Cognitive Biases That Make Us Dumb Asses

We all have them. From psychologists identifying them to marketers who exploit them to manipulate others, we all have them. These are the cognitive biases, the critical breakdowns in logic and reason we are all subject to daily. Which is your favorite, as in, the one you’re most vulnerable to?

anchoring The first thing you judge influences your judgment of all that follows. Human minds are associative in nature, so the order In which we receive information helps determine the course of our judgments and perceptions. Be especially mindful of this bias during financial negotiations such as houses, cars, and salaries. The initial price offered is proven to have a significant effect.
£M sunk cost fallacy You irrationally cling to things that have already cost you something. When we’ve invested our time, money, or emotion into something, it hurts us to let it go. This aversion to pain can distort our better judgment and cause us to make unwise investments. To regain objectivity, ask yourself: had I not already invested something, would I still do so now? What would I counsel a friend to do if they were in the same situation?
confirmation bias You look for ways to justify your existing beliefs. We are primed to see and agree with ideas that (it our preconceptions, and to ignore and dismiss information that conflicts with them. Think of your ideas and beliefs as software you’re actively trying to find problems with rather than things to be defended. “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.” – Richard Feynman
dunning-kruger effect The more you know, the less confident you’re likely to be. Or, the more you think you know, the more you really don’t.  Because experts know just how much they don’t know, they tend to underestimate their ability; but it’s easy to be over-confident when you have only a simple idea of how things are. “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are so certain of themselves, yet wiser people so full of doubts.” – Bertrand Russell
backfire effect When your core beliefs are challenged, it can cause you to believe even more strongly. We can experience being wrong about some ideas as an attack upon our very selves, or our tribal identity. This can lead to motivated reasoning which causes us to double-down despite disconfirming evidence. “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain
barnum effect You see personal specifics in vague statements by filling in the gaps. Because our minds are given to making connections it’s easy for us to take nebulous statements and find ways to interpret them so that they seem specific and personal. Psychics, astrologers and others use this bias to make it seem like they’re telling you something relevant. Consider how things might be interpreted to apply to anyone, not just you.
declinism You remember the past as better than it was, and expect the future to be worse than it will likely be. Despite living in the most peaceful and prosperous time in history, many people believe things are getting worse. The 24 hour news cycle, with its reporting of overtly negative and violent events, may account for some of this effect. Instead of relying on nostalgic impressions of how great things used to be, use measurable metrics such as life expectancy, levels of crime and evidence, and prosperity statistics.
framing effect You allow yourself to be unduly influenced by context and delivery. We all like to think that we think independently, but the truth is that all of us are, in fact, influenced by delivery, framing and subtle cues. This is why the ad industry is a thing, despite almost everyone believing they’re not affected by advertising messages. Only when we have the intellectual humility to accept the fact that we can be manipulated, can we hope to limit how much we are. Try to be mindful of how things are being put to you.
just world hypothesis Your preference for a just world makes you presume that it exists. A world in which people don’t always get what they deserve, hard work doesn’t always pay off, and injustice happens is an uncomfortable one that threatens our preferred narrative. However, it is also the reality. A more just world requires understanding rather than blame. Remember that everyone has their own life story, we’re all fallible, and bad things happen to good people.
in-group bias You unfairly favor those who belong to your group. We presume that we re fair and impartial but the truth is that we automatically favor those who are most like us, or belong to our groups. Try to Imagine yourself in the position of those in out-groups; whilst also attempting to be dispassionate when judging those who belong to your groups.
fundamental attribution error You judge others on their character, but yourself on the situation. If you haven’t had a good night’s steep you know why you’re being a bit slow; but if you observe someone else being slow you don’t have such knowledge and so might presume them to just be a slow person. It’s not only kind to view others’ situations with charity, its more objective too. Be mindful to also err on the side of taking personal responsibility rather than justifying and blaming.
 halo effect How much you like someone, or how attractive they are, influences your other judgments of them. Our judgments are associative and automatic and so if we want to be objective we need to consciously control (or irrelevant influences. This is especially important in a professional setting. If you notice that you’re giving consistently high or low marks across the board, it’s worth considering that your judgment may be suffering from the halo effect.
placebo effect If you believe you’re taking medicine it can sometimes ‘work’ even if it’s fake. The placebo effect can work for stuff that our mind influences (such as pain) but not so much for things like viruses or broken bones. Homeopathy acupuncture, and many other forms of natural medicine’ have been proven to be no more effective than placebo. Keep a healthy body and bank balance by using evidence-based medicine from a qualified doctor.
bystander effect You presume someone else is going to do something in an emergency situation. When something terrible is happening in a public setting we can experience a kind of shock and mental paralysis that distracts us from a sense of personal responsibility. The problem is that everyone can experience this sense of deindividuatlon in a crowd. If there’s an emergency situation, presume to be the one who will help or call for help. Be the change you want to see in the world.
availability heuristic Your judgments are influenced by what springs most easily to mind. How recent, emotionally powerful or unusual your memories are can make them seem more relevant. This, in turn, can cause you to apply them too readily. Try to gain different perspectives and relevant statistical information rather than relying purely on first Judgments and emotive influences.
curse of knowledge Once you understand something you presume it to be obvious to everyone. Things makes sense once they make sense, so it can be hard to remember why they didn’t We build complex networks of understanding and forget how intricate the path to our available knowledge really is. When teaching someone something new, go slow and explain like the/re ten years old (without being patronizing). Repeat key points and facilitate active practice to help embed knowledge.
belief bias If a conclusion supports your existing beliefs, you’ll rationalize anything that supports it. It s difficult for us to set aside our existing beliefs to consider the true merits of an argument In practice this means that our ideas become impervious to criticism, and are perpetually reinforced. A useful thing to ask is when and how did 1 get this belief?’ We tend to automatically defend our ideas without ever really questioning them.
self-serving bias You believe your failures are due to external factors, yet you’re personally responsible for your successes. Many of us enjoy unearned privileges, luck and advantages that others do not. It’s easy to tell ourselves that we deserve these things, whilst blaming circumstance when things don’t go our way. When judging others, be mindful of how this bias interacts with the just-world hypothesis, fundamental attribution error, and the in-group bias.
groupthink You let the social dynamics of a group situation override the best outcomes. Dissent can be uncomfortable and dangerous to one’s social standing, and so often the most confident or first voice will determine group decisions. Rather than openly contradicting others, seek to facilitate objective means of evaluation and critical thinking practices as a group activity.
negativity bias You allow negative things to disproportionately influence your thinking. The pain of loss and hurt are felt more keenly and persistently than the fleeting gratification of pleasant things. We are primed for survival and our aversion to pain can distort our judgment for a modem world. Pro-and-con lists, as well as thinking in terms of probabilities, can help you evaluate things more objectively than relying on a cognitive impression.
optimism bias You overestimate the likelihood of positive outcomes-There can be benefits to a positive attitude, but its unwise to allow such an attitude to adversely affect our ability to make rational judgments (they’re not mutually exclusive). If you make rational realistic judgments you’ll have a lot more to feel positive about.
pessimism bias You overestimate the likelihood of negative outcomes. Pessimism is often a defense mechanism against disappointment, or it can be the result of depression and anxiety disorders. Perhaps the worst aspect of pessimism is that even if something good happens, you’ll probably feel pessimistic about it anyway.
reactance You’d rather do the opposite of what someone is trying to make you do. When we feel our liberty is being constrained, our inclination is to resist, however in doing so we can over-compensate. Be careful not to lose objectivity when someone is being coercive/manipulative, or trying to force you do something. Wisdom springs from reflection, folly from reaction.
spotlight effect You overestimate how much people notice how you look and act. Most people are much more concerned about themselves than they are about you. Absent overt prejudices, people generally want to like and get along with you as it gives them validation too. Instead of worrying about how you’re being judged, consider how you make others feel They’ll remember this much more, and you’ll make the world a better place.