Cognitive bias is amazingly common, and keeping us from really changing our lives.
One of the things I’ve noticed this year, as I have found myself arguing with people about politics and economics, is how much we are all effected by cognitive bias. It’s that “gut feeling” that things are, or should be, a certain way, even when actual evidence to the contrary is presented. I fall for it, too. The thing that gets me more often than not is the “sunk cost fallacy”, which isn’t a cognitive bias, per se, but still a flaw in my thinking that tells me to keep throwing more effort, or resources, behind what should be an obviously lost cause. It’s what convinces me that the worthless gear I tend to collect has value even when it’s hopelessly out of date. It’s a hard one to overcome.
IO9.com has the 12 Cognitive Biases That Keep You From Being Rational, all in a handy, easy-to-read article.
Personally, I fall for the Gambler’s Fallacy all the time, thinking that I can predict outcomes based on past experience. Really, though, all I’m demonstrating is that I didn’t pay close enough attention in statistics class. Math wasn’t my best subject in school. But, because I think a lot, I often fall for the Projection Bias, too. My wife helps me to remember that not everyone thinks like me, however, which ought to be a relief to regular readers of my blogs! The one I run into at work more often than not is the Observational Selection Bias, which end users seem to fall prey to any time someone in IT touches their computer and new icons seem to appear from thin air, even though those programs were installed months before.
In any case, it’s definitely worth a look to see where you might try to think outside your usual box in the coming year. Maybe it will help all of us to think a little differently than we have been!