Image by DiD Publishing

10 Common Cognitive Biases That Can Screw Up Your Day

Every family get-together is a perfect place to conduct sociology experiments. Unfortunately, we never really remember to put on our social psychology cap when arguing with Uncle Seymour about politics, economics, or religion.

In this article, I’ll be discussing some of the top cognitive biases and how they influence our decisions. By knowing about these biases, we can make better decisions and make sure they are based on good reasons.

I’ll also give you some advice on how to avoid cognitive biases when making important decisions under stress. So read on to learn more about this important topic.

What is a Cognitive Bias?

A cognitive bias is a mental shortcut that we use to decide in a split second. These biases can have a significant impact on our lives, and you may be affected by them every day. It is often considered like a mental reflex.

Thinking quickly in an unfamiliar situation meant life or death for our ancestors. Interacting with new people, deciding if that plant is edible, and which cave is worth sleeping in, took a lot of brain power back in the day.

These mental cliff notes protected us, but cognitive biases are mental shortcuts that can screw up our lives as well.

Because these biases can lead to negative outcomes, it’s important to be aware of them and try not to let them control your thinking. By being aware of your own thoughts and behaviors, you can more easily identify when they’re happening so you can take corrective action.

#10

The Bandwagon Effect

The bandwagon effect is a psychological term in which people are more likely to adopt a new behavior or belief when others around them are also doing it. This can be seen in advertising, peer pressure, and social media, among other places.

The bandwagon effect has been shown to affect where people move, how they vote in polls, and even what they eat. For example, research has shown that people are more likely to eat unhealthy foods if they see other people around them doing the same. And in the same way, people support political positions that match the opinions of their peer group, even if they don’t agree with them.

So, it’s important to not only think carefully before adopting any new beliefs or behaviors; but also to always weigh possible consequences against potential benefits before deciding. So you won’t get caught up in the “bandwagon effect.”

The probability of one person adopting a belief increases based on the number of people who share that belief; this is a powerful form of groupthink and is the reason meetings are often unproductive.

#9

Choice Supportive Bias

Choice supportive bias is the tendency to choose the best option out of the ones you have. People often make critical decisions because they don’t fully understand all the facts and points of view.

Choice-supportive bias is when someone thinks that their own preferences or choices are better than those that others might have. This can happen in many situations, such as when researching the market or choosing a product.

Choice supporters may, for market research, give more weight to positive opinion studies than negative ones because they think good things will always outweigh bad things. Choice supporters also like “self-fulfilling prophecies,” which happen when people’s expectations about an option seem to drive how well it does in the market, even if buyers or sellers don’t do anything to make that happen.

Because of these biases, choice followers make more mistakes and choose worse options than they would if they were to keep looking for more options. Sometimes it’s unnecessary to eat the least rotten apple. Take the time to look for more fruits.

#8

The Clustering Illusion Effect

The clustering illusion is a type of cognitive bias that shows how people put things together in ways that aren’t really random. This changes how we see both familiar and strange things, which can cause us to make mistakes in our judgment.

In 1938, Swiss psychologist Kurt Lewin was the first to write about this. He called it the “psychological principle of similarity.” Since then, it has been found that this idea applies to a wide range of cognitive tasks, such as retrieving memories, deciding how to group things, and making social judgments.

Most people don’t see things as being completely separate from each other. Instead, they see things as being part of groups or clusters. We don’t have to think about this because it happens automatically and unintentionally.

#7

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is a cognitive natural inclination that affects our judgment and decision making. It happens when we only pay attention to information that backs up our current beliefs or hypotheses and ignore or downplay information that doesn’t back them up.

This can make us jump to wrong conclusions because we have a bias toward what we know. People often show confirmation bias by favoring evidence that backs up their beliefs over evidence that goes against them.

For example, if you believe in the power of antioxidants, you might pay more attention to studies that support this belief than to those that don’t. Also, you might be less likely to analyze critical information or points of view with which you disagree, because doing so would make you think about your own beliefs.

It’s important to know about confirmation bias so that we don’t fall for it. For example, when you’re evaluating data, don’t just look for the answers you want to hear. Instead, think critically about all the evidence before coming to any conclusions.

#6

Conservatism Bias

Contrary to its name, this isn’t just about the conservative mindset. This bias can be adopted by anyone. Ok, it might be more likely to be adopted by people with a classic conservative bent.

The conservative bias is the idea that institutions and social norms are good and should be kept around. People have said that it makes people less willing to change, which can slow the economy or even cause society to fall apart.

Some people have also said that conservatism bias causes individuals to support policies that are classically less fair to ordinary people; like lower taxes on higher incomes, less government spending on social programs, less regulation of businesses, and weaker rules about the environment.

Extensive research has shown that people with conservative bias are more likely to believe that conspiracy theories about COVID-19, Agenda 21 (a nonbinding international statement of intent aimed at dealing with sustainability on an increasingly crowded planet which was ratified during the George H. Walker Bush administration in Brazil.) and global warming.

These biases may affect how conservatives think about public policy issues. They might look at them through a lens where conservative values are more important than facts or logical reasoning.

#5

Recency Bias

This bias is the tendency to remember things that happened recently and give them more weight than things that happened in the past. This can have a big effect on how we decide on issues because we are more likely to trust information that just came to our attention. We might decide based on what just happened instead of evaluating all the information we have.

In their 1950 paper, “An Experimental Study of Learning,” Salvador Luria and Samuel Y. Continu were the first to notice this. Participants were asked to learn a task quickly or slowly. Those who learned the task quickly were more likely to think they had done a better job than those who learned the task slowly.

Recency bias often shows up when we have to choose between two options. For example, if you’re trying to decide what kind of car to buy, you might not be as interested in the car that you saw six months ago because it’s no longer new. Instead, you’ll pay more attention to newer models that are currently seen on TV.

When making important decisions about investments or actions based on a small amount of information, it’s important not to let recency bias cloud your judgment. Remember that past performance does not always predict future performance!

#4

Selective Perception Bias

Selective perception is the ability to pay attention to some parts of something and ignore others. Depending on how it is used, this can be good or bad.

For example, Selective Perception could make it easier for you to remember important facts or help you make better choices when faced with hard situations. But if you choose to ignore bad things about a person or group, you could end up with false beliefs and poor judgments.

Selective perception is the ability to only see what you want to. This mental process can help you in many situations, like when you’re trying to decide what to do or when you’re trying to figure out how well you did. It also makes people lie to themselves, which is a bad thing. Self-deception is when we think things about ourselves that aren’t true, even though they go against other things we know.

Selective Perception can also be bad when it makes us ignore valid points of view so we don’t make ourselves feel bad. We might do this by not listening to other people’s opinions that we don’t agree with or by trying too hard not to see our mistakes and flaws. The main point? Use selective perception wisely to get the most out of your life and reach your goals.

#3

Survivorship Bias

Survival bias is a type of selective observation bias that happens when researchers or clinicians study events or populations they are interested in and ignore events or patients who don’t fit their preconceptions. This can cause people to draw wrong conclusions about how well treatments and interventions work.

The “healthy survivor effect” is an example of survivorship bias. This is a reference to studies that show treatment helps people who stay healthy after they finish it, even though these are only a few patients.

Also, studies with bigger sample sizes are more likely to find positive effects than ones with smaller samples. This means that the results of studies may overstate how well treatments work.

When studying anything, it’s important to be aware of survivorship bias because it can skew results in favor of popular therapies and ideas instead of existing evidence. So, make sure you go into your research with an open mind and don’t let what you think you’ll find influence you!

It’s important to know about Survivorship Bias when doing research and talking to medical professionals, because it can affect your decisions about things like treatment options, drug development, and funding for healthcare.

For example, if you’re thinking about surgery for a knee injury, it’s important to know that there’s evidence that surgery might not be the best choice for some patients who fully recover from their injuries. So learn about the different likely outcomes so you can make a choice based on all the information you have.

#2

Stereotyping

Stereotyping is a way of thinking in which people make general, and often negative, judgments about people from certain groups. It can be as simple as thinking that all teenagers are rebellious or as complex as thinking that all teenagers are troubled (thinking all black people must be criminals).

Stereotypes can have a big effect on how people feel and how they treat people who belong to the target group. They can also make people think less of these groups and mistreat them.

Even though stereotyping might not seem like a big deal, it hurts social mobility and economic security because it limits opportunities and makes it harder to get resources. This bias often influences policy when accounted for in the assumptions of lawmakers.

Before making assumptions about people based on their race or ethnicity, we should learn how to think critically about the information we have. Some of the most common kinds of stereotyping think that all Asians are smart, thinking that all Arabs are terrorists, and thinking that all Latinos are criminals.

Stereotypes can be bad because they make us see things in a limited way and can lead to prejudice. They also lead to a lack of understanding, which can make it hard for people and groups to take advantage of opportunities.

You can get rid of these negative thoughts, though, if you become more aware of them and question them whenever they come up. Also, it’s important to look for differences so that you can both accept people for who they are and learn from their original experiences.

This is a tendency that can seriously damage the decision-making process when expecting a group or person to have certain qualities without having factual information about the person. It allows us to identify strangers as friends or enemies, but people overuse and abuse this tendency.

#1

Bias Blind Spot

The Bias Blind Spot is the tendency for people to be unaware of their own biases and act on them without realizing it. This can lead to wrong conclusions, false impressions, and unintended results.

It can make people think they are less likely to have biases than their peers or the rest of the population.

The Bias Blind Spot can happen in several ways, but one is when people keep getting information that backs up what they already think. They may also not notice bias based on gender or race in other people because they think everyone has the same biases.

It can make people think that their personal connection to an issue is a source of accuracy and insight for them and those who agree with them, but that the same connection makes people who disagree with them biased.

So, if you want to improve your communication skills and be more accurate when deciding or analyzing situations, you should know your own blind spots and take steps (like cognitive-behavioral therapy) to get rid of them.

Conclusion

The reason cognitive biases have such a high impact on our decisions is because they can trick us into making bad ones. For instance, many people fall victim to confirmation bias. This means that they only look at the facts and evidence that confirm what they already believe.

Besides this, there are other biases like status quo bias, where we instinctively trust the way things have been until now instead of looking at new information or changing attitudes for old behaviors; availability heuristic, which makes us rely on easy-to-check information first before looking through lots of details.

Another one that comes to mind is anchoring bias, which occurs when we assign too much meaning to initial reference points in order to decide.

By knowing about these biases and how to avoid them when making important decisions under stress, you’ll be able to behave more rationally in life! Well, there you have it!

Remember that knowing them doesn’t mean that you can’t get tricked by your mind again. Picking out what’s good and bad in a situation is still up to you. Strive to be self-aware, but realize that we all fall for some of these from time to time.

Have you ever experienced being influenced by any of these biases? Share your thoughts below.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Dennis Francis

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