50 Cognitive Biases
We often do not realize that we are subject to unconscious biases,
that affect our judgment and behavior.
Here you will find Cards describing 50 most often Cognitive Biases with examples of specific situations.
Cards can be downloaded and used freely.
According to Wikipedia, there are 188 Cognitive Biases described so far.
You can find the 50 most common here.
One of the favorites is the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It can be summed up with this neat sentence:
Ignorance is a blessed state.
(because if you don't know that you don't know something, then you don't worry and you don't stress)
You can find this Cognitive Bias on Card 17 below.
One of the most common cognitive biases in the corporate world is the Curse of Knowledge
which is the cause of many misunderstandings in communication (Card No. 9).
Equally often in the business environment, there is a Cognitive Bias called Groupthink (Card 5).
Unfortunately, the so-called management teams suffer from it quite often.
And in everyday life, the most common thing that affects each of us is a cognitive bias called Naive Realism.
(Card No. 14). It is a very strong source of misunderstandings, disputes, and conflicts.
If you have reached this place, I have a special gift for you related to Cognitive Biases.
At the link below you will find what I think is the most complete Library of Cognitive Biases.
shown on one infographic:
And if you are strongly interested not only in the topic of Cognitive Biases but also in topics such as:
Fallacies of Logical Thinking
At the link below you will find very attractive cards, posters, and visualizations, available in both
electronic and physical form.
And among them, you will find a free poster with 24 Cognitive Biases as well as interactive libraries
for both Cognitive Biases and Fallacies of Logical Thinking:
5 Common Cognitive Errors worth knowing and working on
What Cognitive Biase should you pay special attention to? Which cognitive distortions do we encounter most often in everyday life?
We did not find reliable sources that would provide research-backed information on the most common Cognitive Biases committed by people. And it is likely that such a list would be different depending on geographic culture, gender, age, and professional profile.
So we present our subjective list of Cognitive Biases that affect us the most in today's world - both at work and in private life:
1. Anchoring effect
This bias has a big impact on our decision-making. For example, purchasing decisions. It is a tendency to rely too much on your own past experiences or on information frequently repeated in the media or in commerce. We anchor ourselves in what we already know (or have been told a lot of) and thus can be manipulated or limited in our choices. For example, how not to take advantage of price reductions?!
And let's do it fast because promos will not be available soon (albeit in today's world the reductions are endless).
2. The Effects of False Consensus and Naive Realism
False Consensus Cognitive Bias can affect almost all spheres of our lives. Because it is associated with all situations when we communicate with other people. It is the illegitimate belief that others think the same, that "everyone knows it", that it is "obvious". We do not allow ourselves or we do not realize that it is possible for someone to think differently from us. And if in face-to-face conversation we do not actively hear the opposite opinion, we are deeply convinced that others agree with us (Card 8).
This Cognitive Bias is very similar to the Naive Realism Bias. In the latter case, we are deeply convinced that we always see objective reality, that "this is how it is", that "this is how the world is". This is a strong source of confusion, especially in direct communication between people. To properly illustrate the Cognitive Bas of Naive Realism, it is enough to look at Card No. 14.
3. Stereotyping and In-Group Favoritism
Today's world is becoming more and more globalized, but paradoxically it is becoming more and more divided. We are more and more afraid of what we do not know or understand. And we don't want (or don't have time!) to make an effort to understand something first.
This is what the Cognitive Bias of Stereotypes and In-Group Favoritism Biases are about. We make judgments about others very quickly without checking important details (sometimes without checking anything) and very quickly assign general characteristics to others based on only random details, such as whether or not they belong to "our" group.
Practicing critical thinking, curiosity about the world and an attitude of openness and humility can help a lot in overcoming these two Cognitive Biase. This can be achieved, for example, by working in an international environment.
How to identify cognitive bias? How to avoid it?
1. Accept that you may have prejudices. And then be mindful.
The truth is that we all have unconscious biases or make cognitive biases. This is due to the culture in which we were born and brought up, for example. So you need to start by accepting this fact, then carefully track down your unconscious biases and work to change them.
Paying attention to your thoughts and verifying your beliefs can help you identify the assumptions you are currently relying on. For example:
do you believe people will always talk when they disagree?
do you think showing emotions - like crying at work - is a sign of weakness?
what do you automatically think of a person who misses a deadline?
what do you think about your teammates who are usually quiet in meetings?
The key is to pause for a moment and examine your beliefs so that you can see the other person as they really are. Especially in the work environment these days, it may not be easy. Because we have times focused on results and rushing with incredible speed. As a leader, you may easily think you don't have time to play like this. However, spending a few minutes asking yourself questions can make a huge difference to you and your team. At the last point of this list, you'll find very specific questions that you should practice asking regularly. In this way, you will actually build a completely new, invaluable competence that will save you from many mistakes in the future.
2. Be open to other opinions, accept disagreement, even conflict.
Wanting affirmation is human, especially when you are a leader. But one of the important tasks of a leader is to look at how your behaviors, actions, and words affect your team. So, to avoid automatic cognitive biases, start practicing openness to disagreement, but not only declaratively - truthfully. And start practicing this attitude in small steps.
You can, for example, start with an honest conversation with a person with whom he usually "sparks". In order to understand how she perceives you and what you might start doing differently (God forbid, not to argue with her and prove that she is wrong).
One of the very common cases of a large and unarticulated misunderstanding between a leader and a subordinate is when the subordinate feels micromanaged and thus his experience and autonomy are diminished, and you think that you are helping him overcome challenges and supporting him.
You can read more about it in the dedicated Manager as a Coach section.
3. Let others question your assumptions.
Our view of ourselves is made up of our life experiences and the lessons we learn along the way. We usually develop unconscious biases and fall into the trap of cognitive bias as a result of what we have been taught and the observations we have made during our childhood and adolescence - at home, at school, in conversations with friends, and through the media. The most hidden and enduring beliefs are usually the result of the suffering we have experienced.
When someone questions these long-held beliefs, we may find it inconvenient and even dangerous. So at first, there will be resistance. As someone wisely said:
"Most people don't want the truth. They just want confirmation that the illusion they live is true."
Instead of being defensive, pay attention to your immediate reaction. Before acting, take a deep breath and try to change your attitude. Approach the situation with curiosity and positive intention. For example, as you approach an experiment that might answer the question: What if ...
Your previous cognitive biases do not have to be dead ends. Each confrontation is an opportunity to bend a new path and if you are a leader, an opportunity to improve your leadership. As a leader, you decide what kind of atmosphere you create around you. And by being authentic and open to other points of view, you will naturally create a space for others to behave like this. Otherwise, you may still be under the (mis) belief (aka cognitive bias) that if no one is questioning your opinion out loud, that is, everyone agrees!
4. Adopt different perspectives.
With people whose worldview is different from yours, it is worth not only exchanging feedback but also regularly interacting and trying to build meaningful relationships. It is often the case that two strong personalities, who fight each other at first like worst enemies, later become best friends.
But even if you engage in debates with people of different viewpoints, the experience will broaden your thinking and encourage you to be a more inclusive (and creative) person. What is more, such debates will teach you how to talk to people with a different worldview, how to reach them, and how to skillfully convince them to be right. This is another invaluable skill. Especially in today's business world.
I also encourage you to take a critical look at your network of contacts. Aren't most of these people "just like you"? If you work in an international environment, how big is the representation of, for example, Asia, South America or Africa in your network? It is also worth considering when you last read a book other than any other book.
Learning to adopt different perspectives may seem difficult at first, but the conscious effort will help. Change - any kind - is inconvenient. The most important thing you can do as a leader is to prepare for this discomfort. Each phase of your leadership journey will require you to dedicate time to introspection in order to emerge from this phase as a more self-aware person.
5. Start practicing self-coaching on a regular basis.
On our blog, you will find a series of articles on self-coaching. This method of personal development can be very useful for more mature and experienced people. And extremely effective in identifying and correcting your own cognitive biases.
And if you don't have time to read a series of articles (sic!), Here is a list of some examples of questions you can work with:
What are my most fundamental beliefs?
How can these beliefs limit or enable me and my colleagues to work?
How do I react to people from all walks of life? Do I stick to stereotypes or assumptions about a particular social group?
As a manager, how much do I recognize and take advantage of the differences in my team?
How would my team describe my leadership style if they shared their experiences with me?
How much do my words and actions reflect my intentions?
How often do I put myself in the shoes of the other person and try to understand the reasons for her point of view?
And if you're ready to learn more about what your colleagues or other people at work really think about you, here are some examples of phrases you can use:
What one thing that I do would you mention as making us drift apart?
Thank you. I didn't realize it. I work on myself and understand that we all have unconscious biases or make cognitive biases. What else can you share with me about the impact of my actions?
I really appreciate you sharing this with me. What else did you notice that I should know?
I didn't think about it that way until you shared your views. Could you say more?