The Ostrich Effect: How To Solve Destructive Patterns

The Ostrich Effect was initially used in the finance industry by investors in an attempt to avoid negative financial information. Economist George Loewenstein coined the term The Ostrich Effect and applied it based on the premise that ostriches bury their heads in the sand to avoid danger. It then became useful to explain why investors check their portfolios much less when the Stock Market is down.


Although well known in the finance industry, it has a place in all of our lives. The Ostrich Effect happens in situations where we get too emotionally invested in the information which confronts us, which has a significant influence on when we procrastinate. Why? Because procrastination bases itself off emotion. The behaviour follows a familiar pattern; the fact that we expose ourselves to information that negatively affects us. For example, we might avoid going to the doctors for a checkup because we fear the worst. Or we may not want to jump on the scales in fear of how much weight we have gained. Instead of letting ourselves feel anxiety and open ourselves up to that information, we choose to ignore it outright. It’s a case of selective avoidance.

To reduce the Ostrich Effect in our lives, we must become aware of it. We can do this by asking ourselves these questions:

1) Is there extra information I can acquire that will help make a more informed decision?
2) Am I acting on this additional information?
3) If I’m avoiding it, why am I doing so?

If you’re overall avoiding the extra information, It’s the case of the Ostrich Effect.

How Can We Deal With This?

It’s too easy to say “Push yourself through”, and even harder to act on our advice. Also though it’s the most straightforward approach, it doesn’t necessarily give us the understanding of how to mitigate future information avoidance.

One of the most effective ways is to set ourselves up with external mechanisms, which will help deal with the information naturally and less forcefully. In the example of jumping on the scales to look at our weight, Information avoidance is the number we see on the scale. By working out with a trainer or a friend, we take on accountability. It’s an external mechanism we create to enhance a positive effect, and by creating a habit of listening to the bad news, we have been avoiding.

Just know, with the Ostrich Effect, you don’t have to do everything at once. Only one thing off your list can get the ball rolling. It’s about becoming aware and putting steps in place. Paying that bill will take five minutes of your time and energy, but avoiding it will become more painful and draining in the long run. It may hurt immediately, but it can trigger action into your life and build weight loss and exercise habits.

Set Your Reward

It’s also important to set rules and reward yourself once facing the information. Tell yourself once you encounter your avoidance, you’ll buy something for yourself, or enjoy a glass of wine. The bottom line is that habits are hard to change. It’s important to start small and take time out now to do what you’ve been putting off.

Stay Focused 

What we focus on becomes extremely powerful. Think about when you buy a new car. You start to see that same car everywhere you go. We can change our brain through experiences because It influences our mind. Experience changes the brain. Our brain is constantly evolving itself to be the best one it can be for us. Knowledge is the fuel that shapes everything we see, feel, and sense.

Suppose we’re focusing on what we don’t want, such as; negativity, bad habits, insecurities. That manifests into our brain, and it then controls all of our senses. Whatever we focus on is always “good” or “bad”. Replace the bad with the good, and our life starts to grow.

Related: Focus on 4 Energy Types to Improve Performance