10 Bizarre Cognitive Biases We Know About — and How We Fall Victim To Them All The Time

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Humans are an interesting species. Our brain has to do a great deal of work to keep us alive. In addition to managing our biology, it also has to handle a ridiculous amount of mundane decisions. Sometimes they do bizarre things.

Keeping things running smoothly in complex situations requires the use of critical thinking skills. Our brains often face conflicts of interest when it comes to critical thinking. Humans are inherently biased.

You may misinterpret information in the world around you because of a cognitive bias, which is a subconscious error in thinking. Decisions are regularly based on it, without any indication that we are off track.

You can use the Internet (and social media) to get great information or to spread really damaging propaganda. We can learn how to build a backyard solar collector or validate our most severe psychosis. A lot of our biases are fed on a steady diet of social media memes.

Paying attention to our preconceptions can help us become more self-aware. Our brains trick us constantly, so we need to be aware of this. In this post, I have listed some of the more bizarre cognitive biases and how they can affect your decision-making.

Why Cognitive Biases Slip Through Our Defenses?

Information is constantly being processed by our brains. Each second, the brain processes 11 million bits of information. Our conscious minds, however, can only comprehend 40 to 50 bits of information per second.

We take cognitive shortcuts in order to make decisions, which explains why. In some situations, these shortcuts are critical for keeping us safe and sane. As your sensory inputs flow through your brain, you are constantly processing the data flowing through your sensory inputs.

Without constant distractions, life can be tough enough. That’s why some people just want to sit back and watch Fox News and Facebook. Cognitive biases can be divided into four groups:

Too Much Information

We have a central processing unit called the brain. The brain runs our central nervous system, our endocrine system, and all the other systems that keep us alive. At the same time that it’s doing all that on the inside, it’s also processing information outside the body.

The program has to find out if that great-looking guy down the hall likes us. What are the odds of getting that pay raise? Is that ham sandwich still edible? It covers all those pressing questions as we drive at 75 miles (120.701 km) an hour down the freeway.

Naturally, the brain will try to cut a few corners whenever it feels that there’s no harm done in doing so. Can’t solve the problem because it’s too complex? Simplify the process a bit. Who’s got to know about it, anyway?

Not Enough Information

Problem-solving is a cognitive process that helps us deal with challenges and uncertainty. When we’re not sure what to do or how to do something, our brains go into problem-solving mode.

This can create anxiety and stress. If our brain feels that there’s not enough information to get the right outcome, hey, just fill in the blanks. What could possibly be wrong with that idea?

The Need to Act Fast

Deciding quickly is a common problem, but it can often backfire. In quick decisions, we often sacrifice accuracy in favor of haste. This can lead to problems down the line, like making bad choices or not taking the time necessary to ensure the decision is correct.

What Should We Remember?

The stuff that has to be retrieved from our memory banks will need to be prioritized. It has to make sense to us when it’s recovered. These issues can lead to a host of memory-related biases.

It is easier to retrieve simple, general information. It definitely helps to break things down to their essential elements. Our past experiences can be edited to help remove the sting of unpleasant memories. No problem.

Our brains are pretty efficient at this. Sounds pretty useful! So what’s the downside?

Let’s look at 10 of the Most Bizarre Cognitive Biases

1. Pareidolia

This is the trick our brains play on us to force us to associate visual information with images we’re already familiar with. We’ll see a picture of Jesus or the Virgin Mary on the piece of toast. We see human-like features often because our brain is wired to identify other people.

This also affects our ability to hear. That cat sounds like a crying baby. My car sounds like it has a bad cold.

2. Frequency Illusion

Ever had that strange impression after noticing a brand-new make and model of a car for the first time? You see it everywhere? The occurrence is also known as the Baader–Meinhof phenomenon or frequency bias.

It’s a cognitive bias in which, after noticing something for the first time, there is a tendency to notice it more often. This leads someone to believe that it has an increased frequency of occurrence.

As a result of increased awareness, it begins to appear more frequently. An example of the frequency illusion is when “something you just learned about suddenly seems to show up everywhere.”

3. The Normalcy Bias

Some people may have a hard time accepting this topic because it is so current. Someone who does not directly experience a situation is unwilling to plan for or react to it.

Some people refuse to evacuate during a hurricane or accept changes to safety and health regulations because of normalcy bias.

Perhaps that explains why we can’t help but stare back at people who stare at us. When we don’t know how they will react, we may be uncomfortable. Now we both are creeped out!

4. The Optimism Bias

Specifically, we are positive about our own capabilities and prospects for success. Because of this, some people believe they can accomplish anything if they set their minds to it.

The same reason is why others are optimistic about finding a job after six months of being unemployed. Also, studies show that we tend to give ourselves more credit than other people when we make decisions.

Also why we tend to fall for so many get rich quick schemes.

5. System Justification

Family gatherings will be a lot of fun with this. It is the tendency to maintain and defend the status quo. Change can make some people physically uncomfortable and alternatives are discredited. As a result, individuals and groups can suffer. The pain of the status quo beats the uncertainty of change to social, economic, and political arrangements.

6. Rhyme as Reason Effect

“Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should.” If you were around between 1954 and 1972, you’ve got that slogan burned into your brain. This bias is a favorite of advertising jingles and the late Johnny Cochrane, of OJ Simpson trial fame. The perception is that rhyming statements are perceived as more truthful. “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit”.

7. Tachypsychia

We’ll just call it time distortion during stressful situations. We experience this during emergencies. Think “bullet time” where the world slows down as the shots travel toward us. Except we don’t have Matrix-like super abilities.

Sometimes we can experience it in the opposite direction as time seems to speed up. People who make a living studying this have suggested that hormone levels may influence our perception.

Dopamine and norepinephrine are coursing through us during that time; altering our perceptions. The hormones increase brain activity. The bullet time effect is caused by “akinetopsia”. Dopamine and norepinephrine are catecholamines; essential to triggering the fight-or-flight response.

8. Fundamental Attribution Error

One of the characteristics of character judgment is judging someone’s actions according to their character rather than according to their current situation. It’s easier to blame your intelligence on a low math test score than your failure to study for it.

Nevertheless, if your friend does poorly on the same test, you might attribute his low score to not studying and suggest he stop being lazy.

9. Compassion Fade

A tendency to show more compassion to a few identifiable victims than to many anonymous ones. As an example, we hear about a beloved celebrity’s death compared to the deaths of hundreds in a natural disaster on the other side of the world.

“The war? I cannot find it to be so bad! The death of one man: this is a catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of deaths: that is a statistic!” This quote, often attributed to Josef Stalin, is more likely to have originated with German journalist Kurt Tucholksy.

10. Bias Blind Spot

Everyone I know shares this (except me). Some people think that others are more biased than they are. It’s obvious that others are incorrect on some issues.

This one is a close cousin to Naïve realism, the belief that WE see reality as it really is. We can be objective and without bias. There is no doubt about the facts; rational people will agree with us; and those who disagree are uninformed, lazy, irrational, or biased.


After reading this blog, you’ll be able to understand cognitive bias a little more and how it can affect your decision-making processes. You will be better equipped to manage your biases and make better decisions (a bit more).

Cognitive bias is a natural human tendency to favor familiar information over new information. It can cause us to make decisions that are not always in our best interest, and we all have them.

It is critical to be aware of and accept cognitive bias. By understanding them, we can identify their effect on us. By doing so, we will be able to overcome them and make better choices.

So far, so good! Now that we’ve got some idea about how biases can affect us, we should be able to free ourselves of them and live a bias-free life, right?

Unfortunately, no. You could spend a weekend memorizing all 188 known biases on Wikipedia and still fall for any of them. Our brains and our hormones (heck, even our stomachs) influence our decisions and perceptions minute by minute.

It’s impossible to bypass all our biases and preconceptions.

We can better understand ourselves and others when we are aware of these issues. Or even correct course when we realize that we’re all prone to making mistakes. Thanks for taking the time to review this. I hope it helps shed some light on how we think.

If you have your favorite bizarre human cognitive bias, let us know what it is.


You may be interested in a related article. Four Types of Mind-Traps That Can Cripple Your Writing and How to Overcome Them



Retired content marketing consultant. Author, artist, husband, father and owner of ContentMarketingMagic.co. Still helping small business owners daily.

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Dennis Francis

Retired content marketing consultant. Author, artist, husband, father and owner of ContentMarketingMagic.co. Still helping small business owners daily.