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We are always biased—here’s the science of that 💡
On cognitive bias and how to overcome it
Our life is influenced by biases and preconceptions.
Your choice in what news to consume, preference of people to work with, your political belief, your daily decision-making, all of them are affected by biases.
We might not be aware of them most of the time, but cognitive bias is everywhere. Let’s take a look at what it is, and how to overcome it.
What is cognitive bias?
A cognitive bias is a preconceived notion that affects how people make judgments and decisions. Since it causes a systematic error in our thinking process, it is likely to influence our choice, behavior, and decision-making.
Common forms of cognitive bias
Cognitive biases come in many forms. These are some of the common ones:
Confirmation bias: the tendency to favor information that supports your pre-existing belief, and disregard other information that doesn’t. For example, when you’re already fixed to the belief that you’re not good enough, you will gather evidence that supports the belief—your few achievements, a project that doesn’t go well, and so on. Even if you land yourself a wonderful opportunity, you will find a flaw to turn your own achievements against you.
Hindsight bias: the belief that something is predictable only after it has happened. For example, when people say “I just knew that team was going to lose” in a football competition. Imagine if the team in question ended up winning, would they have said the same thing? Or would they instead say “I just knew that team was going to win”?
The Dunning-Kruger effect: people’s tendency to believe they are more competent than they actually are. Have you ever felt confident on a test, only to be dumbfounded when you found out you scored lower than you expected?
These three don’t cover everything, but you can read more types of cognitive bias here.
How to reduce cognitive bias
So, is cognitive bias a bad thing? The answer is yes and no.
Yes, because in some situations, these biases might come in handy. They act as a mental shortcut and shorten your decision-making, which is especially useful when you have to act fast.
No, because it can lead to distorted thinking. You might end up choosing the wrong person for a task because you have a pre-existing belief about them. Or, you might ignore a solution because you think it’s a bad idea and you know something better, without basing it on solid evidence.
Fortunately, there are ways to reduce our cognitive bias:
Recognize your bias. Be aware when you’re experiencing one. The next time you’re about to make a judgment, opinion, or decision, catch yourself with a question like, “Have I thought this through, or is it just my bias talking?”
Consider other aspects at play. They can be self-interest, overconfidence, other people’s preferences, or current situations. How do these things affect your choices?
Challenge your beliefs. Once you’re aware of your biases and other aspects at play, focus on challenging them. You can start by looking both ways before coming to a decision, trying a blind approach, asking for second opinions, and other techniques that force you to step out and let go of your preconceptions.
Cognitive bias is normal. Everyone has it, and so do we.
It takes practice to catch your biases, especially when you’re in the middle of making choices. We hope these tips will help you overcome them!
Thanks for reading, and see you next week! 👋