Everyone has their little quirks, right? Maybe you can’t resist a good sale, even if you don’t need another pair of shoes. Or perhaps you insist on taking the same route to work every day, convinced it’s the quickest, despite what Google Maps tells you. Welcome to the wonderful world of cognitive biases, where our brains take shortcuts and sometimes lead us astray.
Cognitive biases, in essence, are mental errors caused by our simplified information processing strategies, and they can impact our decision-making processes in significant ways1. They’re kind of like those pesky autocorrect mistakes that your smartphone makes, except they’re happening in your brain. And just like autocorrect can turn a friendly “Hey, mate” into a rather puzzling “Hey, moth,” cognitive biases can distort our understanding of reality and mess up our decision-making.
The research on cognitive biases has spanned several decades, with scientists unveiling dozens of these mind benders. Some of the classics include the overconfidence bias, where we think we’re smarter than we really are; the confirmation bias, where we only pay attention to information that supports our existing beliefs; and the hindsight bias, where we believe we knew it all along after an event occurs1.
Cognitive biases aren’t just something that laypeople fall for; professionals across various fields, such as management, finance, medicine, and law, are also susceptible. For example, doctors’ ratings of drug effectiveness can be influenced by how trial results are presented – in terms of survival gains or mortality losses1. And in the world of finance, the disposition effect describes the tendency of investors to sell winning stocks too soon while holding onto losing ones for too long, driven by a fear of loss1.
Overconfidence, in particular, has been noted as a recurring bias in professional settings. Yes, that’s right – it turns out that thinking you’re the bee’s knees can actually lead to less than optimal decisions. In fact, in fields like management, medicine, law, and finance, this bias can have a significant impact on decision-making1.
But fear not! Awareness is the first step towards improvement. By understanding these cognitive biases, we can start to counteract them and make better, more informed decisions. And who knows, with enough practice, we might just beat our brains at their own game. So next time you find yourself making a decision, take a moment. Ask yourself, “Is this really the best choice, or is my brain playing tricks on me?” After all, just like autocorrect, our brains could use a little proofreading every now and then.