We make up to
decisions every day.
Our environment, experiences and emotions can profoundly influence our decision-making.
Browse the illustrations below to learn about common cognitive biases to watch out for in your everyday life.
Indications of popularity such as reviews can make an item appear significantly more desirable. Try to avoid relying too heavily on the opinions of others, and instead weigh up all of the information available.
It is natural to rely on easily remembered knowledge, but it is also worth thinking twice. The chances of dying from smoking, drinking or obesity are far greater than encountering a killer shark, yet the perceived threat of the latter is greater. If in doubt, supplement intuition with statistics.
Avoid basing decisions on self-assessment of skill - those with limited ability may be unable to accurately assess their own competence. Equally, if you know you have a high level of competence in a specific area, then try to avoid over-thinking things.
In politics and the wider media, jargon constantly changes to influence public opinion. The next time you’re considering your stance on a certain issue, listen closely to the information presented and try to uncover its real meaning.
Seeking out evidence to support our preconceptions may help us feel more secure, but doesn’t always lead to better decisions. Always consider a broad range of opinions - they may all have their own pros and cons.
Everyone has something in life that they excel at – and sometimes it can be hard to think back to a time when this wasn’t the case. If in doubt, avoid making assumptions and start with the basics to gauge the audience’s existing knowledge. Provide context by including appropriate examples.
When offered information that conflicts with your original understanding, it can be hard to admit you were wrong or ill-informed. Ask if you are objecting to advice simply because it is interfering with your ego.
In decisions that involve uncertainty, we have an evolutionary tendency to focus on the potential losses. This often results in us ‘throwing good money after bad’, even when there is little chance of success. Remember to separate your emotional investment from the decision you’re making, and know when to cut your losses.
When something happens, it often seems so obvious that we should have seen it coming, and we may even misremember an earlier prediction to conform with this belief. Counteract it by asking how likely the event really was to occur.
When negotiating the price of an item we are often swayed when we feel we’re getting a bargain. Make sure to consider if the price is actually reasonable for that item or if you have perceived the value based against the original price.
It's easy to fall into the pitfalls of cognitive biases - we all do it. Being conscious of your motivations makes these traps easier to spot and avoid. Next time you’re unsure, think carefully about the evidence and be ready to challenge your own reasoning.