How to Overcome Cognitive Bias and Make Better Decisions

Are you tired of making bad decisions that send your life hopelessly in the wrong direction?

With some awareness and a change of thinking, you can learn to make better decisions faster than you think. The first thing you must do is learn how to overcome the cognitive bias that is contaminating your decision-making process.

Cognitive biases are systematic mental errors that occur when people process and interpret information in the world around them, influencing their decisions and judgments.

Though our brains are mighty, they have their limitations. Usually working as generalizations or “rules of thumb,” biases help us quickly make sense of the world and reach decisions more easily. When you experience a cognitive bias, know that it’s likely due to your brain attempting to take a shortcut in information processing.

  • Some of these preconceptions stem from faulty memory. How you recall a situation might be biased for various reasons, which can lead to myopic thinking and decision-making.
  • Other cognitive biases might be connected to issues with focus. Because attention is a restricted resource, people must pick and choose what they pay concentration to in the world around them.

This is why subtle biases might sneak into your perception and influence how you see and think about the world.

In 1972, researchers Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman first came up with the idea of cognitive bias. Since then, other scientists have discovered many different biases that can influence our decision-making in a bunch of areas like social behavior, thinking ability, behavioral economics, and school subjects.

Cognitive Bias vs. Logical Fallacy

Cognitive biases are sometimes confused with logical fallacies, but the two are not synonymous. A logical fallacy is a mistake in a logical argument. In contrast, a cognitive bias is rooted in thought-processing disorders that frequently originate from memory, attention, attribution, and other mental mistakes.

Signs of cognitive biases

Everyone has cognitive bias. It’s easier to detect in others, but it’s also vital to acknowledge that it affects your thinking. Some indicators that a cognitive bias may influence you include:

  • Only acknowledging stories that confirm your narrative
  • Blame factors you can’t control when things don’t go your way
  • Attributing luck to the successes of other people while taking credit for your own achievements
  • Assuming that all people share your belief or opinion
  • Learning a little about something and then thinking you know everything about it

When you make judgments and choices about the world around you, you want to believe that you are impartial, logical, and able to take in and evaluate all of the data accessible to you. These biases, however, occasionally lead us astray, causing us to make poor selections and estimations.

Types of cognitive biases

Learn about a few of the most prevalent cognitive biases that may influence your thinking.

  • Actor-observer bias: The self-serving bias is when people mistakenly assume their own actions or successes are due to external causes while attributing other people’s failures to internal causes. For example, you might attribute your high cholesterol level to genetics while concluding that others have a high level solely because they don’t diet and exercise enough.
  • Anchoring bias: This is when you rely too much on the first piece of information you obtain. For instance, if you learn that the typical price for a car is a particular amount, you will believe any price below that is a bargain, perhaps not looking for better bargains. You may utilize this inclination to put others’ expectations into play by putting the initial facts on the table for debate.
  • Attentional bias: This refers to the habit of focusing on some aspects while ignoring others. For example, when picking a car, you may judge it based on its appearance and interior design but neglect to research essential information like safety ratings and gas consumption.
  • Availability heuristic: This is a sign that you place a higher value on what comes to mind quickly. You give greater credibility to this information and tend to over-estimate the chances of similar events happening in the future.
  • Confirmation bias: This implies that you are prioritizing evidence that fits your prior views and downplaying information that does not.
  • False consensus effect: This is the tendency to overstate how popular you are with others.
  • Functional fixedness: This is the inability to conceive of things in other ways. You never consider that a huge wrench might also be used to drive a nail into the wall if you don’t have a hammer. Because you don’t have a corkboard on which to tack things, you may believe that thumbtacks aren’t necessary, but not consider their various usages. This could apply to people’s jobs as well, such as not recognizing that a personal assistant has the ability to assume a leadership position.
  • Halo effect: A person’s overall reputation has an impact on how you feel and think about their personality. This is especially true in terms of physical attractiveness’ effect on how you rate other traits.
  • Misinformation effect: The tendency for post-event information to interfere with the memory of the original event is called the misinformation effect. It occurs when people’s recollections are influenced by misleading or false info they hear about an event from others. Because this often leads to inaccurate eyewitness accounts, law enforcement and prosecutors have long been wary of such testimony.
  • Optimism bias: The self-serving bias makes you think that bad things are less likely to happen to you and that good things are more likely when compared to other people.
  • Self-serving bias: This cognitive bias leads people to externalize bad events and take credit for good ones. So, if you win a poker hand, success is due to your skill at reading the other players and knowing the odds. But if you lose, it’s because of your poor hand.
  • The Dunning-Kruger effect: This is when people have an inflated sense of their own abilities. For example, they might not be able to recognize their own incompetence.

Sometimes, several biases can influence your decisions and thinking. For example, you might misremember an event (the misinformation effect) and assume that everyone else shares that same memory of what happened (the false consensus effect).

Causes of cognitive biases

To save time, sometimes it is necessary to take mental shortcuts when making decisions instead of thinking about every potential option. The world is complex and full of information, so these shortcuts help you act quickly in response to the environment around you.

Cognitive biases are a result of cognitive shortcuts, also known as heuristics, that a variety of factors may trigger. Heuristics can lead to errors in thinking and cause cognitive biases.

Other things that can contribute to these prejudices include:

  • Emotions
  • Individual motivations
  • Limits on the mind’s ability to process information
  • Social pressures

As people age, cognitive bias may increase due to decreased cognitive flexibility.

Impact of Cognitive Bias

Cognitive biases can cause people to think incorrectly. For example, conspiracy theory ideas are frequently influenced by various prejudices. However, cognitive biases are not always harmful. Many of these biases, according to psychologists, have an adaptive function: They allow us to make quick judgments. This may be important in emergency or survival situations.

A cognitive bias might cause you to believe that it is a mugger and that you must flee the alley as quickly as possible if, for example, you are walking down a dark alley and notice a black shadow following you. The black shadow may have been caused by a flag flapping in the wind, but relying on mental shortcuts may frequently help you avoid danger in situations where judgments must be taken fast.

Tips for Overcoming Cognitive Bias

According to recent research, cognitive training might help you overcome cognitive biases. There are a few things you can do to assist yourself combat the kinds of errors that might have an impact on your thinking and decision-making:

  • Being aware of bias: Consider how your beliefs may be affected by preconceptions. In one study, researchers gave feedback and information to participants in order to help them understand these biases and how they impact decisions. Regarding cognitive bias, the research results suggested that this form of training could reduce its influence by 29%.
  • Considering the factors influencing your decisions: Are there other factors influencing your decisions, such as overconfidence or self-interest? Consider the influences on your judgments to help you make better decisions.
  • Challenging your biases: If you identify any factors influencing your decisions, focus on proactively challenging your preconceptions. What are some of the reasons behind your choices? Do you give undue importance to certain aspects? Are you ignoring pertinent information because it doesn’t support your viewpoint? Knowing these things and testing your prejudices might help you become a more critical thinker.

Cognitive bias modification therapy (CBMT) is a treatment technique that focuses on processes for reducing cognitive bias. CBMT has been utilized to help manage addictions, sadness, and anxiety. Cognitive bias reduction may have a positive impact on certain mental illnesses as well.