15 Biases that mess with your thinking and decisions

We would like to think we approach our decisions with a high-degree of rationality and logic, but this, unfortunately, is not always the case.

In fact, many researchers have discovered that we have a number of cognitive biases that prevent us from acting in an ideal way.

Thankfully, knowing about these cognitive biases can help you to avoid some common pitfalls and illogical traps.

Here are a few biases that could interfere with your thinking and hinder conclusions that you arrive at:

  1. Availability Heuristic

This happens when people take selected information they have, place too much importance on it and use it to draw conclusions.

For example, a person might conclude that exercising isn’t of much use, because their uncle lived a long life and never exercised.

  1. Bandwagon Effect

The greater the number of people who believe in something, the more credibility it seems to gain, whether it has any basis in fact or not.

Always stay skeptical, and refuse to believe in something just because it is popularly believed to be true.

  1. Choice-Supportive Bias

Once you’ve made a decision, you are likely to feel attached to it.

Even if a choice has obvious flaws, your brain may choose to ignore them or downplay them in order to protect your previous decision.

  1. Clustering Illusion

The clustering illusion occurs when you see patterns and justify decisions, based off information from a series of random events.

For example, in a series of coin tosses, you might see that heads appeared 4 times in row. Based on this, you might bet that heads will appear the 5th time as well.

  1. Conservatism Bias

People don’t like change, and when new information blows the legitimacy away from a strongly held belief, people get defensive.

This defensive response is known as the conservatism bias and it was what made people initially refute the fact that the earth was round (because everyone believed it was flat previously).

  1. Confirmation Bias

We block out a lot of information that goes against what we want to believe. And we also might seek out and/or interpret information in a way that reaffirms our opinion.

  1. Pro-Innovation Bias

Many inventors fall under the spell of this cognitive bias. It is when you fail to see the limitations of a creation and can only see the benefits.

  1. Survivorship Bias

If you think becoming a doctor is easy because you’ve only been exposed to people who successfully navigated the intense obstacle that is medical school, you are falling victim to survivorship bias.

It is when we only see (or are shown) the survivors but overlook the failures.

  1. Stereotyping

We all use stereotypes quite often and use them to form quick impressions of a person or situation, based on a generalization.

  1. Recency

New information always has a certain shine to it that makes people tend to devalue old information.

  1. Overconfidence

Nobody has escaped making a foolish decision due to overconfidence.

When we are too confident in our abilities, we tend to ignore important information and take more risk.

  1. Outcome Bias

It is easy to judge a decision based on its outcome, rather than the merits of both the choice and outcome.

When you ignore the process, and focus solely on a positive or negative outcome, you are falling for the outcome cognitive bias.

  1. Ostrich Effect

The Ostrich Effect occurs when you ignore the fact that something bad has happened, since that is less painful.

  1. Zero-risk Bias

Who wouldn’t like an option that comes with zero risk.

This bias causes us to prefer a decision/option that comes with zero risk, over an option that has larger benefits but more uncertainty.

  1. Information Bias

When you put in too much time seeking information in cases where it does not actually affect the outcome of a situation, you are falling victim to an information bias.

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