VOS: Cognitive Bias: Hidden Forces Shaping Our Decisions

Cognitive Bias: Hidden Forces Shaping Our Decisions

Psychology explained

July 2023

Cognitive Bias: Hidden Forces Shaping Our Decisions

Our minds are incredibly powerful, yet sometimes they can lead us astray in surprising ways. Nobel laureate and psychologist Daniel Kahneman along with his colleague Amos Tversky dedicated much of their careers to exploring these hidden quirks of the mind known as cognitive biases.

Confirmation bias

One notable bias is the "confirmation bias," where we tend to seek out and favor information that confirms our existing beliefs, while ignoring or devaluing information that contradicts them. For example, if you're convinced that a particular diet is the healthiest, you're more likely to pay attention to studies supporting that diet and disregard those presenting contradictory evidence.

Avalability heuristic

Another bias is the "availability heuristic," which causes us to overestimate the probability of events that easily come to mind. For instance, after seeing news reports about plane crashes, we might feel that air travel is incredibly dangerous, even though statistically it's far safer than driving a car.

Anchoring bias

Similarly, the "anchoring bias" causes us to rely heavily on the first piece of information we receive (the 'anchor') when making decisions. Let's say you're negotiating a salary and the employer gives the first number. This number tends to 'anchor' your expectations, and can dramatically influence the course of the negotiation.

How to Think with More Freedom

While these biases can have significant impacts on our decision-making, recognizing them is the first step to mitigating their effects. Here are a few practical recommendations:

  1. Foster Awareness:

    Familiarize yourself with common cognitive biases. The more aware you are, the more you can catch yourself in the act of biased thinking.

  2. Seek Diverse Perspectives:

    Encourage open dialogue and consider viewpoints that challenge your own. This can help counter confirmation bias.

  3. Slow Down:

    Our biases tend to have a greater effect when we're making quick decisions. Take your time and consider your choices more carefully.

  4. Question the Source:

    Be skeptical about where information is coming from, especially if it aligns perfectly with your existing beliefs.

Remember, cognitive biases are a universal part of the human experience. As Daniel Kahneman put it, "The confidence people have in their beliefs is not a measure of the quality of evidence but of the coherence of the story the mind has managed to construct". But by understanding cognitive bias, we can strive to make more rational and effective decisions, and navigate the world in a more informed and conscious way.

Similar articles

Embrace Mindfulness

Alongside 3,000,000

VOS Members. It’s Free.