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Published on February 7, 2020

9 Types of Bias That Cloud Our Everyday Judgement

9 Types of Bias That Cloud Our Everyday Judgement

Do you consider yourself to be an objective, unbiased thinker? I think it’s safe to say that most people assume they are. We think we’re able to weigh all sides equally and reach logical, unbiased conclusions.

What most people don’t know is that there are many types of bias that prevent us every single day from doing exactly that.

Psychologists continue to find new types of bias that cloud our judgment and prevent us from reaching the fairest, most accurate conclusions. For example, the overestimation bias has only recently been named and defined. That’s when you overestimate how much other people will enjoy or dislike something. With the overestimation bias, we know how we feel about various pros and cons, so we allow ourselves to have a nuanced perspective on something while assuming others will simply like or hate it more than us. [1]

For example, we overestimate how much someone else would like a tropical vacation because we know how we will feel about the mosquitos and the sunburn, but we don’t think about others having that same nuanced ambivalence. Or we overestimate how much someone would dislike drinking hot sauce from the bottle. Again, we can weigh the pros and cons for ourselves but not for others, so we tend to think people will dislike distasteful things more than we do.

The overestimation bias is just one of many types of bias, and there is an easy way to adjust our thinking to not fall prey to it — By knowing about the overestimation bias, we are better able to reach fairer, more accurate conclusions about how much or how little people will enjoy things.

Knowing about the bias will help you think more carefully the next time you buy someone a gift or determine the price others are willing to pay for something you’re selling. You’ll be better equipped to take a more nuanced view of how others will be thinking about that gift or product and, therefore, better equipped to compensate for the overestimation bias.

Let’s take a look at 9 other common types of bias and how you can be mindful of them and not let them cloud your judgment.

1. Anchoring Bias

We tend to put more weight on the first piece of information we hear. Imagine you are selling your house. The first offer you receive is for $50,000 less than your asking price. The anchoring bias says that you will put more weight, give more importance, to this offer because it is the first.[2] This first offer is more likely to change your mind about how much your house is worth than any future offer.

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How to Be Less Biased

The anchoring bias often involves money and what we think things are worth, so it’s important to keep it in mind when making financial decisions. Know that the first piece of information you receive does not have any more importance than the fifth.

You can also get the upper hand in negotiations by establishing the first offer. Because of the anchoring bias, this will have a better chance of swaying how much the other person thinks what you’re buying or selling is worth.

2. Availability Heuristic

The availability heuristic is a fancy way of saying that we overestimate the importance of whatever information we have easy access to.[3] We rely too much on examples that come to our minds quickly, instead of weighing all information equally.

Watching the news is one example of this type of bias. We see many more stories about violence and disaster, so we’re much more likely to think that the world is dangerous even though we could do some easy googling to see that the world is actually safer in many ways than it was decades ago.

How to Be Less Biased

Again, knowledge is power when dealing with the availability heuristic. Remind yourself that anecdotal evidence is not statistically relevant in decision-making. Your Aunt Sue winning the lottery in no way improves your odds of winning big.

3. Bandwagon Effect

When we’re talking about types of bias, the bandwagon effect is a fairly common one. We’re more likely to be swayed the more people around us think a certain way.[4]

Think about serving on a jury. If in the initial vote, everyone says guilty except you, you’re much more likely to also think the defendant is guilty. The bandwagon effect looks a lot like peer pressure.

How to Be Less Biased

Stick to the facts. Know that people thinking a certain way doesn’t make them right, even if lots of people think that same way.

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4. Confirmation Bias

The confirmation bias may be the most common type of bias. It’s when people only listen to information that confirms what they already believe.

Social media is like confirmation bias heaven. Think about your Uncle Steve who loves Political Candidate A. He only watches news and shares posts about how great his candidate is. This creates an echo chamber where any information to the contrary is avoided.

How to Be Less Biased

Listen to the counterargument and seriously consider it. If you only watch Fox News, start checking out MSNBC. If you only read The New York Times, start reading The Wall Street Journal. The more we seriously consider other perspectives, the more likely we are to reach a better conclusion.

Learn more about this here: What Is Confirmation Bias in Psychology and What to Do About It

5. Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger Effect explains why the more you know about something, the less confident you are in your expertise. On the other hand, the less you know, the more simplistic your understanding is. Therefore, you are more confident in your grasp of something.[5]

How to Be Less Biased

If you find yourself being extremely confident about your expertise in something, take a step back and focus on what you don’t yet know or understand.

Aim for complexity. If something seems too simple, the problem is probably that you don’t yet know enough for it to be complex.

6. Fundamental Attribution Error

The fundamental attribution error is when you make contextual excuses for your own mistakes and failings but don’t do so for others.

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The most famous example is bad driving. If we are swerving all over the road, we’re quick to take a nuanced view of our own driving. We know that we’re just having a bad morning or that we have a lot on our minds today.

However, when we see another so-called bad driver, the fundamental attribution error means we’re quick to blame their driving on the fact that they’re old or a woman or some other stereotype or generalization, even though the other driver’s situation is just as nuanced as our own.

How to Be Less Biased

Any time you stereotype someone based on their flaws, check yourself. You have probably fallen victim to the fundamental attribution error.

Tell yourself that they are probably having a bad day or that you simply don’t know what their situation is. If you’re allowed to be nuanced and complex, so should they.

7. In-Group Bias

In-group bias is similar to the fundamental attribution error, but instead of thinking we are better than others, we think members of our group are better than members of other groups. We have a more favorable view of the people in our group just because they are in our group.

How to Be Less Biased

Just like with the fundamental attribution error, you need to actively think about the nuance and complexity of people outside of your group if you want to compensate for your in-group bias.

8. Optimism/Pessimism Bias

The next bias is really two different types of bias. The optimism bias is when you are more likely to think things will turn out well when you’re in a good mood. Whereas, the pessimism bias is when you’re more likely to think things will turn out badly when you’re in a bad mood.

How to Be Less Biased

Become emotionally intelligent. If you want to compensate for these types of bias, know and understand what you’re currently feeling and save important decisions for when you’re in a more beige mood.

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9. Selective Perception

This bias explains why some people seem to only see what they want to see. Selective perception is all about our expectations affecting our perception.

For example, you might expect your friend to do well in their presentation because they’re your friend and you think they’re amazing. Selective perception is the reason you may not notice all your friend’s mistakes but notice all the other presenters’ errors.

How to Be Less Biased

Keep your expectations in check to avoid selective perception. You may even want to pretend you don’t have any expectations. To put it simply, be aware of all types of bias and try your best to keep an open mind about everything.

Final Thoughts

One final bias gives us the best remedy for combatting all other types of bias: the blindspot bias. The blindspot bias explains why people notice other people’s cognitive biases but fail to notice their own.

So the best solution for overcoming all types of bias is to take a long, hard look in the mirror. Educate yourself about types of bias and then do a thoughtful inventory about your own biases.

And if you don’t think you have any biases, keep looking in the mirror because that’s your blindspot bias talking. Just like the rest of us, you have biases. But being aware of them and introspective about the way they affect your decision-making is a good way to not let them have the final word.

More on Thinking Clearly

Featured photo credit: Jan Tinneberg via unsplash.com

Reference

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Clay Drinko

Clay Drinko is an educator and the author of Theatrical Improvisation, Consciousness, and Cognition.

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Last Updated on February 11, 2020

8 Brain Exercises for Mental Strength and a Smarter Brain

8 Brain Exercises for Mental Strength and a Smarter Brain

Everyone says that we need to strive for a healthy body. These people are the people who say we should be going to the gym, exercise daily, and eat the right kind of food.

And while that advice is helpful, I feel a lot of people forget about another important part of ourselves: our brain.

Think about it.

When was the last time that you read a book?

Most are likely guilty of not having read a book in years. From 2004 to 2018, the number of people in America leisurely reading has dropped by 30%.[1]

We place so much priority on our bodies, and yet most of us don’t prioritize brain exercises or brain care. Why is that?

Fortunately, with brain exercises, we can reverse a lot of the damage that’s been done. Thanks to massive developments in neuroscience, we understand when our brain is at peak performance and what we can do to maintain it or bring it back to those levels.

Do Brain Exercises Really Work?

The short answer is yes.

First, there is all of Sherry Willis’ work. From her efforts, participants were able to do varying degrees of difficult tasks. Not only that but they were able to do so in an efficient manner than before.

There was also an extensive study that looked at the long-term effects of brain exercises on older individuals. The study provided brain exercises to 2,832 individuals aged 65 and up.[2]

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Over a 10 year period, participants were given training in processing speed, memory, and reasoning. Another smaller controlled group received no such training.

After that 10 year period, the researchers came back after 5 years to see results. While the training did help the older individuals during the 10 years of brain exercises, those benefits were gone after 5 years.

After 10 years of having the brain training, there were no signs of brain improvements.

What this study uncovers is that not only does the training work, but also it’s important to practice this regularly. Similar to our health, if we don’t train our bodies, it’ll deteriorate similar to our brain if we don’t exercise it.

Which Brain Exercises Are the Best?

According to research done in 1999, our brain reaches peak performance between age 16 and 25.[3] After that, our cognitive functioning – our ability to mentally process and carry out tasks – declines naturally. This doesn’t mean that we will be mentally incapable of working after a certain period of time though. Rather, our ability to change, process certain tasks, and introduce new processes will be tougher.

Understanding this is important since brain exercises are designed to keep the brain functional all around.[4] Examples are being able to do daily tasks, retaining memories, and keeping focus. This might not be a big issue right now but, it becomes more pressing when you get older and there are threats of dementia, amnesia, and Alzheimers — mental issues that could be stopped through regular exercise of our brains.

The question is, what sort of exercises are best for us?

Simple: personalized brain exercises.

Many people have tried all kinds of tactics to exercise their brains. And while there is research to support a variety of these claims, there’s more scientific support behind this particular form of training.

The strategy has been proven by Dr. Sherry Willis, a professor at the University of Texas. Through her research, she proved participants became more efficient at performing typical tasks at varying levels of complexity.[5]

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Participants were able to write shopping lists to being able to operate technical equipment with ease.

The big question now is where can you find these sorts of programs?

Since this research emerged, many businesses have been formed to help in this area. Training can be as simple as playing Sudoku to having full-fledged programs given out by various apps.[6]

8 Brain Exercises to Strengthen Your Brain

While having a personalized brain training course is great, not everyone is mentally prepared for them. Instead, people may find it better to strengthen their brains in other ways.

While these methods lack built-in long-term challenges or personalization, those can be mitigated. That is, if you want to start taking care of your brain as much as you want to look after the rest of your body.

1. Exercise

Studies from 2006 show that exercise has tremendous benefits on our brain. Specifically, exercising can protect our brain from shrinkage as it ages.[7]

While exercise may not be the most engaging or challenging brain exercise, this is one way to get the best of both worlds. Not only that, but you can add a layer of challenge by doing different exercises.

This helps because it teaches our brain to fire off new signals to our brain. This increases our brains plasticity – the ability to change and think differently. Thus doing new exercises will strengthen our brains.

2. Drawing Maps

A lot of us remember the streets we grew up like the back of our hands. We can navigate it with ease with no challenge.

But have you ever drawn it out before?

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One good challenge is to draw out the streets and what your neighbourhood looked like. Try to recall iconic landmarks and place them on the map as well.

Once you’re done with the map, find a real map and compare it with the one you drew. More often than not, you probably missed a few spots here and there. This happens because our brain doesn’t store that specific information for very long. Once we know where we want to go, our brain typically signals us to go a familiar route. We subconsciously comply and think nothing else of it.

Regardless, drawing a map can help us strengthen our brain and is a step above physical exercise since this demands more brainpower. I’d also encourage you to challenge yourself further and draw larger scale maps. Why not draw a map of the United State and write in all the state’s locations and capitals? Why not do the same with Canada?

3. Learning Something New

Barring personalized training, the best form of brain exercise stems from doing something different. Starting something new requires a lot of mental capacity.

Not only are you learning to do something new, but you also need to keep yourself motivated to continue doing it. Because of this, learning something new will keep us on our toes.

What’s also nice is that the activities don’t need to be really challenging. For example, one study had two groups and was asked to do different activities.[8] One group was asked to learn new skills like quilting or digital photography. The other was asked to watch movies or listen to the radio.

The study found that those quilting or doing digital photography had a better memory than those who had more leisure activities. They proved this by giving the individuals memory tests.

4. Socialize

When we get older, we tend to have a smaller circle of friends and thus, talk less and less. What’s saddening is the lack of social activity negatively impacts our mental health.

We’re obviously social creatures, so it should come to no surprise that being socially active is one way to exercise our brain. It also is one way of fighting back dementia and Alzheimer’s.[9]

Even if you are an introvert, seeking social interactions clearly has short-term and long-term benefits. Some ideas to be socially active is by joining clubs, going for daily walks with people, volunteering in your community, or staying in contact with your family or past friends.

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5. Doing a Jigsaw Puzzle

Big or small, research shows that this exercise recruits multiple cognitive abilities.[10]

6. Playing Card Games

Similarly, card games both online and offline can prove useful for your brain. One study in 2015 found that card games activate various parts of the brain.[11] Games included poker, crazy eights, solitaire, bridge, and gin rummy.

7. Learning a New Language

I mentioned earlier that learning something new is good but, it doesn’t always have to be a physical skill. Learning a new language activates many regions of our brain while also boosting cognition.[12]

8. Taking a New Route to a Familiar Destination

That or simply go down a different road. This doesn’t apply to driving or travelling but to any sort of problem that you deal with in life. By pushing yourself to think of other alternatives, your brain receives a number of benefits from making a simple change as these taxi drivers discovered.

Bottom Line

A lot of the reasons to consider brain exercises in our lives is similar to our health. As you can probably tell, these exercises do not take very long. They can be easily integrated into our daily lives.

Furthermore, brain exercises improve our focus, memory, and ability to complete daily activities. To stop doing brain exercises is to remove all of those benefits that can help us significantly as we get older.

So if you can’t get personalized brain training, consider the strategies I mentioned above. You’d be surprised how easy and how quickly you’ll notice changes in your life from this.

More to Sharpen Your Brain

Featured photo credit: Micael Sáez via unsplash.com

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