20 Cognitive Biases That Effect Your Decision Making

You make thousands of rational decisions every day — or so you think. From what you’ll eat throughout the day to whether you should make a big career move, research suggests that there are a number of cognitive stumbling blocks that affect your behaviour, and they can prevent you from acting in your own best interests.

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1. Anchoring Bias

People are over-reliant on the first piece of information they hear. In a salary negotiation, whomever makes the first offer establishes a range of reasonable possibilities in each person's mind.

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2. Availability Heuristic

People overestimate the importance of information that is available to them. A person might argue that smoking is not unhealthy because they know someone who lived to 100 and smoked three packs a day.

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3. Bandwagon Effect

The probability of one person adopting a belief increases based on the number of people who hold that belief. This is a powerful form of groupthink and is the reason why meetings are often unproductive.

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4. Blind-Spot Bias

Failing to recognise your own cognitive biases is a bias in itself. People notice cognitive and motivational biases much more in others than in themselves.

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5. Choice-Supportive Bias

When you choose something, you tend to feel positive about it, even if that choice has flaws. Like how you think your dog is awesome - even if it bites people every once in a while.

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6. Clustering Illusion

This is the tendency to see patterns in random events. It is key to various gambling fallacies, like the idea that red is more or less likely to turn up on a roulette table after a string of reds.

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7. Confirmation Bias

We tend to listen only to people and information that confirm our preconceptions - one of the many reasons why it's so hard to have a intelligent conversation about climate change.

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8. Conservatism Bias

Where people favour prior evidence over new evidence or information that has emerged. People were slow to accept that the Earth was round because they maintained their earlier understanding that the planet was flat.

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9. Information Bias

The tendency to seek information when it does not effect action. More information is not always better. With less information, people can often make more accurate predictions.

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10. Ostrich Effect

The decision to ignore dangerous or negative information by "burying" one's head in the sand, like an ostrich. Research suggests that investors check the value of their holdings significantly less often during bad markets.

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11. Outcome Bias

Judging a decision based on the outcome - rather than how exactly the decision was made in the moment. Just because you won a lot at the casino doesn't mean gambling your money was a smart decision.

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12. Overconfidence

Some of us are too confident about our abilities, and this causes us to take greater risks in our daily lives. Experts are more prone to this bias than laypeople, since they are more convinced that they are right.

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13. Placebo Effect

When simply believing that something will have a certain effect on you causes it to have that effect. In medicine, people given fake pills often experience the same physiological effects as people given the real thing.

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14. Pro-Innovation Bias

When a proponent of an innovation or technology tends to overvalue its usefulness and undervalue its limitations. Sound familiar, California, Silicon Valley?

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15. Recency

The tendency to weigh the latest information more heavily than older data. Investors often think the market will always look the way it looks today and make unwise decisions.

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16. Saliences

Our tendency to focus on the most easily recognisable features of a person or concept. When you think about dying, you might worry about being mauled by a lion, as opposed to what is statistically more likely, like dying in a car accident.

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17. Selective Perception

Allowing our expectations to influence how we perceive the world. An experiment involving a football game between students from two universities showed that one team saw the opposing team commit more infractions.

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18. Stereotyping

Expecting a group or person to have certain qualities without having real information about the person. It allows us to quickly identify strangers as friends or enemies, but people tend to overuse and abuse it.

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19. Survivorship Bias

An error that comes from focusing only on surviving examples, causing us to misjudge a situation. For instance, we might think that being an entrepreneur is easy because we haven't heard of all those who failed.

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20. Zero-Risk Bias

Sociologists have researched and found that we love certainty - even if it's counterproductive. Eliminating risk entirely means there is no chance of harm being caused.

Sources: Business Insider; Brain Biases; Ethics Unwrapped; Explorable; Harvard Magazine; HowStuffWorks; Learnvest; Outcome Bias In Decision Evaluation; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; Psychology Today, The Bias Blind Spot, Perceptions of Bias in Self Versus Others; Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin; The Cognitive Effects of Mass Communication; Theory and Research in Mass Communications; The Less-Is-More Effect; Predictions and Tests; Judgement and Decision Making; The New York Times; The Wall Street Journal; Wikipedia; You Are Not So Smart; ZhurnalyWiki.

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