58 Cognitive Biases that Screw up Everything We Do
We like to think we're rational human beings.
In fact, we are prone to hundreds of proven biases that cause us to think and act irrationally, and even thinking we're rational despite evidence of irrationality in others is known as blind spot bias.
The study of
how often human beings do irrational things was enough for psychologists Daniel Kahneman to win the
Nobel Prize in Economics, and it opened the rapidly expanding field of behavioral economics. Similar insights are also reshaping everything from
Hoping to clue you - and ourselves - into the biases that frame our decisions, we've collected a long list of the most notable ones and what we will mainly focus on with the EOF.
This is not article that we wrote it comes from this
1) Affect heuristic
The way you feel filters the way you interpret the world.
Take, for instance, if the words rake, take, and cake flew across a computer screen blinked on a computer screen for 1/30 of a second.
Which would you recognize?
If you're hungry, research suggests that
all you see is cake.
2) Anchoring bias
People are overreliant on the first piece of information they hear.
In a salary negotiation, for instance, whoever makes the first offer establishes a range of reasonable possibilities in each person's mind. Any counteroffer will naturally react to or be anchored by that opening offer.
"Most people come with the very strong belief they should never make an opening offer," says Leigh Thompson, a professor at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. "Our research and lots of corroborating research shows that's completely backwards. The guy or gal who makes a first offer is better off."
4) Observer-expectancy effect
A cousin of confirmation bias, here our
expectations unconsciously influence how we perceive an outcome. Researchers looking for a certain result in an experiment, for example, may inadvertently manipulate or interpret the results to reveal their expectations. That's why the "double-blind" experimental design was created for the field of scientific research.
5) 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 it's a
reason meetings are so unproductive.
7) Choice-supportive bias
When you choose something, you tend to feel positive about it,
even if the choice has flaws. You think that your dog is awesome - even if it bites people every once in a while - and that other dogs are stupid, since they're not yours.
8) Clustering illusion
This is the tendency to see patterns in random events. It is central 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.
This is the tendency of people to conform with other people. It is so powerful that it may lead people to do ridiculous things, as shown by the following experiment by
Ask one subject and several fake subjects (who are really working with the experimenter) which of lines B, C, D, and E is the same length as A? If all of the fake subjects say that D is the same length as A, the real subject will agree with this objectively false answer a
shocking three-quarters of the time.
"That we have found the tendency to conformity in our society so strong that reasonably intelligent and well-meaning young people are willing to call white black is a matter of concern,"
Asch wrote. "It raises questions about our ways of education and about the values that guide our conduct."
12) Decoy effect
A phenomenon in marketing where consumers have a specific change in preference between two choices after being presented with a third choice. Offer two sizes of soda and people may choose the smaller one; but offer a third even larger size, and people may choose what is now the medium option.
15) Availability heuristic
When people overestimate the importance of information that is available to them.
For instance, a person might argue that smoking is not unhealthy on the basis that his grandfather lived to 100 and smoked three packs a day, an argument that ignores the possibility that his grandfather was an outlier.
17) Frequency illusion
Where a word, name or thing you just learned about
suddenly appears everywhere. Now that you know what that SAT word means, you see it in so many places!
18) Fundamental attribution error
This is where you attribute a person's behavior to an intrinsic quality of her identity rather than the situation she's in. For instance, you might think your colleague is an angry person, when she is really just upset because she stubbed her toe.
21) Hard-Easy bias
Where everyone is
overconfident on easy problems and not confident enough for hard problems.
23) Hindsight bias
A model poses with the new Nokia "E90 Communicator" phone during its launch in New Delhi June 28, 2007.
Of course Apple and Google would become the two most important companies in phones - tell that to Nokia, circa 2003.
29) Irrational escalation
When people make irrational decisions based on past rational decisions. It may happen in an auction, when a bidding war spurs two bidders to offer more than they would other be willing to pay.
30) Negativity bias
The tendency to put more emphasis on negative experiences rather than positive ones. People with this bias feel that "bad is stronger than good" and will perceive threats more than opportunities in a given situation.
Psychologists argue it's an evolutionary adaptation - it's better to mistake a rock for a bear than a bear for a rock.
31) Omission bias
The tendency to prefer inaction to action, in ourselves and even in politics.
Psychologist Art Markman
gave a great example back in 2010:
The omission bias creeps into our judgment calls on domestic arguments, work mishaps, and even national policy discussions. In March, President Obama pushed Congress to enact sweeping health care reforms. Republicans hope that voters will blame Democrats for any problems that arise after the law is enacted. But since there were problems with health care already, can they really expect that future outcomes will be blamed on Democrats, who passed new laws, rather than Republicans, who opposed them? Yes, they can - the omission bias is on their side.
32) Ostrich effect
The decision to ignore dangerous or negative information by "burying" one's head in the sand,
like an ostrich.
Priming is where if you're introduced to an idea, you'll more readily identify related ideas.
Let's take an experiment as an example, again from
Suppose you ask subjects to press one button if a string of letters forms a word, and another button if the string does not form a word. (E.g., "banack" vs. "banner".) Then you show them the string "water". Later, they will more quickly identify the string "drink" as a word. This is known as "cognitive priming"
Priming also reveals the massive parallelism of spreading activation: if seeing "water" activates the word "drink", it probably also activates "river", or "cup", or "splash"
49) Scope insensitivity
This is where your willingness to pay for something doesn't correlate with the scale of the outcome.
Once upon a time, three groups of subjects were asked how much they would pay to save 2,000 / 20,000 / 200,000 migrating birds from drowning in uncovered oil ponds. The groups respectively answered $80, $78, and $88. This is scope insensitivity or scope neglect: the number of birds saved - the scope of the altruistic action - had little effect on willingness to pay.
50) Seersucker Illusion
Over-reliance on expert advice. This has to do with the avoidance or responsibility. We call in "experts" to forecast when typically they have no greater chance of predicting an outcome than the rest of the population. In other words, "
for every seer there's a sucker."
Expecting a group or person to have certain qualities without having real information about the individual. This explains the snap judgments Malcolm Gladwell refers to in "Blink." While there may be some value to stereotyping, people tend to overuse it.
55) 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 of the entrepreneurs who have failed.
It can also cause us to assume that survivors are inordinately better than failures, without regard for the importance of luck or other factors.