Imagine a scenario where you’re a manager in need of interns for your new project at work. You approach the Human Resources department and ask them to guide you with the process.

You’re looking to publish the job advertisement on as many platforms as you can. However, one of the executives advises against it. He says that you should avoid attracting candidates from particular colleges.

When you ask why, the executive explains: “These colleges have previously provided us with underperforming interns. It’s best that we avoid wasting our energies there.”

This is a classic case of cognitive bias. The HR executive wants to blacklist an entire college due to a couple of bad experiences in the past.  This bias means that entire talent pools will be kept out of the application process.

It is easy for us to grasp the meaning of cognitive bias because we all occasionally make hasty decisions based on preconceived notions. It’s important to identify the various types of biases and understand how they impact our daily lives.

Meaning Of Cognitive Bias

All of us face both rational and irrational thoughts in the process of decision-making. Often, factors like experience and/or personality influence how people make decisions. It is clear that an individual’s past experiences and judgments can come in the way of making objective decisions with an eye on the big picture.

The idea of cognitive biases was introduced by the social scientists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in the 1970s. Kahneman went on to summarize their lives’ work in his 2011 bestseller, Thinking Fast and Slow. Tversky and Kahneman revolutionized the fields of behavioral economics and cognitive psychology with their ground-breaking theories about cognitive bias.

Cognitive bias is a systematic error in cognition or way of thinking. It creeps into our line of reasoning and affects the judgments or decisions we make. Our minds are riddled with a variety of cognitive biases that makes logical reasoning pretty difficult. They’re often the result of our brains trying to simplify information. It may be easy to point out the biases in others but it’s also important we recognize our own biases and work towards correcting them.

Harappa Education’s Thinking Critically course will help you analyze situations better. You’ll learn how to connect the dots and keep your biases in check. The Circle of Competence Framework will help you identify your limitations. The CAFE Framework will encourage you to ask relevant questions to improve your understanding of issues. Don’t let cognitive biases creep into your thinking and affect your workplace equations.

Types Of Biases

Here are some of the most common types of biases in cognition that you might want to look out for:

1. Anchoring

Relying on a single piece of information and letting it color your approach to subsequent data is called anchoring. This can limit one’s ability to adjust to new and/or relevant information. For example, you’re more likely to purchase a notebook that cost ₹100 if you saw another one priced at ₹150. The cognitive bias of anchoring leads you to believe that the lower-priced book is a bargain, but it may not be.

2. Availability Heuristic

This type of cognitive bias occurs when we make judgments or decisions based on information that can be easily recollected from memory. We tend to overestimate the likelihood of history repeating itself.  Individuals frequenting casinos often fall into the trap of availability heuristic bias.

3. Confirmation Bias

When you seek out evidence that confirms your existing beliefs or ideas, you’re engaging in confirmation bias. You’ll want to ignore contradictory information because rethinking beliefs is a difficult and time-consuming process. This can be a dangerous bias to have in business. For example, your teammate offers a completely different perspective on a proposed business strategy. You ignore it because it is risky and seems to run counter to your approach.

4. Halo Effect 

Sometimes, we let our perceptions and impressions of a person, product, brand, or company influence our decisions. We let our feelings and thoughts be overwhelmingly influenced by our own or society’s perceptions of worth. For instance, we are particularly taken in by physical attractiveness. Often, the ‘halo effect’ may have nothing to do with the merits of a product. For example, some of us will compulsively pick Coke over Pepsi, even if Pepsi rebrands itself in innovative ways and introduces a novel product in the market. This could be because we are big fans of a film actor who has been endorsing Coke for a few years.

5. Overconfidence Bias

This cognitive bias occurs when you overestimate your own ability, level of control, performance, or chances of success. The most common manifestations include optimism and the desirability effect (something’s going to happen simply because you want it to). Say you run a phone manufacturing factory. You double your production capacity for phones based on sales data for Q3. You don’t pay enough attention to the fact that the jump in sales may have been due to the festive season. Ideally, you should have waited for the results of a few more quarters before incurring huge sums of capital expenditure.

Conclusion

It’s important to open yourself up to new possibilities and vantage points. Avoid taking mental shortcuts and try to separate facts from opinions. Challenge every cognitive bias and improve your decision-making ability. Like beauty, biases are in the eyes of the beholder.


Explore topics such as Cognitive ThinkingHow to Improve Cognitive SkillsBlack and White Thinking & the Theories of Intelligence from our Harappa Diaries blog section.

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