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Three Cognitive Biases We All Have (and How to Fight Them)

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as capable and in check as we may feelthe mind is capable of deceiving us in many ways — andnone of thosee ways is through cognitive bias. Cognitive bias is a systematic fallacy that occurs when the brain tries to simplify the information it processes and interpretswhich can then influence the decisions and judgments we make. As professor of psychology at Yale Woo-Kyoung Ahn recently explained to NPRcognitive biases likely helped our ancestors make quick decisions for survivalbut nowthese prejudices can work against us.

What are the most common cognitive biases?

There are all types of cognitive biasesranging from anchorage bias (tendency to categorize information about a topic based on the first fact you learned about it) to the Dunning-Kruger effect (when people-not you of course—cannot recognize their own incompetence).

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Like Ahn, who wrote the book Thinking 101: How To Reason Better To Live Better, also explained to NPRWe are all guilty of harboring cognitive biases. The three most common cognitive biases what we are all guilty of include the tendency to overestimate our abilities, the instinct to fixate on the negatives, and selecting data to confirm a predefined worldview.

Overestimating our capabilities can lead us to under-prepare for something because we assume we can already do it. Aalways fixated on the negative can keep us from making an important decision, such as buying a house or changing jobs. In the meantime, only pay attention to data that ‘confirms’ what we already know can prevent us from learning and accepting other facts.

How to avoid these cognitive biases?

as Ahn notesis the general strategy of avoiding cognitive bias, being aware of our aptitude toward bias, and to pause before making a decision so we can do better question our assumptions. The bias will still be there, but if we take that extra moment to examine what we’re doing and why, we can reduce our tendency to make decisions based on wrong assumptions.

Some of the specific strategies for overcoming the most common cognitive biases include over-preparing for major events, projects, or presentations. (to avoid the trap of hubris); making it a point to focus on both the positive and negative aspects of a decision; and make a conscious effort to look at issues and current events from a number of different perspectives, rather than relying on our previous assumptions.

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