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4 Most Common Cognitive Bias and How To Overcome Them

We like to believe that we are in control of our thinking. We think we perceive reality exactly as it is. Most often, however, we fall into the trap of cognitive biases, which distort our thinking and influence our actions.

What is cognitive bias?

In simple terms, a cognitive bias is when you rely on earlier experiences to make a quick judgement. This automatic/reflex action is often referred to as an error in perception. These biases can be problematic when making decisions as they might not be logical and appropriate.

What are the different types of cognitive biases? 

There are many types of cognitive biases. Knowing more about these biases can help you be mindful of them and eventually overcome them. Let us have a look at the four most common biases and tips on how to overcome them -

  1. Confirmation Bias

Ever heard your partner or friend complain about the fact that you don’t listen to their different perspectives? This could be due to confirmation bias. This refers to the tendency to pay more attention to the information or facts that you already believe in. 

Many people tend to believe that their viewpoint or opinion is correct, which is fine. The problem arises when people tend to reject the facts that do not support their conclusion. For example - A person who believes that XYZ player is the best player in football, will refuse to admit that some other player has a better record than him. 

How to overcome - Keep an open mind. Think about the alternate possibilities. Listen to different perspectives than your own.

2. Bandwagon Effect

Does this ever happen to you - a song that you did not like initially was trending on social media and then suddenly, you found yourself liking it too? 

If yes, then this is due to the bandwagon effect. Bandwagon effect talks about the tendency of people to follow what the majority of people are doing. This is generally known as the “herd mentality”. 

Most of the time we tend to think that if many people are doing a particular thing, it should be right. The roots of this effect can be traced back to evolutionary psychology where during earlier times, being with a group meant that you would be safe. Even today, not many people are willing to stand apart from the rest of the crowd and take a different path. They are scared to voice an unpopular opinion or follow a non-traditional path. 

A good example of this is agreeing to do something even if you don’t want to, just because your friends are doing it.

How to overcome - Analyse the pros and cons of sticking with your unique perspective. Stand by what you truly believe in. Listen to others' perspectives as well. Explain your perspective while respecting others' choices.

3. Halo Effect 

You must be familiar with the phrase - “don’t judge a book by its cover.” This is exactly what this effect talks about, our tendency to judge a person by their first impression. Most of the time, people tend to think that if a person is good at one particular thing, he/she might be good at others as well and vice versa. It might have happened that you met someone for the first time and he/she came late and was clumsy. Later when he/she cooked something nice, you were surprised because you did not expect them to do so well. After all, their first impression was not so good. 

The halo effect can interfere with the decision-making process during interviews, during social interactions, and while making important business decisions. Due to this effect, people who are considered charming or attractive are usually seen as likeable and even good at work. 

How to overcome - Be mindful of your choices. Catch yourself if you feel you are experiencing the halo effect. Try to apply logical reasoning to your actions. 

4. Availability bias

Ever wondered why you start being extra careful after watching a crime show? This is an example of availability bias. This bias talks about the fact that we make decisions based on whatever information comes to mind first. In other words, decision-making is based on recently available information.

If one is constantly watching crime thriller shows, they might feel that it is unsafe to drive a car at night because they can think of many cases where it led to negative consequences. This hampers decision-making ability and makes one ignore earlier experiences and distorts the view of reality.

How to overcome - If most of the examples that come to your mind are recent, try to think back. Is there any information that you might be overlooking? Analyse the situation carefully. Consider the information at hand as well as earlier experiences for making a better decision.