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Cognitive Bias

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Cognitive Bias

Have you ever set a goal for yourself? Maybe it was to lose weight or to be healthier. You might have made a detailed diet and exercise plan. Within a few days of starting your new plan, you decide to treat yourself and justify the behavior by telling yourself that it won't happen again. It does happen again, and you throw out your entire plan! This is an example of cognitive bias.

  • What is a cognitive bias?
  • What are different types of cognitive biases?
  • What is cognitive dissonance?
  • How do cognitive biases impact decision-making?
  • How do group differences relate to cognitive bias?

Cognitive Bias Definition

Cognitions are the mental processes of thinking, planning, problem-solving, and remembering. Biases are preconceived ideas, beliefs, or opinions that may or may not be true. Cognitive biases are a combination of these two! Let's take a look at the definition of cognitive bias and some examples of cognitive bias at work.

Cognitive Bias Definition

Cognitive biases: involve using prior experiences and knowledge to make decisions, often leading to mistaken beliefs, ideas, or impressions.

Cognitive biases are decisions or responses based on personal perspectives or opinions rather than facts or the perspectives of others. We can make decisions based on cognitive biases without even realizing it, and we can form mistaken beliefs or make bad decisions because of our biases.

There are two main types of cognitive biases in psychology that involve the unconscious and conscious mind. Implicit bias involves unconscious thought processes that unknowingly inform our decisions. Explicit bias involves conscious thought processes that we can control. However, we can become aware of our implicit biases and learn to counteract them.

Implicit bias can happen anywhere, even in the workplace. Imagine that three people sit down for a job interview: a woman who is pregnant, a middle-aged male, and an elderly male. In this scenario, the employer ignores the pregnant woman's and elderly male's qualifications and asks the middle-aged male easier interview questions. The employer decides to hire a middle-aged male. In this same interview, an explicit bias could be telling another person that a pregnant woman cannot fulfill the job duties or will be useless in the job.

Cognitive Bias Examples

Other common cognitive biases include overconfidence bias, confirmation bias, self-serving bias, and hindsight bias.

Overconfidence Bias

Overconfidence bias happens when someone bites off more than they can chew. At first, someone with an overconfidence bias might think they are capable of completing way more than they can due to irrational judgment or pride. Someone with an overconfidence bias might take on too many tasks at a time, but they believe they can complete all of the tasks really well as if they are the best fit for the task.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias, also known as the backfire effect, is when someone tries to reinforce their beliefs with existing supporting evidence. Confirmation bias can be used as a way to ignore information that goes against a person's belief. This is common when we examine news sources. Someone who feels strongly about politics might choose to only listen to the news station that supports their existing beliefs.

Self-Serving Bias

Self-serving bias is when we attribute successes to our personal efforts so we can feel good about ourselves. When something goes wrong, we blame the outcome on factors unrelated to us so that we don't feel bad about ourselves. If you score during a soccer game, you may inadvertently attribute your success entirely to yourself, even if other teammates helped you score.

Your self-serving bias reinforces your thoughts about how well you played during the game. If you don't score during the game, you might blame the lack of scoring on an outside factor like another player or the referee. When someone performs well, they tend to use the self-serving bias, but if something goes wrong, they tend to blame it on something or someone else.

Hindsight Bias

Hindsight bias is confirming that you knew something was going to happen after it has happened. "I knew it! I knew they would win!" Hindsight bias uses factual information to confirm your past prediction about an outcome. It feels good to claim that we knew it would happen like that, and we're all familiar with the phrase "I told you so." In reality, we didn't know that it would happen. We only predicted it, and we could have been wrong.

If we do turn out to be wrong about a prediction, we may just forget about our prediction and focus on something else. Hindsight bias is really a subtype of self-serving bias. If we turn out to be right, we celebrate it! If we turn out to be wrong, we blame it on outside factors. "It should have happened differently." "I would have been right if that one guy had played better."

Cognitive Dissonance and Bias

Cognitive dissonance is when two or more beliefs that you hold conflict with each other. One or more of those beliefs may be based on a cognitive bias. You might hold the belief that everyone should eat healthily, but you might also hold the belief that everyone should indulge in treats. These two beliefs conflict when your indulgence in a favorite treat turns into an unhealthy eating pattern.

If someone is experiencing cognitive dissonance, they may become upset, frustrated, or irritated when they are offered information that challenges their existing beliefs. Dissonance can also happen when you set a goal but then engage in behaviors that go against the goal you set, like the example at the beginning!

You are trying to study, but you have trouble sitting and concentrating for long periods of time. You decide to take a break, which means you will need to stay up most of the night to finish studying. Your belief that you need to study well conflicts with your belief that you need 8 hours of rest to focus properly. You become confused, frustrated, and indecisive about what you should do next. You either need to harmonize these two beliefs somehow or throw one of them out.

Cognitive Biases in Decision Making

Cognitive biases directly influence our decision-making. We are unaware of them much of the time, especially since some of them are unconscious. Cognitive biases protect us in some situations, but they can also have negative consequences. They can keep us from trying new things, considering other viewpoints, and excelling in our careers.

One way cognitive biases impact our decision-making is through problem-solving. Problem-solving involves overcoming a variety of obstacles to find a solution. Sometimes our biases in reasoning prevent us from finding a solution to a problem. We fixate or only focus on one point of view relevant to our beliefs.

Our ways of reasoning might work to solve problems the first couple of times. Eventually, we run into a different type of problem that needs a fresh perspective. When we tend to fixate on one way to solve a problem and use it for everything, it is called a mental set.

Cognitive biases play a role in many different situations, and they aren't always harmful. Sometimes, our biases let us know when we are in danger. Think about a time when you had to make a quick decision. You most likely made the decision based on emotions or past knowledge.

Maybe you avoided a certain part of town because you remember a friend saying that they didn't like it years ago. Your reasoning might be based on past feelings or impressions stored in your long-term memory. The quicker you have to make a decision, and the less self-reflection and critical thinking skills you use, the more biases will likely influence your decision.

Group Differences and Bias

Have you ever wondered why people are so different from one another? Sure, genetics and culture play a part in our differences. However, group differences are often due to our biases about certain topics. You have probably been a part of a group of people similar to you or with minor differences. We often use in-group bias to favor the opinions of our friends or people similar to us.

Stacy is in middle school and has played in the band for many years. She is really good at playing the clarinet and really good friends with most of the people in the band. Stacy's friends from the band ask if they can borrow her clarinet during class, and she happily approves. In her next class, another student asks if he can play her clarinet, and she angrily responds, "no!" Stacy is biased towards those in her group when deciding who is allowed to borrow her instrument.

Cognitive Bias - Key takeaways

  • Cognitive biases involve using prior experiences and knowledge to make decisions, often leading to mistaken beliefs, ideas, or impressions.
  • There are two main types of cognitive biases in psychology that involve the unconscious (implicit bias) and conscious mind (explicit bias).
  • Other common cognitive biases include overconfidence bias, confirmation bias, self-serving bias, and hindsight bias.
  • Cognitive dissonance is when two or more beliefs that you hold conflict with each other.
  • Problem-solving involves overcoming obstacles to find a solution, but sometimes our biases in reasoning prevent us from finding a solution to a problem.

Frequently Asked Questions about Cognitive Bias

Cognitive bias is when someone uses their prior experiences and knowledge to come to a conclusion about something, often causing limitations in their beliefs.

Cognitive bias can be good and bad. Cognitive biases can keep us from trying new things, finding new success, and excelling in our careers. However. cognitive bias can also protect us from danger.

Yes, the backfire effect is known as confirmation bias.

An example of cognitive bias is hindsight bias: using an event that has already happened to claim that you knew it would happen. 

Some common types of cognitive biases include overconfidence bias, confirmation bias, self-serving bias, and hindsight bias.

Final Cognitive Bias Quiz

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________ ____ is when someone uses their prior experiences and knowledge to come to a conclusion about something, often causing limitations in their beliefs.

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Cognitive Bias

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Response that happens based on our personal reality and can lead to errors or mistakes in decision-making.

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Cognitive Bias

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 Implicit bias is... 

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an unconscious thought process that we don't often think about as something that can sway our opinions.

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A conscious bias that someone is aware of.

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Explicit Bias

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5 common cognitive biases

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confirmation bias, self-serving bias, anchoring, fundamental attribution error, and hindsight bias.

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When you or someone has conflicting beliefs that contradict each other it is called?

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Cognitive Dissonance

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Bias to favor the people's opinions in our friend groups is called?

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In-group bias

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When we have a severe dislike towards someone who isn't a part of our group it is called?

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Out-group bias

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What bias is also known as the backfire effect?


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Confirmation bias

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What is self-serving bias?

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when we use things that are in our favor to reinforce our positive feelings, however, when something is not in our favor we blame the outcome on other factors unrelated to us.

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When we base beliefs on information about a subject that we have previous knowledge about it is called?

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Anchoring

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Term related to social psychology, where someone relates other people's actions to their personality, but does relate their own behaviors to something else?

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Fundamental attribution error

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When people confirm that they knew something was going to happen based on their prior thoughts it is called?

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Hindsight bias

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Can happen when someone sets a goal, but then reinforces behavior that goes against the said goal.

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Dissonance

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One good thing that cognitive biases do is...?


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Prevent us from being endangered.

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Define Cognitions

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Cognitions are the mental processes of thinking, planning, problem-solving, and remembering.

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Cognitive biases are a combination of these 2 things. 

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Cognitions and biases 

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Someone who thinks they can complete an entire semester's worth of work in one week is an example of this type of bias? 

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Overconfidence Bias

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Ryan thinks dogs are dangerous animals and he feels vindicated in his beliefs when he sees a news story about a dog who bit a child. This is an example of which type of bias? 

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Confirmation Bias

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Bianca's math team won first place in the regional competition. She is responsible for their success. This is an example of which type of bias? 

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Self-serving bias

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Tim's wife's flight home is going to be late. He's not surprised; he knew this would happen. This is an example of which type of bias? 

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Hindsight Bias

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Sarah tends to agree with her friends on most issues. No matter what, they always have the same opinions. This is an example of which type of bias? 

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In-group bias

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What are some ways that our biases can negatively affect us? 

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They can keep us from trying new things, considering other viewpoints, and excelling in our careers. 

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You love animals, adore your pets, and try to buy products that aren't tested on animals. At the same time, you love burgers and wings. This conflict is an example of...?

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Cognitive Dissonance 

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Martha gets on the bus to go home. There are 2 open seats. One is next to an elderly man. The other is next to a teen girl with piercings wearing all black. Martha decides to sit next to the elderly man. This is an example of which of the following? 

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Implicit bias

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