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12 Cognitive Biases: How to Improve Your Thinking

We are going to be explaining 12 cognitive biases in this article and presenting them in a format that you can easily understand to help you make better decision in your life.

Cognitive biases are flaws in logical thinking that clear the path to bad decisions, so learning about these ideas can reduce errors in your thought process, leading to a more successful life.

These biases are very closely related to logical fallacies, which may help you win an argument or present information better.

Fundamental Attribution Error

The fundamental attribution error is the tendency to make a universal judgment about the cause of behavior. This cognitive bias can lead to frustration, anger and other negative emotions.

In a nutshell, this is when we attribute others’ actions to their personalities and fail to understand that it’s only one aspect of who they are. We judge everyone else on character but blame our shortcomings on the situation. Example: If Jane is late for work, she’s lazy. If you’re late for work, it’s because of traffic.

This cognitive bias can lead us to feel frustrated by other people’s mistakes or success — especially if those mistakes or successes were caused by a personality trait like laziness or determination rather than situational factors like traffic.

We judge everyone else on character but blame our shortcomings on the situation.

Example: If Jane is late for work, she’s lazy. If you’re late for work, it’s because of traffic.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias that occurs when an incompetent person mistakenly concludes that they’re better than someone more competent at the same task.

The name comes from David Dunning and Justin Kruger, two social psychologists who first described this effect in 1999. It’s also known as the “dunning-kruger effect” or, more commonly, the “confirmation bias.”

Novices experience overconfidence due to quick progression on the learning curve.

While experts’ confidence drops because they realize what they don’t yet know.

Paradoxically, the more you become an expert, the more you may feel like an imposter.

Confirmation Bias

We seek out (and retain) information that confirms what we already believe.

Example: Flat Earthers base their beliefs on a feeling, ignoring all evidence to the contrary.

As you can imagine, this is not a good way to approach your life. If you’re trying to learn something new, you need to be open to new ideas and information. If you’re not willing to consider new ideas and information, then you’ll never change your behavior and reach your goals.

One way that we fall prey to confirmation bias is when we make decisions based on how an idea makes us feel rather than how it actually works in the real world. For example, many people believe that they have better tasting food if they’ve eaten it before, even if it’s been sitting in their refrigerator for years! They also believe that they get better results from magic spells than from regular ones because the first one was more effective for them personally.

Curse of Knowledge

We believe that everyone knows the same things we do.

Example: Jane gets frustrated with her son for not understanding multiplication right away.

She thinks, “How can he be so stupid? He should be able to understand this by now!”

But what if she was wrong? What if she had no idea how to teach numbers? What if she didn’t know that there are different ways of teaching math, and that some methods will work better than others? What if there is so much more to learning math than just memorizing facts and formulas?

Availability Heuristic

The availability heuristic is a cognitive bias that causes us to make snap judgments based on the most recent information.

Example: When an airline reports a crash, ticket sales go down until people forget about the incident.

The availability heuristic can have serious consequences if you’re trying to predict the future or make plans for your life. It’s one reason why we tend to believe in things like horoscopes and psychics.

But it also has an upside: Sometimes our minds work faster than we do, so even though we may not want to use our brains too much, they’re good at processing new information quickly — which can help us solve problems and make better decisions when we’re pressed for time.

Automation Bias

We put too much trust in automated systems to fix our mistakes.

Example: “Grammarly suggested it; therefore, it’s correct.”

We are so excited about the idea of being able to fix our mistakes before we even submit that we don’t even stop to think about how many mistakes we might make. We just assume that if a computer can do it, then we should be able to too.

This is a common mistake among writers and editors who are learning the ropes of grammar and spelling. They jump into Grammarly or another tool with the expectation that their work will be perfect after one pass through the program—that all their problems will be fixed instantly. Unfortunately, this rarely happens for two reasons:

1.) Grammarly does not catch every single error in your writing; I have seen people get banned from using it for that reason alone (and I know some people who still use it despite its flaws).

2.) If you use one of these tools over and over again without pausing to edit what you wrote each time, then eventually your writing will start showing up as errors in your submission .

Law of Triviality

One of the most common cognitive biases is called “the law of triviality” and it means that we spend inordinate amounts of time and effort on trivial issues while ignoring the ones that matter.

For example, the mayor devotes an entire committee to keeping the sidewalk clean but does nothing to help the homeless.

The law of triviality can affect us in different ways. It can affect our decision making by making us feel like we are making progress when we are not and it can also cause us to ignore things that would help us make better decisions.

Survivorship Bias

Survivorship bias is the tendency to look for information that supports a conclusion you already hold.

Focusing on successes and ignoring failures.

Example: You assume entrepreneurship is easy because all you see are successful founders in magazines.

IKEA Effect

We tend to value things more when we have a part in their creation.

Example: “Isn’t this a beautiful coffee table? I put it together myself!”

This is called the IKEA effect, and it can be applied to anything you create. If you make something yourself, it’s more valuable than something that was made by someone else. The same goes for writing code and creating software products.

Third-Person Effect

The third-person effect is our tendency to believe that we are more immune to media than others.

This cognitive bias can be applied in a variety of ways:

We see ourselves as more immune to media than others.

Example: “See how brainwashed you’ve become?!”

We have a tendency to think that our opinions are unique and original.

Example: “I know better than everyone else!”

We may have a desire to believe that our views are more rational, even if they are not.

Zeigarnik Effect

The Zeigarnik Effect is a phenomenon in which a person who has completed a task begins to worry about it, even if the task has been completed. In other words, we tend to recall interrupted tasks more than completed ones.

Example: Despite earning perfect marks in his annual company review, Bill fixates on that one project he dropped the ball on and feels guilty every time he comes to work.

Spotlight Effect

The spotlight effect is the tendency to overestimate how much attention others are paying to you.

We think people are paying far more attention to us than they are.

Example: Josh is worried everyone at work will notice he needs new shoes.

The funny thing about the spotlight effect is that most times people barely notice you. It’s all in your head, And even if they did, they forget things fast.

Conclusion

Cognitive biases aren’t just for psychology; they affect us in many ways and can be used to our advantage. The ability to persuade others is a tool that you can use on and off the job, whether you’re trying to get your boss to let you work from home or you simply want to convince your friends that a movie isn’t worth watching. Keep these ideas in mind when dealing with people, and if you identify the cognitive bias at work, you can prevent it from influencing your decision making.

If you find yourself in one of these circumstances, attack the problem with some of the strategies I have presented here. Addressing cognitive biases directly can help you make better decisions, leading to a more successful life.

We hope that this article will help you to be more cognizant of the fact that the way that you are thinking is probably flawed. It is impossible to not have cognitive biases, but there are ways to combat them and become a better thinker.

Above all, learning about these cognitive biases will make you more aware of how and why you think the way that you do. This may allow you to become more cognizant of your thought process, and hopefully improve it further. There’s no such thing as a superhuman intellect; human beings are subject to the same mental inaccuracies as everyone else. But by simply being aware of these biases and their effects, you can use them to think better.

Don’t assume that someone is trying to fool you, or tricking you. Understand that they are simply swayed by the biases they have and try to communicate with them more effectively, which will drastically reduce frustration on your end.

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