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Causes and Examples of Cognitive Bias

Published by at June 10th, 2023 , Revised On October 5, 2023

Let’s say a person strongly believes that a particular political party is responsible for all the problems in their country. When they encounter news articles or information that supports their viewpoint, they will readily accept it as true and remember it. 

However, when presented with information that challenges their beliefs or provides a different perspective, they may dismiss it, question its credibility, or simply ignore it. This is cognitive bias and can reinforce the existing opinions and prevent you from considering alternative viewpoints or reevaluating your stance objectively.

Understanding cognitive bias helps us become more conscious of our thought processes and improves the quality of our decisions. In this blog, we will talk about the causes and examples of cognitive bias. Before that, let’s look into what cognitive bias is. 

What is Cognitive Bias?

Here is how one can define cognitive bias, ‘’A cognitive bias is the capacity to think and act in ways that may contradict reason or logic. ‘’ Although it’s a normal aspect of how our brains process information, cognitive bias can occasionally result in poor judgment or poor decisions. 

Causes of Cognitive Bias

The following are some of the simple explanations for the causes of cognitive biases:

  • Mental Shortcuts

Our brains often take shortcuts to process information quickly. These shortcuts, called heuristics, can lead to biases because they simplify complex situations and may overlook important details or nuances.

  • Past Experiences

Our previous experiences shape our perceptions and beliefs. These experiences can create cognitive biases when we rely heavily on them to interpret new information or make decisions, even if the current situation is different.

  • Emotional Influences

Emotions can influence our thinking and decision-making processes. Emotionally invested or attached to a particular outcome can cloud our judgment and lead to biased thinking.

  • Social Influences

Our interactions with others and the influence of social norms can contribute to cognitive biases. We may conform to group opinions or be influenced by authority figures, leading us to adopt biased perspectives or make biased choices.

  • Information Overload and Selective Attention

When we encounter a large amount of information, our brains may struggle to process it. As a result, we might focus on certain details or selectively pay attention to information that confirms our existing beliefs while ignoring contradictory evidence.

  • Confirmation Bias

We naturally tend to seek information that confirms our preconceived notions or beliefs. These cognitive biases can lead us to discount or ignore information that contradicts our views, reinforcing our biases. If you want to read in detail about confirmation bias in the article listed in the library section.

  • Availability Bias

Our judgments and decisions can be influenced by the ease with which examples or instances come to mind. If something is more readily available in our memory, we may consider it more representative or likely, even if it’s not statistically accurate.

Examples of Cognitive Bias in Everyday Life

You may wonder what cognitive biases are in psychology. Now that you are familiar with what causes cognitive bias, Here are some simple examples of a list of cognitive biases that you might encounter in everyday life: 

  • Confirmation Bias

We only pay attention to news articles or opinions that align with our beliefs while ignoring or dismissing conflicting viewpoints.

  • Anchoring Bias

when talking about anchoring bias in terms of daily life, suppose you are making a purchase; you might rely heavily on the initial price you see, even if it’s not a reasonable or fair value for the product.

  • Availability Bias

One can understand availability bias with this example; suppose you start to hear about several car accidents in a short period; you will believe that driving is more dangerous than it is because those instances are more vivid in your mind.

  • Bandwagon Effect

We have all experienced the bandwagon effect; for instance, we have changed our opinion or behaviour about something simply because many others hold or engage in that view without critically evaluating it.

  • Halo Effect

You can assume that someone is physically attractive,  intelligent or kind, even without evidence supporting those traits. This is called the Halo Effect. 

  • Overconfidence Bias

You can overestimate your abilities or the accuracy of your judgments, leading you to take unnecessary risks or make poor decisions will consider an overconfidence bias.

  • Recency Bias

In terms of your daily life, recency bias is when you give more weight to recent information or events, forgetting or undervaluing older information that could provide a more balanced perspective.

  • Sunk Cost Fallacy

One will continue investing time, money, or effort into a project or relationship, even if it does not yield the desired results, simply because one has already invested a lot.

  • Stereotyping

You form generalised beliefs or assumptions about a group of people based on limited information or preconceived notions, ignoring the diversity and individuality within that group.

  • Self-Serving Bias

When you succeed at something, you attribute it to your abilities and efforts, but when you fail, you blame external factors or bad luck; this thinking phenomenon will be considered a self-serving bias.

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Cognitive Bias in the Workplace

Following are some of the most common cognitive biases that can arise in the workplace:

  • Confirmation Bias

Employees may selectively seek and interpret information that supports their pre-existing beliefs or ideas, leading to biased decision-making and resistance to alternative viewpoints.

  • Halo Effect

Employees may form a positive or negative impression of a colleague based on a single characteristic or performance aspect, influencing their evaluations or interactions with that individual.

  • Anchoring Bias

During negotiations or discussions, individuals might overly rely on information they receive as a reference point, influencing subsequent judgments and outcomes. Further, we have provided complete information about anchoring bias in the article mentioned in the library section.

  • Overconfidence Bias

Employees may overestimate their abilities, knowledge, or the accuracy of their judgments, leading to poor decision-making, underestimating risks, or disregarding valuable input from others. If you are a student who is interested in getting more knowledge about this bias, you can read the complete article, What is overconfidence bias?

Cognitive Bias in Media and Advertising

The following are some examples of cognitive biases in media and advertising:

  • Confirmation Bias

Media outlets and advertisers often address these biases by presenting information or products confirming their audience’s preconceived notions.

  • Availability Bias

Media coverage focusing on dramatic or attention-grabbing events can create a skewed perception of reality.

  • Framing Bias

Cognitive bias modifications are made in media.  Advertisers strategically frame stories, issues, or products to evoke specific emotional responses or influence opinions.

  • Anchoring Bias

Advertisers often use anchor points, such as a higher original price or a reference to a popular celebrity, to influence people’s perception of the value or desirability of a product or service.

  • Bandwagon Effect

Advertisers often leverage the bandwagon effect by emphasising their product’s popularity or widespread adoption. They create a sense of social proof, making people more likely to follow the crowd and purchase the product.

Strategies to Mitigate Cognitive Bias

Mitigating cognitive bias can be challenging, but some cognitive bias study and techniques can help minimise their influence on our thinking. 

A visual representation of various cognitive biases, known as the cognitive bias codex, can help us mitigate cognitive biases. It is designed to affect human decision-making and reasoning to provide an overview of these biases. This codex of cognitive biases is systematic patterns of deviation from objective judgment, which affect our reasoning processes.

The following are some approaches that can help mitigate cognitive bias:

  • Awareness

The first step is understanding cognitive biases and how they could affect your thinking. Learn to identify biases in various scenarios by becoming knowledgeable about various biases.

  • Seek Diverse Perspectives

Actively seek out diverse opinions and viewpoints, even if they contradict your own. Discuss with people with different beliefs or backgrounds to broaden your perspective and challenge your biases.

  • Critical Thinking

Question your assumptions, challenge preconceived notions, and thoroughly examine the evidence before making judgments or decisions.

  • Slow Down and Deliberate

Slowing down allows you to engage in more deliberate and thoughtful reasoning, reducing the likelihood of relying on cognitive biases.

  • Consider Alternative Explanations

When faced with new information or conflicting evidence, consider alternative explanations or interpretations before jumping to conclusions. Be open to changing your mind based on new evidence.

  • Fact-Checking and Research

Verify information from reliable sources and fact-check claims before accepting them as true. Look for evidence-based data and studies to support or challenge your beliefs.

  • Actively Challenge Biases

Actively challenge your biases by seeking evidence that contradicts your beliefs. Engage in exercises that encourage you to think from different perspectives or consider alternative viewpoints.

  • Peer Feedback and Accountability

Seek feedback from trusted peers or mentors who can provide different perspectives and challenge your thinking. Foster an environment where you encourage others to question your assumptions and biases.

  • Data-Driven Decision-Making

Use objective measures and statistical analysis to guide your judgments rather than relying solely on personal experiences or anecdotes. 

Cognitive bias tasks involve recognising and identifying different cognitive biases in various scenarios or statements. It helps individuals become more aware of these biases and aids decision-making. 

  • Take Breaks and Reflect.

Give yourself time to reflect on your decisions and actions. Taking breaks can help you gain a fresh perspective and reduce the influence of biases that may have clouded your thinking. After a thorough analysis, you can check what cognitive biases you have. The above is a list of cognitive biases you can study and the causes that trigger such behaviour.

Frequently Asked Questions

A cognitive bias is the capacity to think and act in ways that may contradict reason or logic. Although it’s a normal aspect of how our brains process information, it can occasionally result in poor judgment or poor decisions. 

A variety influences them of factors, including evolutionary adaptations, social influences, cultural norms, personal experiences, and individual differences in cognitive abilities. 

Confirmation Bias, Availability Heuristic, Anchoring Bias, Overconfidence Bias, and Loss Aversion.

Cognitive biases can lead to suboptimal or irrational choices, flawed judgment, and biased perceptions of reality. 

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