Overcoming Cognitive Biases to Achieve Rational Thinking

Cognitive biases cloud our ability to think rationally and make decisions that are in our best interest. The following is a list of cognitive biases and correction strategies:

  • Availability Bias: The bias to make a decision based on readily available information. Instead, seek out contradictory information and increase your sample size.
  • Anchoring Bias: The bias to not stray far from an initial assessment. Tune into social cues.
  • Framing: Tone or structure in which information is presented. Think of alternate ways that this information could be presented, or assess the information from a different perspective.
  • Loss vs. Gain: People are naturally more risk averse for gains and conversely take more risks to avoid losses. Think about your justifications for these decisions. Opt for delayed gratification and positive long-term rewards over immediate gratification.
  • Fully Disjunctive Reasoning: Need to consider all possibilities instead of using logic shortcuts.
  • The Decoy Effect: This occurs when someone believes they have two options, but you present a third option to make the second one feel more palatable.
  • Affect Heuristic: Affect heuristic is the human tendency to base our decisions on our emotions.
  • Fundamental Attribution Error: This is the tendency to attribute situational behavior to a person’s fixed personality.
  • The Ideometer Effect: This refers to the fact that our thoughts can make us feel real emotions.
  • Confirmation Bias: Confirmation bias is the tendency to seek out information that supports our pre-existing beliefs. In other words, we form an opinion first and then seek out evidence to back it up, rather than basing our opinions on facts.
  • Conservatism Bias: This bias leads people to believe that pre-existing information takes precedence over new information. Don’t be quick to reject something just because it’s radical or different. Great ideas usually are.
  • The Ostrich Effect: The ostrich effect is aptly named after the fact that ostriches, when scared, literally bury their heads in the ground. This effect describes our tendency to hide from impending problems.
  • Reactance. Reactance is our tendency to react to rules and regulations by exercising our freedom.
  • The Halo Effect: The halo effect occurs when someone creates a strong first impression and that impression sticks.
  • The Horn Effect: This effect is the exact opposite of the halo effect. When you perform poorly at first, you can easily get pegged as a low-performer even if you work hard enough to disprove that notion.
  • Planning Fallacy: Planning fallacy is the tendency to think that we can do things more quickly than we actually can. For procrastinators, this leads to incomplete work, and this makes type-As overpromise and underdeliver.
  • The Bandwagon Effect: The bandwagon effect is the tendency to do what everyone else is doing. This creates a kind of groupthink, where people run with the first idea that’s put onto the table instead of exploring a variety of options.
  • Bias Blind Spot: If you begin to feel that you’ve mastered your biases, keep in mind that you’re most likely experiencing the bias blind spot. This is the tendency to see biases in other people but not in yourself.