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Cognitive Biases and Blind Spots


As seen in APeeling in October 2020



You think your boss is a jerk and then you and your family run into him at the local coffee shop and you are surprised to discover he is funny, interesting, and thoughtful.


You don’t understand why your wife keeps saying she’s fat when she really isn’t. Your best friend is forever boasting and being confrontational with you, saying things you know they don’t mean. You get passed over for a promotion and the guy who got it doesn’t have the experience or skills you do, but he is well liked by everyone.


Life seems to be a popularity contest and you have no clue why you are left out of the running. What is going on?


We all have blind spots, which cause us to behave in ways others interpret differently than we intended and in response they behave in ways they do not intend. We do not realize how our behaviour is coming across because it is in our blind spot.


There are a number of different cognitive biases which can cause us to interpret the behaviours of others wrong. A cognitive bias is an error in decision making due to personal beliefs, experiences, and assumptions. These biases are the root cause of our blind spots.


Confirmation Bias is the tendency to gravitate to facts which confirm your already-held beliefs. You seek out news and stats to back up your argument. You talk to people who have the same opinions as you and avoid conversations with those who disagree with you. You will dismiss those who don’t agree with you as liars, fake, and outright wrong in order to hold on to your point of view. By finding people who tend to confirm your beliefs, you are able to be right no matter what your argument is.


Overconfidence Bias is a more personalized extension of the confirmation bias, where you have a false sense of your skills, talents, and abilities. Those who are overconfident will believe they can do something they’ve never done before and if they succeed it’s because of their innate skill and if they fail, it was bad luck and the fault of others stopping them from doing what they needed to do to succeed.


The Actor Observer Bias is where you are able to excuse your short comings, mistakes, and losses due to situations in your life. You were late to the meeting because you had jetlag and couldn’t wake up in time, not your fault. However, if someone else was to do the exact same thing for the exact same reason you blame it on their inability to be responsible. In other words, excuses for failure only apply to you where others were incapable, incompetent, and irresponsible.


The False-Consensus Effect is when someone overestimates how many people agree with them. They see themselves as part of a majority regardless if the facts show they are in the minority. They assume everyone in the room agrees with them.


Incentive-Caused Bias is acting a certain way because the incentives are aligned to get you to make a certain decision or action.


Framing is when you make a decision because of how information is presented to you instead of relying only on the facts. It is a regular tool of the sales professional to create a framing bias to help you make the decision they want you to.


The Optimism Bias is when we tend to be too optimistic for our own good. We overestimate the likelihood that good things will happen to us while underestimating the probability that negative events will impact our lives. The opposite of this is Pessimism Bias.


The Narrative Fallacy occurs because stories help make sense of things and we can relate to them. We tell ourselves a story to helps us feel better.


Anchoring Bias is when we use pre-existing data as a reference point for all subsequent data and it skews our decision-making processes because we can’t see the new data independently of what we already learned.


Hindsight Bias is when someone predicts something which turns out wrong and they change their story to, “I knew it all along, I was just kidding before.” It is a common cognitive bias that involved the tendency of people to see events, even random ones, as more predictable than they are. The hindsight bias occurs for a combination of reasons, including our ability to “misremember” previous predictions, our tendency to view events as inevitable, and our tendency to believe we could have foreseen certain events.


Our memories of events tend to be influenced by what happened after the actual event. This is known as, the Misinformation Effect. A person who witnesses a car accident or crime might believe that their recollection is crystal clear, but researchers have found that memory is surprisingly susceptible to even very subtle influences.


Emotions can cloud our judgment and lead to poor decisions. The Pain-Avoiding Psychological Denial is the tendency to wish for something to be true to the point we cannot see the actual truth. Loss Aversion is the tendency for people to not take risks because they are too scared they will lose what they have or won’t succeed so why try.


Representative Bias happens when people believe there is a correlation between objects, people, events because they have similar characteristics.


The Halo Effect Bias or Physical Attractiveness Stereotype is the idea that if something is beautiful it is good or right.


When making decisions about others, think about these cognitive biases and how they are affecting your behaviours due to blind spots in your life.


Likky Lavji is a business coach who specialises in Blind Spots - To learn more go to www.likkylavji.com

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