Cognitive Biases You Should Know About For A Less Disillusioned Life

In this post, I want to arm you with a bit of knowledge about how our human (monkey) brains work. One of the key ways to lead a less disillusioned life is to be just that bit more extraordinary than the average person. Understanding and being aware of tricks your brain plays can help you do that.

What is a Cognitive Bias?

Cognitive biases are mistakes in your reasoning or in other cognitive processes that usually stem from your conditioning or beliefs.  The definition of a cognitive bias from Wikipedia is:

“A cognitive bias refers to the systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion.”

“Cognitive biases may sometimes lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality.”

Cognitive Biases were first introduced in 1972 by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman.

Everyday Cognitive Biases to be Aware of

There are a lot of cognitive biases that have been identified over the years. You can see a fairly big list of them on the List of Cognitive Biases Wikipedia page, but for now, I want to introduce you to eight of the big ones.

1. Anchoring bias – During a decision-making process, we may rely too heavily on the first piece of information we receive, the “anchor”.

Example – an initial offer price for a product sets the base for the rest of the negotiation. The first person to throw out a number has an advantage because they have dictated all prices that follow

2. Availability heuristic – Overestimating the importance of information that is available.

Example – After seeing news coverage about a plane crash, your fear of a similar event happening to you increases even though the odds are very low. 

3. Bandwagon effect – Where you may hold a belief or you do something just because many people do.

Example – The release of a toy that causes people to go into a frenzy to get their hands on it. 

4. Blind-spot bias – This is the cognitive biases of cognitive biases. Blind spot is where you have not recognized that you hold a cognitive bias

Example – self-explanatory

5. Choice-supportive bias – Once you have chosen something, say a purchase, you will then look for information that supports the purchase in a positive way and also push away negative information

Example – After a purchase, you will tend to shut out any negative information regarding the product

6. Clustering illusion – Seeing patterns in otherwise random events.

Example – A simple example is tossing a coin. If the coin comes up heads 12 times in a row, we start to think the chances of a tail have increased when the probability is still 50/50

7. Confirmation bias – Listening or seeing only the information that helps you confirm a particular opinion.

Example – Someone that does not believe in climate change will usually pay more attention to information that confirms this belief

8. Conservatism bias – Not allowing yourself to be swayed by new valid information which would replace old information you have used to form an opinion.

Example – The lack of acceptance in the 50s and 60s that smoking caused lung cancer even though there was compelling evidence

I hope this information helps you be more aware and conscious of how your brain works in certain situations. Most people believe they are in full control of their thoughts and actions but we are way more conditioned than we think.