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28 | Sunday Sift

Our Minds Regularly Mislead Us - Understanding Cognitive Bias

Whit Rasmussen
Whit Rasmussen
4 min read
28 | Sunday Sift

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Our Minds Regularly Mislead Us

We think we know things. We think we make the right decisions. But do we really know? Are we choosing correctly?

Until someone builds a time machine, we cannot know for certain. But, we can significantly improve our odds of success if we understand cognitive bias.

What Is Cognitive Bias?

A cognitive bias is a systematic error in thinking that occurs when people are processing and interpreting information in the world around them. These biases repeatedly affect the decisions and judgments people make. -verywellmind

Cognitive bias is omnipresent. Everyone has it, but no single person's cognitive biases are the same.

Cognitive bias helps us to simplify information processing in order to make sense of the world and reach decisions with relative speed.

How many decisions do you make in a day? 100, 1,000, 10,000?

Google's answer: 35,000. The average adult is estimated to make 35,000 decisions every day.

Not all decisions are equal, of course. Some require more time, attention, and deliberation. Quitting your job is not the same as cream in your coffee.

Because we are faced with so many decisions on a daily basis, the majority of these decisions are processed rapidly via associations with previous patterns, experiences, and existing knowledge.

These rapid associations help to speed up the decision process, which allows us to live a "normal life" vs. staring into space every few moments to carefully process the most trivial decisions.

These rapid associations are often thought of as mental shortcuts and are formally called heuristics.

Heuristics help facilitate problem-solving and probability judgments. Think of them as generalizations or rules-of-thumb that help us make immediate judgments.  

The mechanics of heuristics are useful, but come with a cost - they often result in irrational or inaccurate conclusions.

Understanding How Cognitive Bias Develops

Most biases are a result of memory and/or attention.

  1. Memory: your recollection of events (previous successes and failures) can lead to biased thinking and decision-making in the future.
  2. Attention: information is limitless, but attention is not. People are forced to be selective about what they pay attention to, which can lead to lapses and information gaps.  

Cognitive bias is present in everyone. It may be easier for you to spot cognitive bias in others, but it is essential to understand this affects your thinking as well.

If you find yourself doing any of the following, you are likely influenced by some type of cognitive bias.

  • Only paying attention to news that confirms your opinions
  • Blaming outside factors when life doesn't go your way
  • Assuming others share your opinions or beliefs
  • Believing other people's success is attributed to luck while you take personal credit for your accomplishments

It is natural to believe we are objective, logical, and considerate of all available information when evaluating our decisions. Unfortunately, cognitive bias repeatedly trips us up and leads to avoidable, sub-optimal outcomes.

If you want to make better decisions, understanding examples of cognitive bias is a great place to start.

Examples of Cognitive Bias

Thread: 20 cognitive biases to learn (so you can think clearly and make better decisions)

Author: Sahil Bloom (@SahilBloom)

Thread by @SahilBloom on Thread Reader App
@SahilBloom: Cognitive biases are systemic errors in thinking that negatively impact decision-making quality and outcomes. THREAD: 20 cognitive biases to learn (so you can think clearly and make better decisions): F...…

Bonus: 50 Cognitive Biases to be Aware of so You Can be the Very Best Version of You

Author: Marcus Lu of Visual Capitalist

50 Cognitive Biases in the Modern World
Our rapidly evolving world forces us to adopt distinct patterns of behavior, and in the process, paves the way for new cognitive biases to emerge.

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Sunday Sift

Whit Rasmussen

Investor 📈, Photographer 📸 & Writer 📝, Obsessive CrossFitter 🏋️‍♂️, One-Time IRONMAN 🥇, Regular Reader 📚, Perpetual Learner 💡, Habitual Optimist 😎