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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

More by this author

Clay Drinko

Clay Drinko is an educator and the author of PLAY YOUR WAY SANE (January 2021 Simon & Schuster)

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Published on October 5, 2020

What Are Creative Problem Solving Skills (And How To Improve Yours)

What Are Creative Problem Solving Skills (And How To Improve Yours)

I think we’re all familiar with that feeling of needing to solve a problem, trying way too hard, getting frustrated, and then throwing our hands up in defeat. For example, when my editor assigned me this topic, the structure and concept of the piece weren’t instantly clear to me. I had to problem-solve to figure out how to even begin. But problem-solving isn’t quite so linear. It’s not just a matter of brute force. You can’t just muscle your way through. This is where creative problem solving comes in.

Creative problem solving is about using what we know about how the brain works to come up with outside-the-box solutions to creative problems. Sure, we can do things the same way we’ve always done them. Or we can try creative problem solving, which means we spend time ideating (a.k.a. brainstorming), collaborating, ruminating, and refining to land on better and more novel solutions than we could have if we tried to force or rush a solution.

Stages of Creative Problem Solving

There’s no right or wrong way to try creative problem solving, but there are some stages that can help you integrate it into your creative process. Here are the 4 stages of creative problem solving

1. Ideating/Brainstorming

If we’re using creative problem solving, we’re not just going with the first idea that pops into our heads. Brainstorming is crucial to come up with more novel solutions.

One of the most important things to keep in mind during brainstorming is that this is not the time to evaluate or judge ideas. The goal of ideating is to come up with as many ideas as possible.

There’s an improvisation rule called “Yes, And” or the rule of agreement that can help you get the most out of your brainstorming sessions.[1] The idea is simple. If you’re brainstorming in a group and someone tells you an idea, you need to go along with that idea. That’s the “Yes” part of “Yes, And.” Then, you can take it a step further by trying to add to that person’s idea.

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Let’s say you and your team are trying to figure out how to rebrand your shoe company. Your colleague says you could use a mascot. If you’re using improv’s “Yes, And” rule, you might agree and say that the mascot could be a shoe or a sock or a lonely sock looking for a shoe.

During the ideation stage, no one should be worried about which ideas are good and which are bad. Everyone is trying to come up with as many ideas as possible, and everyone should be trying to make the most of everyone else’s ideas.

“Yes, And” can also work if you’re creative problem solving alone. Instead of discarding ideas, you should be saying yes to your ideas, writing them all down, and trying to make all of them as workable as possible. But before you get too far in your creative process, it’s important to run your ideas by someone else.

2. Collaboration

I know sometimes you don’t want to share your ideas with other people. Maybe you’re self-conscious or you just don’t think that your idea is ready for prime time. However, it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and let other people join your creative process if you want to reach the best possible creative solution.

When we’re working in a team, it’s important to not judge each other’s ideas until we’re safely in the final stage of the creative problem-solving process. That means no critiques, no evaluations, and no snarky comments. Not yet, at least.

The reason to hold off on evaluating ideas at this stage is that some people tend to shut down if their ideas are judged too early. There’s a concept called creative suppression that occurs when people stop a creative pursuit temporarily due to feeling judged, shamed, or embarrassed.[2] Even worse, creative mortification is when judgment, shame, or embarrassment makes you quit your creative pursuit altogether.

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When you’re collaborating with others while creative problem solving, you don’t want to shut anyone down. The more people who are actively engaged in the creative process the better.

In improv, there’s something called “group mind.” The basic idea is that a group can come up with a better solution than any single individual. It makes sense since each person in the group enters the creative process with their own strengths, knowledge, background, experience, and ideas. That means that when the group is working harmoniously, the best contributions of each individual will be reflected in the team’s solution, making that solution far better than what any individual could have come up on their own.

So, find someone you trust and lay the ground rules for your collaboration. Tell each other that you won’t be judging each other’s work just yet to bring out the best and make it as creative and effective as possible.

3. Pause

It can seem counterintuitive to pause during the creative process. But to tap into the creative unconscious parts of your brain, you need to stop forcing it and let your mind wander.

The part of your brain that you’re using to understand this article right now is not necessarily the part that’s going to come up with the most novel solution to your problem. To start using your creative unconscious brain, you need to take a break.

Have you ever had that experience of struggling with a problem and then effortlessly figuring it out while you were showering or walking the dog? That’s your unconscious brain doing the heavy lifting.

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This part of the brain can’t be forced into creative problem solving, so stop consciously obsessing about your problem for a while. Take a walk. Go for a drive. Let your mind wander. Dream. This gives your unconscious mind a chance to sort information and come up with some truly novel solutions.

The bonus to letting your unconscious take over is that it’s effortless. Conscious thought requires you to burn lots of energy, while unconscious doesn’t. So, stop trying so hard and let ideas come to you.

4. Refine

At some point, you’re going to have to start evaluating, eliminating, and refining your ideas to get to the best solution. But if you’ve brainstormed, collaborated, and ruminated enough, you should have plenty of material to work with.

An Example of Creative Problem Solving

I think it’s helpful to walk through an example of creative problem-solving in action. Let’s go back to the example of me writing this article.

First, I was presented with the problem, so I started brainstorming and “Yes, And”-ing myself. I thought about everything I already know about creative problem solving and did some preliminary research, but I still didn’t have a structure or theme to tie my ideas together.

Once the problem was marinating in my mind, I started talking to people. I talked to an old friend about my initial ideas about the article, but I still didn’t have any words on the page just yet.

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Then, one morning, the article seemed to come fully formed while I was showering. I could see which examples would work best and how to structure the article. So, I sat down to write and refine the ideas. During the refining stage, I swung back to the collaboration stage when my editor further refined and improved my ideas.

It’s important to remember that these four stages of creative problem solving aren’t linear. They’re circular. After I refine an idea, I can go back to brainstorming, collaborating, and pausing as needed to develop and improve that idea.

Bottom Line

Creative problem solving is, first and foremost, creative. You have to give yourself time and space to be able to reflect and ruminate. It’s also important to collaborate as necessary to improve your ideas with the help of other people.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you can’t force creative problem-solving. Forcing it only leads to frustration and failure, so give yourself some time and a team you trust to come up with the best possible solution to your problem.

More About Creative Problem Solving

Featured photo credit: Per Lööv via unsplash.com

Reference

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