Have you ever wondered why your decision-making sometimes seems irrational or influenced by emotions? It’s not your fault; it’s your brain playing tricks on you. Cognitive biases are those tricky shortcuts our minds take, often leading to biased judgments and illogical conclusions. In this blog, we’ll explore some common cognitive biases, and what they mean, and provide real-life examples of these cognitive biases to help you understand them better.

1. Confirmation Bias

Confirmation Bias - A cognitive bias
Source: Farnam Street

Imagine you’re in a heated debate about a topic, say climate change, with a friend. You tend to search for information that confirms your existing beliefs while ignoring or dismissing information that contradicts them. This is called confirmation bias. It’s like wearing blinders that prevent you from seeing the full picture.

Example: You only follow news outlets and read articles that align with your view on climate change, ignoring any opposing arguments or evidence.

2. Hindsight Bias

Hindsight bias - A cognitive bias
Source: Capital.com

Hindsight bias is the tendency to believe, after an event has occurred, that we would have predicted or expected that outcome all along. It’s like saying, “I knew it all along!” even when you didn’t.

Example: Your favorite sports team wins a game, and you claim you knew they would win from the beginning, even though you were anxious about the outcome during the match.

3. Anchoring Bias

Anchoring Bias - A cognitive bias
Source: Simply Psychology

Anchoring bias happens when we rely too heavily on the first piece of information we receive (the “anchor”) when making decisions. Subsequent information is often evaluated in relation to this initial reference point, even if it’s irrelevant.

Example: You’re shopping for a new laptop, and the first one you see is priced at $2,000. You then consider other laptops as either better or worse deals based on this initial high price.

4. Availability Heuristic

Availability Heuristic
Source: Sepidy

This bias occurs when we overestimate the importance of information readily available to us. We tend to rely on recent or memorable examples to make judgments, even if they don’t represent the broader reality.

Example: After seeing news reports of a rare shark attack, you become overly afraid of swimming in the ocean, despite the statistical rarity of such incidents.

5. Dunning-Kruger Effect

Source: Aspray

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias where people with low ability at a task tend to overestimate their ability, while those with high ability underestimate their competence. In other words, people who don’t know much about a subject often think they know it better than they actually do.

Example: Someone with minimal cooking skills believes they are a culinary genius because they can make a simple pasta dish.

6. Bandwagon Effect

The bandwagon effect
Source: Sketchplanation

The bandwagon effect refers to the tendency to do or believe something because many other people are doing it, regardless of one’s actual beliefs or preferences. It’s like following the crowd without thinking critically.

Example: Everyone in your social circle starts using a particular social media platform, so you join in, even if you have reservations about it before.

7. Sunk Cost Fallacy

Sunk Cost Fallacy
Source: Pei Ying Chua

The sunk cost fallacy is when we continue an endeavor or make an investment based on the resources we’ve already committed, even if it’s clear that the current course of action is unwise.

Example: You spend hours reading a book you dislike just because you’ve already invested so much time in it.

8. Gambler’s Fallacy

Gambler's fallacy
Source: Practical Pyschology

The gambler’s fallacy occurs when we believe that past events in a random sequence influence future outcomes. In reality, each event is independent of what came before.

Example: You think that a roulette wheel is more likely to land on black after a series of red outcomes, which is not true as each spin is random.

9. Self-Serving Bias

Source: Studious Guy

Self-serving bias is our tendency to attribute positive outcomes to our own character or abilities and negative outcomes to external factors or bad luck.

Example: You perform well on a project at work and attribute it to your skills, but when the project fails, you blame your team or circumstances.

10. In-Group Bias

In group cognitive bias
Source: Brains Blog

In-group bias is when we favor members of our own group over those from other groups. This bias can lead to discrimination and prejudice.

Example: You support your favorite sports team fanatically and feel a sense of camaraderie with fellow fans while looking down on supporters of rival teams.

11. Neglect of Probability

Base Rate Fallacy Cognitive Bias
Source: Wikipedia

Neglect of probability happens when we ignore statistical information and rely on emotions or anecdotal evidence to make decisions.

Example: You refuse to fly on aeroplanes because you’re afraid of crashes, even though the statistical odds of a plane crash are extremely low compared to other forms of transportation.

12. Curse of Knowledge

Curse of Knowledge Cognitive Bias
Source: Customer.io

The curse of knowledge is the tendency to assume that others have the same level of knowledge or understanding as we do, leading to communication breakdowns.

Example: An expert in a field uses complex jargon while explaining a topic to a layperson, assuming they understand, but the listener is left confused.

13. The Halo Effect

halo effect vs horn effect
Source: Collidu

The Halo Effect occurs when we let our overall impression of a person, often based on one positive trait or characteristic, influence our judgment of their other qualities, even if unrelated.

Example: You assume someone who’s attractive is also intelligent and kind, without any evidence of these traits.

14. Authority Bias

Source: Tapan Desai

The Authority Bias is the inclination to believe or follow the opinions and actions of authority figures, even when those opinions might not be valid.

Example: You unquestioningly accept a health recommendation from a celebrity, even though they have no medical expertise.

15. Framing Effect

Framing Effect
Source: Deviant Robot

The Framing Effect demonstrates how the way information is presented can significantly impact our decisions. The same information framed differently can lead to different choices.

Example: You’re more likely to buy a product described as “90% fat-free” than one labeled “10% fat.”

16. Recency Bias

Recency Cognitive Bias
Prudent Investor

Recency Bias refers to our tendency to give more weight to recent events or information when making decisions, often neglecting older data.

Example: You believe a company is doing poorly because of its recent stock price drop, ignoring its long history of success.

17. Survivorship Bias

Survivorship Cognitive Bias
Source: James Clear

Survivorship Bias occurs when we focus on the individuals or things that “survived” a process while ignoring those that didn’t, leading to skewed perspectives.

Example: Studying successful entrepreneurs to learn about success while overlooking countless failed entrepreneurs who tried the same strategies.

Cognitive biases are like optical illusions for the mind – they distort our perception of reality. By recognizing these quirks in our thinking, we can make more informed decisions and become less susceptible to their influence. Our brains may not always operate as rational computers, but understanding when and how these cognitive biases come into play empowers us to navigate the complexities of our thoughts more effectively. This self-awareness is a crucial step in the journey of self-improvement. Remember, a little awareness can go a long way in ensuring you don’t fall victim to your own mind’s tricks and pave the way for personal growth.