Is Cognitive Bias Affecting Your Decision Making? Here’s How You Can Avoid Common Biases

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Is Cognitive Bias Affecting Your Decision Making

It’s time. You need to decide the most important thing in your life. You have done your research, listed the pros and cons, and have consulted your trusted companions. Now that it’s time, can you make an objective and rational decision?

Probably not…

Why do I say this? Because you’re reviewing the information you’ve gathered using your cognitive abilities and your life experiences. However, like every other human being, you might’ve also developed some cognitive biases.

These biases – for the lack of a better word, control what information you need to attend to, what you remember from your previous experiences, and who you can trust to help you decide.

But before we come to how these cognitive biases affect our decision-making, let’s take a quick look at what cognitive bias is.

What Is Cognitive Bias?

What Is Cognitive Bias

A cognitive bias is a flaw in your thinking that causes you to misinterpret or misunderstand the information you’re getting from others and draw an incorrect conclusion based on the inaccurate information.

Daily, you are bombarded with millions of pieces of information. This flood of information causes your brain to create a ranking system to decide which news deserves to be attended to and which needs to be stored for later processing.

Our brain is smart enough to create shortcuts that help us cut down the processing time but one of the biggest problems here is that these shortcuts and ranking aren’t always accurate or objective as more often than not, they are based on our previous life experiences.

Also Read: Negativity Bias: What Is It & How To Overcome It?

Signs Of Cognitive Bias

All of us have cognitive biases and while some may be easier to spot in others, it’s important to note that this is something that can affect you and your thinking too.

Some common signs of cognitive bias can be:

  • Trusting news pieces that confirm your views
  • Blaming external factors when things don’t go your way
  • Thinking others share your views and beliefs
  • Knowing little about something then assuming you know everything about it

It’s normal to think that you’re making objective and logical judgments after evaluating all available information, unfortunately, your cognitive biases sometimes mislead us which can cause us to make poor and illogical decisions.

Common Types Of Cognitive Bias

Common Types Of Cognitive Bias

Some common types of cognitive biases we all experience at some point in our lives can be:

  • Actor-Observer Bias: This bias is when you attribute your actions to external factors while assigning others’ to internal factors. Eg: You may attribute your poor performance to a poor environment but others’ to a lack of motivation.
  • Anchoring: This is when you rely too heavily on the very first piece of information you get. Eg: You learn the average price of a cell phone is a certain value, you’ll think that anything below this value is a great deal, however, you won’t look for better deals.
  • Attentional: This is when you pay attention to some things while ignoring other things at the same time. Eg: While buying a phone, you may pay attention to the camera and the screen size but ignore the storage size and software version.
  • Confirmation Bias: This bias is when you support the information that adheres to your opinions and beliefs while discrediting the ones that do not.
  • Misinformation: When your memory of an event is influenced by what you hear from others.
  • Self-Serving Bias: When you blame external factors for when bad things happen and pat yourself on the back when good things happen.

How Does Cognitive Bias Affect Decision Making?

How Does Cognitive Bias Affect Decision Making

Cognitive biases can affect your decisions while also limiting your problem-solving skills. This kind of flawed thinking can hamper your success, undermine your memories, question your crisis-resolution skills, increase your anxiety, and even negatively impact your relationships – personal and professional.

If you keep a list of every possible solution to a problem, then it would probably take a lot of time to make a simple decision, right?

Because of the complexity of our reality and the amount of information we retain in a day, it can become normal for us to rely on our cognitive shortcuts and ranking systems. However, they are not always accurate.

Our mental shortcuts, also known as heuristics, often play a role in how cognitive bias causes errors in our thinking.

However, they are not the only ones to blame. Other factors that can cause errors in our thinking and subsequently our decision-making can be:

How Can You Avoid Cognitive Bias?

How Can You Avoid Cognitive Bias

While you cannot avoid cognitive biases altogether, there are ways you can prevent them from affecting your decisions and decision-making process.

  1. Being Aware: The first step is to be aware of your biases and how they are affecting your decisions. Once you know which biases are influencing your decisions – and how – you can effectively change course to reduce the effects of these cognitive biases.
  2. Analyze The Factors: Are the factors internal or external? Is it overconfidence or ignorance? Analyze the factors that are affecting your decisions. Just by doing this, you can make better and healthy choices.
  3. Question Your Biases: If there are factors that are influencing your decisions, focus on the biases in your thinking. Are you weighing your decision on certain factors? Are you ignoring what is obvious because of your opinion? Questioning will help you become a better thinker.
  4. Be Objective: Checklists, algorithms, statistics, and other objective measures can also help you prevent cognitive biases from affecting your decisions. Focus on more relevant information than on irrelevant ones.

Writer’s Thoughts

Cognitive biases are the defects in your thinking that can cause you to make illogical and inaccurate decisions. Yes, cognitive biases can negatively affect your thinking and can cause you to focus on one side of the coin while overlooking the other one.

You cannot completely avoid cognitive biases but with some steps (mentioned above) you can improve your skills to spot cognitive biases and prevent them from influencing your decisions.

Don’t let your cognitive bias lead you adrift!

I hope the above steps will help you prevent cognitive biases when making decisions in the future. For more, you can connect with us on social media or write to us at info@calmsage.com.

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