Dealing with Common Cognitive Biases

Darryl Bachmeier
May 18, 2019

Do you often find yourself stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea when dealing with people around you? Do you stereotype people’s behavior based on just one characteristic they possess? If the answer to the above questions is true, then you have reached the right place to read.

Defining Cognitive Biases

Cognitive biases are all about perception or thinking pattern which make one see the world in a manner which is not true. We all see things differently and are determined by our perception, past experiences, social factors, or other circumstances that impact our decision making capability and allow us to see things in a manner not necessarily real or true.

Every individual is indeed irrational, which makes him/her uniquely interpret things. In literature, the list of cognitive biases is pretty long, however, there are some of the most common biases which one needs to address and work on. This article helps in defining the common types of cognitive biases at different levels and how different people act differently to these biases.

Confirmation Biases

This is the most common of all cognitive biases in the marketing terminology. Sometimes you believe in some theory or information which you think is true. When others tend to disagree with you, you simply dismiss other’s opinions and make them believe yours. This is confirmation bias. It means when you interpret information, be it some data, story, or opinion about anything which is backed by some already available opinion which you believe is true, you make others convince your opinion without considering what others have to say about it. Some salient in this regard are:

  • People tend to look for all the supporting information and pieces of evidence to prove themselves and convince others.
  • Sometimes only a selective set of facts, events, or statistics are collected to support an argument, which could be wrong as well.

Media channels are a perfect example of confirmation biases. News channels make people believe in what they show in their programs. Not all information shared and shown on TV is indeed correct, but media makes you see and believe what they want you to see and believe in.

The same goes for some consumer’s products. Brands sometimes exaggerate statements and features of their products to attract consumer attention. They convince the target audience by talking against the competitive brands, showing selective features, encouraging testimonials from some consumers, and letting go of bad comments.

Self-Serving Bias

This is yet another cognitive bias that happens with personnel, particularly in Finance and Investment field. It happens when you think your skillset got you a good job and the moment you lose the same job, you put everything on a bad omen. It means whatever goes good in your life is due to your capabilities and abilities to do better; whereas if anything goes wrong, it was your bad luck.

In practical life, such behavior can lead to bad decisions in businesses. It can be avoided by recording, analyzing, and reviewing the decision which went wrong. On the other hand, the same can be used by people to make the correct decision by figuring out past mistakes and avoiding faulty traps for the future.

The Backfire Effect

This cognitive bias is about the strengthening of one’s beliefs and notions in case it is challenged. This can very well be referred to as reluctance to change. It shows how people are scared of losing something they wish to keep with them and how they tend to avoid negative outcomes in whatever way they can.

If your ideas and position are challenged by someone, you tend to stick to your ground and never let anyone trespass your zone. People are reluctant to change because they find it hard to move out of their comfort zone and associate negative bias with it.

The Fundamental Attributor Factor Bias

This cognitive bias is somewhat similar to self-serving bias, in which you associate good things to your capabilities and link all negativities owing to others failure or faults. This bias also takes some influence from the Availability Heuristic, which says that we make judgments based on the type of information we have. Many males avoid driving behind females because females are not good drivers. Suppose you are driving and a car before you slow down suddenly. You overtake that car and find a female driving, you make theory in your mind that all females are shaky drivers and avoid all female drivers in the future.

On the other hand, that female driver may have kids sitting in the back seat, quarreling with one another, thus making it difficult for her to keep hold of pace. You thus made a judgment based on available information, which in the case was the changing pace of that car.

We all feel being rational and logical towards life. Whereas, cognitive bias deeply influences and shape the way people underestimate their capabilities, knowledge, and thinking. Sometimes the biases are very real and obvious and look logical as well, whereas other moment, these are hard and bleak to even get noticed. Humanly, it is not possible to keep track of all available information and cognitive bias always find room to enter and manipulate our decisions. By understanding how cognitive bias manipulates our thinking, we can mitigate those shortcomings to improve our judgments.

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