such as The Book of Women’s love contain passages on abortion and some birth control methods. Most Hebrew medical texts have been often interpreted that they permit abortion and contraception in some exceptional cases. Abortions were allowed when a woman’s life was in danger and contraception measures were supposed to be used by minors and breastfeeding women.

The religious view upon this matter was simple in theory but really hard to put in practice. It seemed that the responsibility fell on the woman who needed to coerce her husband to a life of chastity – as it was the only allowed way to avoid pregnancy. However, the law stated that married women had no legal right to refuse sex with their husbands, not to mention the fact that masters often raped their slaves. Women who used contraceptive herbs as well as herbs that would help them get pregnant were considered to practice occult arts and were punished. But when it came to men, religious officials felt overwhelmed by the number of men who needed to be punished and often considered that they couldn’t excommunicate them since they were simply too many and probably important members of society.  


Further reading:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Abortion History I - Abortion in Ancient Times

Although abortion is still a controversial topic nowadays, it seems that there have been records of it dating back to ancient times. There were various methods used by people to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy, from ingesting various substances to mechanical techniques that would imply pressure or even the use of various objects.

The first mention of abortion is in the Ebers papyrus, however it is not known for sure whether abortions were performed. The papyrus only mentions two remedies which "cause all to come out which is in the stomach of a woman", possibly referring to inducing a miscarriage. The Egyptian recipe is based on acacia berries and it specifically states that it can stop a pregnancy at any time.

Abortion was also done in Ancient China and there are documents reporting royal concubines who had abortions as early as 515 BCE and folklore indicates that mercury potions were used in this direction. 

Documents from China (750 BCE) claim that abortificiants were known and regularly use as early as 3,000 BCE. A large variety of non-medical writings throughout the ancient world suggest mundane solutions like hard rubbing or massage on the uterus, riding a horse, or heavy lifting. The general understanding was simple - things that caused miscarriages could be channeled to intentionally cause them. Due to economic problems and famine, there was a high number of abortions during Edo periods, especially among peasants who couldn’t afford having another child. Other Asian text, such as Japanese texts state that there were shrines dedicated to lost and aborted children that first appeared in 1200s. 

Overall, the ancient methods used for abortion were mostly mechanical and non-intrusive. Hard physical labor such as climbing, paddling, weightlifting, diving, or extreme labor were common. Other methods included fasting, bloodletting, applying hot water compresses or pouring hot water directly on the abdomen. There are some archeological discoveries that might indicate some surgical attempts to extract the fetus but they were scarcely used.

Abortion as a biblical tale
There is a passage in Numbers where a woman’s infidelity is tested through a concoction that might make her abort the baby. If the woman was not unfaithful she would remain pregnant and it would be her husband’s child; on the other hand, if the woman had a miscarriage she was guilty of adultery.  

Popular Abortion Reports
Even Hippocrates induced abortions to his patients and there seems to be recorded how he instructed a prostitute to have a miscarriage by jumping up and down. He also used other methods to induce abortions to  such as dilation and curettage, which seem incredibly modern for those times.

Soranus of Ephesus recommended various methods to induce abortion such as enemas, fasting, emmenagogues (herbs that stimulate blood flow in the pelvic area), and even bloodletting. He also advised against using sharp objects to induce abortion as practitioners risked perforating their patients’ organs.

It seems that even Aristotle had something to say about abortion and this only shows how much of a common practice it was during Ancient times. He wrote “When couples have children in excess, let abortion be procured before sense and life have begun: What may or may not be lawfully done in these cases depends on the question of life and sensation."

Friday, April 13, 2012

7 Random Facts (Episode 6)

How about another 7 random facts to quote and look cool in front of your friends? Here they are:

1 – There is a small chance that you might get hit by a falling satellite or falling space debris. Apparently, you have about 1 in several trillion chances to get hit by one, so you’ll have to be very unlucky. Considering my luck, this will probably happen to me.

2 – Brain surgery is not a modern invention as the ancient civilizations did it too. There are quite a few writings that explain how ancient brain surgery worked and considering the tools that were available in those times it’s safe to say that surgeons back then were pretty good at their job. 

3 – American poet and novelist Sylvia Plath committed suicide in 1963 by sealing her kitchen, putting her head in the oven and turning on the gas. That’s a pretty creative and, uhm, sinister way to die.   

4 – It seems that being nice is related to your genes. Research by psychologists at the University at Buffalo and the University of California, Irvine, has found that at least part of the reason some people are kind and generous is that their genes nudge them toward it. So, I guess now I know why I’m not nice, it’s in my genes.

5 - Species dysphoria is the experience of dysphoria (depression, discontent), sometimesincluding dysmorphia (excessive concern over one's body image), associated with the feeling that one's body is of the wrong species.  

6 – George Leclanché invented in 1966 the Leclanché cell, one of the first electrical batteries. It comprised a conducting solution (electrolyte) of ammonium chloride with a negative terminal of zinc and a positive terminal of manganese dioxide. Leclanche's "wet cell" (as it was popularly called) was the forerunner to the world's first widely used battery, the Zinc-carbon battery. 

7 - During the time it takes you to read this sentence, 50,000 more 12-ounce aluminum cans are made. Also, Each ton (2000 pounds) of recycled paper can save:
3.5 cubic yards of landfill
17 thirty foot (pulp) trees
7,000 gallons of water
380 gallons of oil
4100 kwh of energy

Friday, April 6, 2012

Predicting People's Behavior - How accurate are we?

 Figuring other people out is not a bad thing. It’s actually an adaptive trait we have, which should definitely be enhanced in various ways. Trying to figure out others in order to predict behavior and adjust yourself accordingly is reasonable, but the problem starts when people actually believe that their predictions are infallible and live in a sort of mind reader delusion or thinking that their judgments cannot contain any error.

 Self-delusion can be pleasing and sufficient for a modest mental activity. Actually, self-delusion can be seen as a very effective coping mechanism. People alter their ideas to model a world where they can have the illusion of control. There are many biases people use to make sure that they maintain that illusion about the world. But let’s talk a bit, before that, about one of the other mechanisms, a sort of magical thinking where people actually consider that they can read the minds of others with great precision. This mind reading is also correlated with a sort of Know-it-all behavior as we will see further. Also, we will analyze the cognitive biases that fuel this inner circular belief system. I will not debate right now whether there is this paranormal possibility or not, as I am only approaching this problem from an epistemological point of view.

First, I want to mention the problem called The Problem of OtherMinds which regards our inner life and, most importantly, other people’s inner lives. As an epistemological problem, this is concerned with how our beliefs about mental states other than our own might be justified. On the other hand, there’s also the problem of us being able to form a concept of mental states other than our own, which is perhaps the key to solving the first. We could go for the most extremist point of view on the matter, which is metaphysical solipsism and consider that no reality exists other than our own mental activity or state and that the external world has no independent existence. But the solipsist’s tragedy is the fact that they will have to convince people that they are a figment of their imagination, the solipsist’s imagination. But we managed to distance ourselves from the sub-main point, which was the fact that according to The Problem of Other Minds, it is rather difficult to perceive the inner world of other people, let alone draw conclusions based on what we might perceive. Even philosophers agree, that embracing one Philosophy of the Mind or other, will not entirely solve this. But let’s get back to the main point: self-delusion in prediction.

It seems that people who self-delude themselves have a problem with comprehending the fact that people have minds, other minds, different than their own minds. Also, extending one’s mental product to other people’s minds greatly influences our perception of reality and our inner self, in a biased way. The problem with mind reading is not the attempt to read minds and predict behavior, that is normal after all, but the fact that some people are so sure of their own predictions and false knowledge they might produce they might engage in disastrous behaviors and ways of thinking. 

Here are few theories that may explain people’s need to actively try and read other’s minds and predict their behavior:

Egocentric judgement
“Later researchers elaborated on Piaget’s initial findings and theorizing to show that young children do not reliably distinguish between what they know and what others’ know (Perner, 1991; Wimmer & Perner, 1983), do not provide sufficient information to identify ambiguous references in communication (Deutsch & Pechmann, 1982; Sonnenschein & Whitehurst, 1984), and rarely distinguish between the way an object appears to them and the way it would appear to someone else (Flavell, 1986).” (Whole article here:
It seems that this egocentric judgment can be still seen in humans as they rarely find out that other’s perceptions differ from their own, thus diminishing their mind reading power.

Attempting Mind Reading As A Coping Mechanism
We all have coping mechanisms in order to tolerate stress or avoid sadness and conflict. I’m not saying that coping mechanisms are bad, but some people might use them as an escape from reality. Reality is not just the exterior world, but also their mind and the things that they are willing to acknowledge about themselves. This means that  they will live with a distorted view about themselves and the world. Predicting and trying to read the minds of others while flirting, for example, has been proved to be a difficult task for both men and women. It seems that women usually misread that the men are less interested in them, while men believe that women are much more interested in them compared with how interested they are in reality.  This might be a coping mechanism for both sexes. Women might use the less interested coping mechanism in an attempt to diminish their expectations in order to avoid disappointment as men tend to be less committed, while men might use this self-delusion to stroke their ego and avoid acknowledging failure. Some people have this so rooted in their personality, they would be lost without it and they will constantly live in denial, being unable to see when others prove them wrong. This can be extremely distressing for those around them and counterproductive for them as they cannot reach authentic self-knowledge and not even a correct image regarding the outside world and people, as they model everything to be a part of their coping mechanism puzzle. We can say that they are the people who constantly live in a cognitive dissonance related to almost everything that would shatter their inner world.

Attempting to Read Minds In Order To Manipulate
This is probably why the term reading minds and the whole idea was invented in the first place. People like to manipulate other people, it’s that simple.  But this need may have an underlying issue.  A person who likes manipulating loves being in control or feeling superior, which is connected to a need to raise self-esteem. Actually people who overly-predict, plan, or constantly try to read the minds of others are actually looking for some stability in an attempt to control and cope with reality. But, as I mentioned several times in this article, this is just an illusion of control.  

Cognitive Biases used by in mind reading attempts and over-prediction  

The Illusion of Asymmetric Insight  - It seems that people show an asymmetry when they start thinking about how much knowledge they have about other people and how much other people can tell about them. It seems that six studies suggested that people believe that the knowledge of their peers is greater than their peers’ knowledge of them. So we believe that we know more about other people than they know about us and the term for this is “naive realism”.

Mind Projection Fallacy – this occurs when people are sure that the way they see the world reflects the way the world really is and they can even go as far as thinking that there are imagined objects in reality. Here’s an article that explains this phenomenon in detail.

Confirmation Bias – this is probably one of the main tools used in mind reading self-delusion. made this simple:
“The Misconception: Your opinions are the result of years of rational, objective analysis.
The Truth: Your opinions are the result of years of paying attention to information which confirmed what you believed while ignoring information which challenged your preconceived notions.”
The confirmation bias is actually derived from your ability to filter the information around you. This means that you are prone to see information that confirms your beliefs.  I will give you an example: women, when thinking they were pregnant, started seeing everything that was related to motherhood. They started seeing a lot of pregnant women, children, articles in the newspaper related to that, etc. This doesn’t mean that the universe was trying to tell them something, it just means that they were focused on filtering information based on their interest. The same applies with mind reading: we get an amount of information about a person but we filter it through our own preconceptions. This is why preconceptions are bad in the first place, they keep us from thinking clearly and seeing the whole picture. Whenever that person shows behavior that is against our preconceived idea about them, we ignore it or attribute it to some other instance like being an exception. But when they show a certain behavior that confirms our theory, we obviously believe that and our theory gets stronger. How many times have you actually tried to find counterarguments to your strongest beliefs? Whenever I believe something the first thing i do is try to find arguments on the internet or in books that support that idea. Later, I wake up and start looking at different opinions. The same happens to people when trying to read the minds of others. It seems that the “most likely reason for the excessive influence of confirmatory information is that it is easier to deal with cognitively” as it is easier to see how the data you receive supports your position rather than denies it.

Overgeneralization – well isn’t this the mother of all fallacies? Overgeneralizations actually means  recognizing those qualities in a person or a thing which we have seen before and extending those qualities to the whole population. When it comes to the logical fallacy called hasty generalization this means that people will make an inductive generalization based on insufficient evidence and without considering all of the variables. Statistically speaking, your conclusion does not represent the whole population, although you use it like it does.

Selective perception - is the personal filtering of what we see and hear so as to suit our own needs. Much of this process is psychological and often unconscious. Have you ever been accused of only hearing what you want to hear? In fact, that is quite true. We simply are bombarded with too much stimuli every day to pay equal attention to everything so we pick and choose according to our own needs. This leads to the Halo Effect, which means that you will evaluate or judge people, events, places, etc. only by a single trait or experiment creating a prejudice in your judgment. People will often try to perceive further interaction with somebody based on one element or a very few elements.

Psychological projection or projection bias – this is a defense mechanism where people deny their own attributes that they see in other people or the outside world. It reduces anxiety by allowing the expression of these impulses without letting the conscious mind recognize them. People who unconsciously believe that they have failed will often blame others for self-failure, for example.

Trait ascription bias – this is quite interesting as it shows people’s capacity to flatter themselves at an unconscious level. They see themselves complex and different from the other world, like a unique snowflake as Palahniuk described this. However, they see others as definitely much more predictable and simple in behavior and thought. Obviously, there is an explanation for this, we can analyze our inner world and access it better than we can do it with others. But, unfortunately, this is the source of prejudice and stereotyping which is not a lucid view upon the world.

Overconfidence Effect – this refers to “someone's subjective confidence in their judgments is reliably greater than their objective accuracy, especially when confidence is relatively high.” Actually there were studies that showed how people rated their answers in quizzes as 99% certain but were wrong 40% of the time. In short, overconfidence seems to be an example of miscalibration of subjective probabilities and probably another coping mechanism.

Wishful Thinking – there are many mechanism involved in wishful thinking and some might say that it is quite an adaptive cognitive bias. However, when it really alters our perception of the world, it becomes a really bad cognitive bias. What wishful thinking actually means is the fact that we tend to believe to be true what we wish to be true. There have been quite a lot of studies showing that subjects will usually predict positive outcomes rather than negative outcomes (just search the internet and you will find quite a few). Wishful thinking is also a well-known logical fallacy.

Availability Heuristic – Mind readers like to predict, a lot. Actually, that’s what they do. Of course, predicting is important and good when one has elementary statistics knowledge and doesn’t use anecdotes as proof. This is a mental shortcut that uses the ease with which examples come to mind to make judgments about the probability of events

Illusory Correlation - Illusory correlation is seeing a relationship that you expect in a set of data that has no relationship, for example false associations like overgeneralization and stereotyping.

The Focusing Effect - This bias occurs when people exaggerate the important of one aspect, event, trait, piece of information which influences the way they can accurately predict future outcome. This can also be extended to perceiving their well-being. When trying to mind-read people, there is also the tendency to take one trait and form a global opinion with that trait in mind. Also, the future opinions can be flawed by a certain focus a person has based on a preconception. It’s just like using a magnifying glass on some aspects and drawing conclusions based on our exaggeration. There is an interesting article that quotes a few studies in this direction for those interested: 

Anecdotal evidenceI know a person who...I met somebody who... A friend of mine... – this is the form of anecdotal evidence and it’s an attempt to use personal accounts as an argument supporting some views of a group, experience, circumstance, etc. That’s wrong because you cannot extend your knowledge about those only based on your experience since you probably haven’t met a statistically significant amount of people.

Attentional bias -  a person does not examine all possible outcomes when making a judgment about a correlation or association. It also seems to be an attention bias towards negative information regarding people, things or situations. It seems that people dislike loses more than large gains and they are prone to attribute causality to negative events rather than positive events. More about this and some studies regarding this can be found here

Choice-supportive bias – we tend to think that our choices are better than they actually were. We also attribute positive features to the choices we make and negative features to things we did not choose. 

Illusory superiority  or the above average effect– another cute cognitive bias very familiar to those involved in great self-delusion. It means that people will overestimate their positive qualities and abilities and underestimate their negative qualities in relation to others. You can probably imagine how many errors a person who thinks they can predict behavior and read minds can do when having this illusion. Actually, thinking that you are a mind reader with accurate descriptions is itself an illusory superiority. This reminds me of the Downing effect that describes the tendency of people with a below average IQ to overestimate their IQ while people with an above average IQ will underestimate their IQ. I guess Bertrand Russell was right when he said: The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.

Psychologist Fallacy – well it seems that this fallacy exists. It’s pretty similar to the fallacies described above and it refers to projecting your own mind’s properties into the external world. An observer presupposes the universality of their own perspective when analyzing a behavioral event. This makes us judge people based on our own set of rules, which may or may not be correct.

Illusion of validity – describes the state in which consistent evidence persistently leads to confident predictions even after the predictive value of the evidence has been discredited. Here’s an interesting article about its persistence in clinical environment:

...and many, many more cognitive biases, but this article is already too big.

The mind-reading tendency is common to all people, some more than the others. However, the problem with this behavior is the fact that once people have moderate success with it or delude themselves that way, they will use in their everyday life. Unfortunately, they are unable to perceive other’s mental states directly and will have to infer them and there is a great chance that they will commit some error every time they do it. There is a variety of tools they can use such as: observations of behavior, second – hand reports, or simply intuition.

Obviously, none of these are precise and not even summing them up will lead to an infallible conclusion. Mind reading mistakes can lead to miscommunication, misunderstanding, social conflict, and poor decision-making. Also, let’s not forget that people can be imprecise when reading their own mind (their past mind or their future mind), which is very sad considering their attempts to read other people’s minds. An authentic understanding of self is another philosophical issue that is hard to be solved, so considering this fact and other circumstances how can people actually believe that they can actively read minds? 

Well, in the end we must agree that people like control. Information is control for people, although if we analyze it we will see that having information about something is just an illusion of control. Also, the fact that our information might not be precise and we are using it as a base for having control is just a recipe for disaster, both in communicating with other people and personal development. In the end, our demeanor should be directed towards being less wrong not being superhumans who read minds and predict behaviors so that they feel less confused.