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Cognitive biases

Leif RømckeMay 2, 2020, 10:51:02 AM

Photo by Rob Schreckhise on Unsplash

The most common belief is that we humans are rational thinking beings 90 percent of the time. Then, of course, the emotions take over and we get a little crazy and irrational in 10 percent of cases.

Is this correct? Was our human brain developed on the savanna 50,000 years ago and is thus not adapted to a modern complicated society? What cognitive biases do we have? Are we just hunters and gatherers in a suit?

Some cognitive biases have been known for centuries, while others have been discovered lately. The easiest cognitive bias, to discover, is 199 instead of 200. Even if you logically save only a penny, it works. It seems to work even if you now have become aware of it.

Dunning-Kruger effect

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”

Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russel came with his groan long before an article by David Dunning and Justin Kruger was accepted in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1999. In the article you can read:

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people who lack knowledge and have poor social or intellectual skills overestimate these abilities in themselves.

You can also turn it around, as Bertrand Russell did:

The more you know, the less pigheaded you become.

IKEA effect

The tendency for people to place a disproportionately high value on objects that they partially assembled themselves, such as furniture from IKEA, regardless of the quality of the end product. This cognitive bias was for a long time, in my eyes, the most exotic, but now IKEA exists everywhere in the world.

Cognitive dissonance

Cognitive dissonance occurs when one brain holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values.

The biggest reason we are irrational is cognitive dissonance. We live well with our own cognitive dissonance. Without repeated training, we are not even aware of our own conflicting opinions.

Confirmation bias

The tendency to process and analyze information in such a way that it supports one's preexisting ideas and convictions..

You notice and remember views that agree with opinions you already have. On the other hand, you overlook and forget views that do not correspond to opinions you already have..

This means that we can make the future exactly the way we want it to be (within the bounds of reasonableness).

- War or pandemics can come to us more or less surprisingly and for a short while completely unseat our ideas about the future.

The two most common biases

Cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias are the two most important and the most difficult to detect in ourselves and in others. They often occur together..

How long does it take to overcome your own biases? It can take years. Even after becoming aware of this phenomenon, you need regularly to look into your own cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias.

Test yourself on this video

This video is about women's rights. But it could have been about almost anything. See if you can detect the biases she made along the way before she became a sensible grownup person.

If you do not want to invest 14:47 on feminism in America, the content can be summarized in this way. "I decided to actually listen to someone with a different opinion and change views based on new information." But that is not how we usually behave. Problems will not be solved if we cannot get together and discuss issues from different points of view.

Bias can come in many forms and is related to prejudice and intuition

Are we maybe irrational 90 percent of the time, but not aware of it? We can be rational in trivial cases. "When do we have to drive from home to get to work on time?" But when it comes to love, family, pets, politics, entertainment and just about anything that is important to us, we are controlled by emotions. Eliminate mistakes and consequently think better.

A cognitive bias is a repeating or basic misstep in thinking, assessing, recollecting, or other cognitive processes. There is a long list of cognitive biases.

List of cognitive biases


Even if millions of people claim something stupid, the claim is still stupid.

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