A cognitive bias is a flaw in thinking that occurs when you misinterpret information from the world around you, leading to an inaccurate conclusion.
Your brain develops ranking systems to decide which information is important enough for your attention. This happens because you are flooded with information from millions of sources every day, so your brain needs to create shortcuts and cut down on the time you need to process information.
How do cognitive biases work?
When you’re analysing information, you use a complex cognitive machine that includes and processes interviewer life experiences. Throughout your life, you’ll develop several cognitive biases that influence the information you pay attention to, which sources you decide to trust, and what you remember about your past decisions.
Cognitive biases are inherent in the way you think, and many of them are unconscious. By identifying the cognitive biases you experience in your everyday interactions, you can understand how mental processes work and make more informed, better decisions.
Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman first introduced the concept of cognitive bias in 1972, and since then, researchers have identified and described over 175 different biases that affect decision-making. Some of the areas that can be affected by cognitive biases include health care, business, finance, social behaviour, education, management, and more.
What are the signs of cognitive bias?
Even though it might be easier to spot the signs of cognitive bias in other persons, it’s essential to keep in mind that everyone exhibits this type of systematic error in thinking.
Some of the signs that show you that you might be under the influence of a cognitive bias include the following:
- Assuming that everyone else shares your beliefs and opinions
- Assuming you know all there is about a topic after learning a little about it
- Taking personal credit for your accomplishments while attributing other people’s success to luck
- Blaming other people or outside factors for your failings
- Paying attention only to the news stories that confirm your beliefs and opinions
What are the most common types of cognitive bias?
Researchers have identified over 175 cognitive biases, but only a couple of dozens of them are more present in the daily life of millions of people. Here are some of the most common types of cognitive bias:
This cognitive bias refers to the difference between how we explain our own actions versus other people’s actions. Many people tend to attribute their own actions to the circumstances they were in at the time while believing that other people do things because of some internal factor or their character. For example, if you are overweight, you may attribute it to your thyroid or genetics, but you believe that other people are overweight due to lack of exercise and poor diet.
This cognitive bias was one of the first identified in the early 1970s, and it refers to the decision to favour a choice with a known outcome rather than taking a chance on a choice with an unknown outcome. The ambiguity effect makes people have a tendency to favour decisions with familiar outcomes and makes them reluctant when it comes to trying new things.
This refers to the tendency to rely on the first bit of information you set your eyes upon when evaluating something. For example, if the first thing you learn about someone is that they’re divorced, you will evaluate everything you learn about them afterward in relation to the fact that they’re divorced.
Attention buyers might make it look like you’re surrounded by a particular type of information while you disregard other kinds of information. For example, if you’re trying to have a baby, you might notice that you see baby product ads everywhere. This bias typically makes it seem like you’re surrounded by more than the usual stimuli.
Most people tend to interpret information in a way that confirms what they already believe on a particular subject. Confirmation bias makes people ignore information that comes into conflict with their beliefs.
This bias refers to the inability to recognize your lack of competence in a particular area. Some people tend to express a high degree of confidence about things they don’t really know much about or are not skilled at doing. This is a bias present in all areas of life, ranging from sports to medical examinations.
False consensus effect
Many people tend to overestimate the degree to which other people approve of their behaviours and agree with their judgment.
It’s also common for people to believe that their own set of actions is common while others’ behaviours are not the norm or even deviant. This is a widespread type of cognitive bias that appears in most cultures around the world.
This cognitive bias refers to the tendency to see objects as having a single way of working. For example, if you don’t have a hammer, your first reaction would be to go find one because you don’t consider using another object to drive a nail into the wall. The problem with functional fixedness is that it can limit your problem-solving capabilities and creativity.
Another very common type of cognitive bias, the halo effect bias means that your general impression of an individual is shaped by a single characteristic. For example, if someone is physically attractive, people will perceive them as more intelligent than they actually are because people routinely perceive beautiful individuals that way.
If you learn something new about an event that you already had information about, your perception can be altered. For example, if you learn something new about an event that you actually saw with your own eyes, that piece of information can change how you remember the event, even if the new information is not actually true.
This particular bias has huge implications when it comes to the validity of witness testimony, and researchers have continuously looked for ways to reduce this bias, so witnesses recall events more accurately.
People update their beliefs selectively, which means that most individuals believe that they are less likely to experience hardships than others. Most people also believe that there are more likely to experience success, and they usually overestimate the likelihood of positive outcomes when making predictions about their future health, relationships, or wealth.
Most people have a tendency to blame outside elements when something goes wrong in their life. However, the same people might wonder whether an individual was somehow to blame when something goes wrong in that person’s life.
People typically believe that the problems other people are facing are somehow caused by an internal characteristic or flaw. This cognitive bias may also cause you to credit your own qualities when something positive happens to you.
Is it possible to avoid cognitive bias?
It’s not entirely possible to avoid cognitive bias because the human brain seeks efficiency, so much of the reasoning you’re conducting on a daily basis relies on nearly automatic processing. However, researchers believe that we can train our brains to better recognize situations in which cognitive biases are likely to operate.
Here are some of the ways you can try to mitigate the effects of cognitive bias:
- Learn more about cognitive bias — by studying how cognitive bias works, you can begin to recognize cognitive biases in your own life and start to counteract them.
- Question your decisions — try to slow down your decision-making process, especially if you find yourself in a situation where you know you may be susceptible to bias. You should also consider expanding the resources you consult when making a decision instead of using the same ones over and over again.
- Collaborate with other people — before making an important decision, you should get some help from a diverse group of people with various life experiences and areas of expertise so you can consider possibilities that might overlook otherwise.
Cognitive biases are flaws in human thinking that can lead you to inaccurate conclusions. They cause your brain to constantly rely on a specific type of information while overlooking other types, which can ultimately be harmful to your decision-making process.
Even though it’s unrealistic to eliminate all cognitive biases from your thought, you can improve your ability to spot the situations where you might be subject to cognitive bias.
By slowing down your decision-making process, learning more about how cognitive biases work, and collaborating with others, especially when making important decisions, you can reduce the chances of making the wrong decisions because you were influenced by cognitive biases.