You believe your decisions are based on objective analysis and logical evaluation of all the information that is available to you, right?
In reality, your opinions and decisions are based on nothing more than the collection of information you choose to pay attention to.
Your brain is carrying out trillions of mental processes every second. As a result, it is constantly looking for strategies and rules of thumb that can be applied to various situations to ease the mental burden of executing all those processes.
In an attempt to simplify information processes, your brain takes shortcuts. Shortcuts that could lead you to a conclusion riddled with errors.
These thinking errors are known as cognitive bias.
Here are some of the most common and influential cognitive biases that affect your happiness and success:
Confirmation bias is a tendency to give more attention and weight to data that supports your belief, than to contrary data.
It’s selectively seeking, remembering and pointing to information that supports your idea.
Google has made this bias even easier for us. No matter what your question, there will be a post ‘proving’ your hypothesis.
You can reduce confirmation bias by being aware of its existence and consciously seeking information that disagrees with your existing belief.
Confirmation bias can be dangerous when you invest a large amount of your time, money or effort into an initial idea without looking at the whole picture objectively.
The Bandwagon Effect
The bandwagon effect is the tendency for people to align their beliefs and behaviors with those of a group (aka, the herd mentality.)
The bandwagon effect can be seen with many successful marketing campaigns, political matters, and investment markets.
Be careful not to jump on a bandwagon that is not in line with your end goal. You could be wasting a lot of time, energy and money just to feel like you belong.
The negativity bias is our tendency to react and be more influenced by negative experiences than neutral or positive experiences.
It appears that we recall negative memories more than positive ones.
Studies have shown that at a neural level, our brains experience significantly more activity in their cerebral cortex in reaction to negative stimuli than positive stimuli.
While the negativity bias helps us to avoid pain it can lead to unnecessary risk aversion in regards to goal achievement and life experiences.
Remember, failure is not falling down, it’s staying down.
Functional fixedness is a bias that can seriously limit your creativity.
This bias refers to our inability to see past the original or obvious use of things. It’s our brain’s attempt to understand the purpose of the resources around us through categorization.
You can reduce functional fixedness by changing your environment frequently as well as adopting the mindset of a child.
Make a habit of thinking up unusual ways to use the resources already at your disposal.
Spanx founder, Sara Blakely cut off the feet of control pantyhose to create Spanx.
Sunk cost bias
The sunk cost bias is when you continue a behavior or endeavor because you fear losing what was already invested?
Have you ever gone to an event that you didn’t want to simply because you had already paid for the ticket?
You did this in order to justify spending money you knew you could never get back.
The sunk cost bias works hand in hand with our aversion to loss (loss aversion). We place a higher value on losses than on gains of the same value.
The sunk cost bias is a thinking trap that can slow your personal development and cause you to waste money, time and effort.
BUT. it can also be a good thing if it compels you to continue a winning endeavor that is just plain hard work.
Choice-supportive bias is the tendency to give positive attributes to a decision that we have made even when it becomes apparent that our decision was flawed.
Decisions are good. They help us to move forward, but blindly defending a decision or assuming it to continue to be correct could become the cause of further errors.
Don’t let ego get in the way of your success. Admitting mistakes is better than faking perfection.
The status-quo bias is a preference for the current state of affairs.
We don’t like change, we prefer what we know and are familiar with.
Our brains have automated 80% of our behaviors and have strong neural pathways as a result. When change is pending, our brains resist it as it means breaking those strong familial connections.
This is why habits are so hard to break.
‘Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts’ -Arnold Bennett.
As a result, we often make choices that guarantee that things remain the same – often we choose to do nothing.
Your brain might hate change but it’s the only thing that brings progress.
The Current Moment Bias
The current moment bias is our desire for immediate gratification.
We would much rather have pleasure now and save pain for later.
Have you ever indulged in junk food while trying hard to lose weight, or purchased something unnecessary when you are trying to save money?
We seem to have a really hard time imagining ourselves in the future and altering our behaviors and expectations accordingly.
We would rather experience pleasure in the current moment, and leave pain for later.
This bias has been demonstrated in a simple study that showed when making food choices for the coming week, 74% of participants chose fruit. However, when the food choice was for the current day, 70% of participants chose chocolate.
Life is meant to be enjoyed, but current moment bias could lead to poor habits, financial trouble, and laziness.
You know what the right choice is, you just need to give yourself a moment to see it and the bigger picture.
The Blind Spot Bias
Finally, the blind spot bias is our tendency to recognize the impact of biases on the judgment of others, while failing to see the impact of biases on our own judgments.
It’s easy to see how bias affects others, but we often gloss over ourselves.
Further, it appears that the more you deny your biases the less likely you are to listen to advice or learn from training that would help you make better judgments.
Through awareness of our own thought processes, we might hope to clear the fog of self-deception and illusion.
Cognitive biases are an inseparable part of us, they shape our decisions and ultimately our happiness and success.
Biases occur unconsciously and are so strong that you cannot educate yourself around them—it’s like trying to get fish to notice the water. Several sources suggest that you can take proactive steps to minimize the effects:
Steps to minimize cognitive biases:
- Acknowledge that you are subject to biases
- Surround yourself with people who will challenge your opinions
- Acknowledge that you could be wrong
- Seek contrary evidence or find evidence supporting opposing views
- Don’t rush judgments, take the time to examine all the different options
- Once you do reach a conclusion, remain open to the fact that things might change.
FYI, Habit reCode leverages the bias to avoid loss, compelling you to take daily action and develop success habits that impact your daily life.