A cognitive bias is a mistake in reasoning, evaluating, remembering, or other cognitive processes, often occurring as a result of holding onto one’s preferences and beliefs regardless of contrary information. Whether we realize or not, cognitive biases influence our memory, reasoning and decision making. So, if our memory of past experiences is biased i.e, we didn’t absorb all of the facts for whatever reason, this untrue perception can (and often does) influence our future decision making. Scary right?
How cognitive biases work
A cognitive bias is a type of error in our thinking, that happens as we absorb the world around us. Attention is a limited resource, therefore, people are selective about what they remember. Cognitive biases are often a result of our brain’s attempt to simplify processing information.
The cognitive bias becomes a benchmark which allows us to make sense of a new situation by relying on old experiences. In essence, the world is complicated so our brains feel a necessity to rely on mental shortcuts allowing us to process information at an increased speed.
It’s easy to see why cognitive biases add value in threatening situations but outside of primitive living, they can negatively impact decisions because we skip logical reasoning. The way to prevent our cognitive biases from distorting our thinking is to be self-aware of the most common bias types.
Types of common cognitive biases
1. Anchoring bias
This is the tendency to rely too heavily on the very first piece of information you learn (“the anchor”) when making decisions.
2. Confirmation bias
Instead of objectively searching for answers we tend to listen only to information that confirms our preconceptions and pre-existing beliefs.
3. Outcome bias
Judging a decision based on the outcome, rather than the actual decision. For example, believing gambling is good for you because you won last time you played.
Expecting a group or person to have certain qualities without having real information about the person.
Some of us can be too confident in our abilities. Experts are more disposed to this since they are more confident in their abilities.
6. Availability Heuristic
This involves making decisions based on examples that immediately spring to mind, instead of considering wider facts. For example believing drinking alcohol everyday isn’t bad for your health because your grandfather drank everyday and he lived to be 100 years old.
7. Blind Spot Bias
Not recognizing your own cognitive biases is a bias in itself. People interestingly notice cognitive biases much more in others than in themselves.