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Last Updated on December 8, 2020

How Cognitive Bias Influences Our Decision Making

How Cognitive Bias Influences Our Decision Making

Cognitive biases are dangerous judgment errors that can devastate our health and wellbeing, our relationships, careers and businesses, and other areas of our lives.

To protect yourself against these mental blind spots, you need to know what they are, where they come from, and what you can do about them. That’s what this article is about.

Cognitive Biases on the Road

For an example of cognitive bias, imagine you are driving on autopilot, as we all do much of the time.

Let’s be clear, it’s a good idea to let your automatic response be in the driver’s seat when you are doing tasks that don’t require your full focus and attention. In ordinary driving situations – without inclement weather or start-and-stop traffic – you don’t need to use up your mental resources by turning your full focus on driving.

Now imagine that, as you are driving, the car in front of you unexpectedly cuts you off!

What do you do?

Well, you have to slam on your brakes to avoid a crash. Maybe you flash your lights or honk your horn. You feel scared and angry.

Your sympathetic nervous system activates, shooting cortisol throughout your body. Your heart beats faster, your palms start to sweat, a wave of heat goes through your body. [1]

What’s your gut feeling about the other driver? Probably your first impression is that the driver is rude and obnoxious.

Now imagine a different situation. You’re driving on autopilot, minding your own business, and you suddenly realize you need to turn right at the next intersection. You quickly switch lanes and suddenly hear someone behind you honking their horn.

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You now realize that there was someone in your blind spot but you forgot to check it in the rush to switch lanes, so you cut them off pretty badly.

Do you think that you are a rude driver? The vast majority of us would not. After all, we did not deliberately cut off the other driver; we just failed to see their car.

Let’s imagine another situation: your friend hurt herself and you’re rushing her to the emergency room. You’re driving aggressively and cutting in front of other cars.

Are you a rude driver? You’d probably say you are not; you’re merely doing the right thing for this situation.

Misattributing Blame Due to Cognitive Biases

Why do we give ourselves a pass while assigning an obnoxious status to other people? Why do our guts always make ourselves the good guys and other people the bad guys?

There is clearly a disconnect between our gut reactions and reality. This pattern is not a coincidence

Our immediate gut reaction attributes the behavior of other people to their personality and not to the situation in which the behavior occurs. The scientific name for this type of cognitive bias is the fundamental attribution error.[2]

This judgment error results in the following: if we see someone behaving rudely, we immediately and intuitively feel that this person is rude. We don’t stop to consider whether an unusual situation may cause the individual to act that way.

With the example of the driver, maybe the person who cut you off did not see you. Maybe they were driving their friend to the emergency room. But that’s not what our gut reaction tells us.

On the other hand, we attribute our own behavior to the situation, and not our personality. Much of the time we believe that we have valid and fully justifiable explanations for our actions.

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Are Cognitive Biases Really So Bad?

Don’t believe that such negative snap judgments about others can be harmful?

It may not seem very important whether you think wrongly that other drivers are jerks. Sorry to disappoint you, but this mental pattern posed a grave threat to your relationships.

As an example, what would you think of a potential business colleague if you saw her yelling at someone on her smartphone?

ou would probably have a negative reaction toward her and may not be likely to do business with her. Well, what if you found out she was yelling because she had her father on the other line who just misplaced his hearing aid and she was making plans to come to his house to help him look for it?

There can be many innocent explanations for someone yelling on the phone, but we are tempted to assume the worst.

In a related example, I was coaching a CEO of a company that had staff who worked from home due to COVID-19.

He told me about a recent incident with an employee who was having a heated Skype discussion over a conflict with an HR manager. The Skype call disconnected and the HR manager told the CEO the employee hung up on her. The CEO fired the employee on the spot.

Later, he learned that the employee thought the HR manager hung up on her. The call simply disconnected. Unfortunately, it was too late to take back the termination, even though the CEO regretted his heated decision.

This unfair firing situation really demoralized the rest of the staff, resulting in a growing disconnect between the CEO and other staff. It eventually contributed to the CEO leaving the organization.

Why Do We Suffer Cognitive Biases?

Intuitively, our mind feels like a cohesive whole. We perceive ourselves as intentional and rational thinkers. Yet cognitive science research shows that in reality, the intentional part of our mind is like a little rider on top of a huge elephant of emotions and intuitions.[3]

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Roughly speaking, we have two thinking systems, which neuroscientists call System 1 and 2. But it’s easier to think of them as the “autopilot system” and “intentional system.”

The autopilot system corresponds to our emotions and intuitions. Its cognitive processes take place mainly in the amygdala and other parts of the brain that developed early in our evolution.

This system guides our daily habits, helps us make snap decisions, and reacts instantly to dangerous life-and-death situations, like saber-toothed tigers through the freeze, fight, or flight stress response.

While helping our survival in the past, the fight-or-flight response is not a great fit for modern life. We have many small stresses that are not life-threatening, but the autopilot system treats them as tigers, producing an unnecessarily stressful everyday life experience that undermines our mental and physical wellbeing.

Moreover, while the snap judgments resulting from intuitions and emotions usually feel “true” because they are fast and powerful, they sometimes lead us wrongly in systemic and predictable ways.

The intentional system reflects our rational thinking and centers around the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that evolved more recently.

This thinking system helps us handle more complex mental activities, such as managing individual and group relationships, logical reasoning, probabilistic thinking, and learning new information and patterns of thinking and behavior. It can also lead to occasional decision-making errors, but it’s right much more often than the autopilot system.[4]

Train Your Intentional System to Address Cognitive Biases

While the automatic system requires no conscious effort to function, the intentional system takes deliberate effort to turn on and is mentally tiring.

Fortunately, with enough motivation and appropriate training, the intentional system can turn on in situations where we are prone to making systematic decision-making errors. Scholars use the term “cognitive biases” to refer to these errors.

The autopilot system is like an elephant. It’s by far the more powerful and predominant of the two systems. Our emotions can often overwhelm our rational thinking.

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Moreover, our intuitions and habits determine the large majority of our life, which we spend in autopilot mode. And that’s not a bad thing at all – it would be mentally exhausting to think intentionally about our every action and decision.

The intentional system is like the elephant rider. It can guide the elephant deliberately to go in a direction that matches our actual goals.

Certainly, the elephant part of the brain is huge and unwieldy, slow to turn and change, and stampedes at threats. But we can train the elephant. Your rider can be an elephant whisperer.

Over time, you can use the intentional system to change your automatic thinking, feeling, and behavior patterns, and become much better at making the best decisions.

That’s why you should never go with your gut, and instead check with your head on any decision you don’t want to get wrong.[5]

Conclusion

Let’s go back to the fundamental attribution error. Now that we know what cognitive biases are and where they come from, how can we explain this cognitive bias?

From an evolutionary perspective, in the ancestral savanna, it was valuable for the survival of our ancestors to make quick decisions and to assume the worst, regardless of the accuracy of this assumption. Those who failed to do so did not survive to pass on their genes.

In the modern world where our survival is not immediately threatened by others and where we have long-term interactions with strangers, such judgments are dangerous for our long-term goals. We have to address this and other mental blindspots to make good decisions, whether about our relationships or other areas in our life.[6]

So, take a few minutes right now to think about where in recent weeks you might have misattributed blame. Given the stress associated with the pandemic, it’s easy to do.

Take the time to reach out to those you wrongly blamed and apologize. Doing so can be the start of your life-long journey to recognize and defeat cognitive biases and make the best decisions.

More on Cognitive Bias

Featured photo credit: Evan Dennis via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky

Cognitive neuroscientist and behavioral economist; CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts; multiple best-selling author

8 Daily Habits To Develop Emotional Intelligence How to Cope with COVID Anxiety And Stress How to Handle Pandemic Depression and Take Care of Yourself How Cognitive Bias Influences Our Decision Making How Not to Let Cognitive Bias Control Us When Dealing with COVID-19

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Last Updated on February 23, 2021

5 Best Fish Oil Supplements to Buy For A Healthier Brain

5 Best Fish Oil Supplements to Buy For A Healthier Brain

There are many ways that we can make our brains healthier. We use our brains constantly, but we train them through studying, learning, and recalling, among other things. But the issue with these methods is that they only help support particular parts of the brain. They are specialized activities that require certain parts of the rain to work, but they do not support the brain as a whole. So, if you’re looking for ways to help every part of your brain, the best thing you can consider is getting the best fish oil supplements.

Like with all kinds of supplements, fish oil supplements provide a high dosage of vitamins that help support and improve particular parts of your body.

The Benefits of Fish Oil

Fish oil is one of the most common dietary supplements used by people. Broadly speaking, these supplements are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are great for your health in many ways. Below are just some of their most important, proven benefits:

  • Studies show that those who eat fish are at a lower risk of experiencing heart problems.[1] Supplements like these are common and provide the same health benefits as eating fish
  • Omega-3 also boosts brain function, reducing various mental conditions like bipolar and schizophrenia.[2]
  • Fish oil supplements can also reduce weight and prevent type-2 diabetes and even some cancers.[3]
  • They can also help improve eyesight as our eyes greatly rely on omega-3 fats.[4]

Why Fish Oil Supplements Help Boost Your Energy

As you can tell from the benefits already, having high omega-3 levels greatly and positively impacts our brains. Not only can it prevent mental disorders, but it also has ways of alleviating mood swings, depression, and fatigue. Research shows that consuming lower amounts of omega-3s can result in more mood swings, fatigue, and depression.[5]

Therefore, having a daily dose of fish oil supplements is a way of keeping yourself energized, especially since fatigue primarily stems from our brain. If your brain is filled with energy and isn’t feeling sluggish, your body will also feel the same way.

How To Pick the Best Fish Oil Supplements

When selecting some of the best fish oil supplements available on the market, we based our decision on the following criteria:

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  • High in Omega-3 – Every fish oil supplement will have Omega-3 and it’s a vital ingredient, but many brands vary on how much their products contain this fatty acid. We selected the ones that have a high amount.
  • Has multiple vitamins – Even though supplements are designed to have many vitamins, the benefits can be self-contained in certain areas and don’t synergize. The ones we selected provide benefits that help your body in multiple ways.
  • Purity – Supplements can often be grounds to include all kinds of unnecessary ingredients. The ones we picked are packed with only the essential vitamins you need.

5 Best Fish Oil Supplements

Here are the 5 best fish oil supplements we picked that you should definitely try:

1. Infuel Omega 3 Fish Oil

    Our first pick of the best fish oil supplement available is the Infuel brand of Omega 3 fish oil. We have this available in our own stores because of the numerous benefits that it provides. Not only does it contain the Omega 3 healthy fats but also high EPA and DHA content that helps with the growth and development of the eyes, nervous system, and heart.[6]

    As such, you’ll find regular doses of these promoting brain and heart health. It also helps with maintaining healthy bones and joints and can help improve your skin and sleep cycle.

    Buy the Infuel Omega 3 Fish Oil Here.

    2. California Gold Nutrition Omega 3 Premium Fish Oil

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      Our second pick for the best fish oil supplements is the supplement provided by California Gold Nutrition. Their premium fish oil supplement has gone through a process where the supplement provides a respectable amount of EPA and DHA (360mg and 240mg respectively) as well as fish oil. It’s to the point where it’s recommended that you take two of these capsules per day.

      Their process also ensures that the softgels the supplement comes in are porcine, bovine-free, and don’t contain gluten, GMOs, and soy. Overall, if you’re looking for an option to having plenty of fish oil, this is a great option.

      Pick up California Gold Nutrition’s Fish Oil Supplement here.

      3. Sports Research Omega 3 Fish Oil Triple Strength

        For those looking for a higher dosage of fish oil, EPA, and DHA, one option is the fish oil supplement from Sports Research. Unlike the other options on this list, this fish oil supplement is marketed as a dietary supplement. The reason for that is because a single Omega 3 softgel already contains over 80% of your daily dose of fish oil as well as 950mg of EPA and DHA.[7] The dosage amount easily exceeds the Global Organization’s minimum contents of EPA and DHA.

        Beyond that, it’s also made from non-GMO ingredients, and it’s gluten-free. This fish oil supplement is also made from sustainable seafood.

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        Purchase Sports Research Fish Oil Supplement here.

        4. Natrol Omega 3 Fish Oil Natural Lemon Flavor

          One factor that people might have that we didn’t mention on the list is flavor. While what we offer is quality, sometimes, people can’t handle the flavor of some quality products. So, for those who have a particular taste for vitamins, one option to consider is Natrol’s fish oil supplement. This supplement offers a natural lemon flavor thanks to its natural lemon oil ingredient.

          Beyond that, you can expect a middle-of-the-road amount of EPA, DHA, and fish oil with the company suggesting to take one softgel two times a day with a meal. The only real downside to this particular supplement is that you’re giving up a few details and benefits for better flavor. Unlike the other supplements mentioned, this does contain gelatine from bovine, though it’s kept at a minimum.

          Buy Natrol’s Omega 3 Fish Oil Supplement here.

          5. Nature’s Bounty Fish Oil

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            The final fish oil supplement on this list is the one from Nature’s Bounty. Nature’s Bounty has been committed to people’s health for almost 50 years at this point, and this company is known for making trusted products that are well-researched, backed by science, and made from pure ingredients. Their odorless fish oil supplement is no different.

            Nature’s Bounty product is marketed as a dietary supplement so you can expect a higher amount of EPA, DHA, and Omega-3 in them than usual. Even so, it’s recommended to take two softgels two times a day. These supplements are non-GMO and gluten-free, too.

            Purchase Nature’s Bounty’s Fish Oil here.

            Bottom Line

            While training your brain via certain brain activities and eating plenty of healthy fatty foods will help, we understand that not everyone can meet their Omega-3 requirements. Some people may also have medical conditions that force them to take extra steps in maintaining a healthy brain. This is where supplements shine as they offer plenty of high dosages for the nutrients that your body needs and provide several other benefits as well.

            If you decide to choose any of the listed fish oil supplements, I assure you that you will get a good quality product to help boost your brainpower.

            More Articles About the Benefits of Fish Oil

            Featured photo credit: Anshu A via unsplash.com

            Reference

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