Cognitive biases affect how you process and interpret information around you, which can be both positive and negative.
Cognitive biases are systematic errors in thinking that are causing you harm each day. They’ve been associated with poor decision-making, anxiety, and depression.
If you look at certain things more positively than others, thanks to thinking biases, you may put a lot of work, energy, and money into wrong things that aren’t yielding any return. On the other hand, if you have a negative bias toward certain pieces of information, you can miss out on progress and growth from learning new things.
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But why do we have cognitive biases? A lot of the time, our brains need to process an overwhelming amount of information, so your unconscious mind tries to make that process easier. Think of them as reference frames for the information that gets classified—regardless of their unique nature.
Another reason why we have biases relates to the fact that our memory is affected by our own experience, creating a biased angle based on concept and emotion.
Our thinking biases can also have a lot to do with attention-related problems. Since we can’t always give full attention to each little piece of information we encounter, we interpret them based on preset criteria, which leaves a lot of room for errors.
Cognitive biases affect information processing and can create biased, yet inaccurate interpretations, assumptions, and decisions. Cognitive biases also affect how you make decisions and how you behave. Consequently, they create your real-life experiences.
Cognitive Bias Symptoms
If you catch yourself making the following mistakes in your deductions, it’s possible that you have cognitive biases you should work on:
- Thinking that only your success is earned while others’ is accidental and a result of luck.
- Blaming other people and external circumstances for your difficulties.
- You don’t like hearing about stories, news, and events that are outside your scope, belief system, or otherwise don’t align with your opinions.
- Believing that everyone thinks like you.
- Forming strong and definite opinions about topics despite knowing little about it.
What Are the Most Common Cognitive Biases?
No 1: Anchoring Bias
This bias happens when you trust the first piece of information too much, and all other relevant information is less important as a result. This bias can lead to overspending (e.g., believing that the first price of the item you saw is realistic without researching product value) or avoiding looking for better options.
No 2: Attention
When you give attention only to certain aspects of information, topic, object, or an occurrence, you’re having an attention bias. For example, you might care more about the looks and price of products when shopping than you care about the product quality.
No 3: Actor-Observer
If you blame other people for their actions but mainly believe that your actions are a result of exterior circumstances, you might have this bias. This bias is harmful because it keeps you from holding yourself accountable in areas of your life that need improvement, like learning, finances, or diet.
No 4: False Consensus
If you tend to think that each item, tool, object, or occupation can have only one sole or main purpose, then you oversee that objects and tools can be used for multiple purposes.
This leads to thinking in a fixed way and labeling people, without a lot of stereotypical thinking, about what particular “types of people” are and aren’t capable of.
No 5: Optimism
If you believe that you’re less likely to experience misfortune than other people without consciously knowing about real reasons for that, then your belief is most likely inaccurate.
No 6: Misinformation
When your memory or recollection of past events blends with other people’s versions of that same situation or event, it can create grossly inaccurate memories, attitudes, and opinions in your mind.
No 7: Halo Effect
When you overgeneralize someone’s first impression and make conclusions about their entire personality solely based on their appearance, you’re most often wrong. However, the idea that people who look a certain way act similarly persists—despite the detrimental outcome it has on individuals and communities.
No 8: Availability
This bias happens if you value the first things you remember easily and quickly much more compared to those pieces of information that require patience and work.
As a result, you overgeneralize based on very little information and anticipate that the information will prove itself accurate in the future—although, in reality, there’s little chance of that happening.
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What Causes Cognitive Biases?
The basic reason why people have cognitive biases is that, most of the time, they need to make conclusions and decisions much faster than needed to make proper analysis. In a way, biases are the criteria for you to “shortlist” information and impressions and save time on choosing what to believe in.
Other factors, like feelings, social pressure, motivation, and interests, as well the ability to learn and process new information, also play a role in how many cognitive biases you’ll have and the ones that will affect your well-being the most.
Why are cognitive biases harmful?
Cognitive biases cause distorted thinking. They make you believe in things that are inaccurate, which has detrimental consequences on your life and health.
Top 5 Thinking Biases That Stifle Personal Development
For the most part, cognitive biases limit your point of view and make you vulnerable to abuse, whether direct or indirect. However, there are particular ones that strongly affect your ability to learn new information, grow new skills, and advance your career.
No. 1: Confirmation
With this bias, you’re much more likely to believe information that already agrees or aligns with your current views and beliefs over the information that opposes it.
No. 2: Narrative
The narrative bias is all about oversimplifying information to avoid having to tackle complexities, moral grayness, or unpredictability of the information or situation.
Whenever something appears too much for our conscious brains to handle, we tend to just “sum it up” to the point where the summary is grossly inaccurate and could potentially cause negative consequences to ourselves and others.
No. 3: Overconfidence or Dunning-Kruger
As the name suggests, being overconfident or believing that you know a lot more than anyone else about a certain topic when you don’t often leads to incorrect thinking, wrong conclusions, and actions that don’t result in anticipated improvement.
The easiest example would be the overconfidence in your business idea. Just because it makes sense in your head doesn’t guarantee that you’ll make a profit!
No. 4: Backfire
This bias reflects in disbelieving the information that shows your idea or thinking is wrong—even if there’s no rational cause to doubt it. The example would be believing that your data analysis report is wrong just because it’s not giving you the result you were looking for.
No. 5: Herd Mentality or Bandwagon Effect
If you tend to believe new information just because everyone else does, it’s possible that you have a thinking bias.
In terms of career and personal growth, this can lead to trusting individuals, businesses, and brands just because other major players take them seriously. However, without proof that someone is trustworthy, you can always become a victim of predatory practices.
How to Overcome Cognitive Bias
Luckily for you, simply being aware of all the biases that exist and choosing to work around them helps make thinking more reasonable and accurate. However, if you still wish to work on perfecting your thinking, you can use a couple of simple ways to start overcoming cognitive biases:
- Check your thinking. Ask yourself if your thinking is accurate whenever possible. The more you analyze the accuracy of your attitudes and assumptions, the bigger the chance of reducing the detrimental effect of biased thinking.
- Consider all other factors. Try to be unbiased and compare information against verifiable criteria, like laws, policies, literature, and opinions from local experts who you can speak to directly.
- Challenge your views. Read and learn opposing opinions—no matter how senseless they may appear to you. The more conflicting information you have about a certain subject, the more likely you are to form a well-rounded, unbiased point of view.
- Identify your cognitive biases by reading and learning. The more you’re aware of how biased your thinking is, the better you can improve!
Learn how to make the right decisions RIGHT NOW!
It’s not easy to admit that you need to learn how to correct your thinking. However, rather than thinking that cognitive biases are a flaw, think about how much more powerful your mind can become if you tweak it just a little bit!
Start overcoming cognitive biases right now, and you’ll soon find yourself leaving a much better life. To overcome cognitive biases, you must be willing to question your thinking, conclusions, attitudes, and beliefs.
You need the will to research information from all angles and even acknowledge if someone you don’t like is right about certain things. Doing this may not feel great, but it will help make progress in your life. More rational, correct thinking, will help quell anxieties, improve your mood, and advance your career and relationships.
Start overcoming limiting thinking patterns! It may come at the cost of admitting you’re wrong about some things, but the benefits in the form of better relationships; more fulfilling jobs and a more successful career; and emotional and mental ease will soon prove that the decision to question your thinking was the right one!