Most of us consider ourselves to be clear-minded and logical when it comes to thinking. We believe that most of the time we can objectively consider the facts and arrive at a conclusion based on those facts.
But the truth is that our minds seldom work in such an orderly fashion. Our thought patterns are influenced by some things more than they should be, which tends to skew our thinking. We focus on the wrong things, or don’t focus enough, or give weight to some things more than others for no good reason.
These influences that warp our thinking are called cognitive biases by psychologists. To be more effective at our jobs and outside work as well, we should be aware of these biases and how they can affect our thinking. There are many of them, but here are a few of the most common.
1. Confirmation bias
People are more inclined to focus on or believe information that confirms beliefs they already have, rather than information that may contradict those beliefs. In fact, it is surprisingly difficult for people to accept new information that contradicts firmly held beliefs. This is one of the most pervasive biases.
2. Anchoring bias
This is where a person becomes wedded to the first piece of information he or she gets about a certain topic. It acquires an influence and weight much greater than it should. For example, during salary negotiations, the initial figure mentioned becomes the foundation for all following negotiations.
3. Availability heuristic
Similarly, people give more weight to information that is available. For example, someone may believe that smoking really isn’t all that harmful because he or she has a neighbor who has been smoking for many years and has suffered no ill effects.
This is a proclivity to give the most recent information the most credence or weight, even though there is no good reason for doing so.
5. Selective perception
This is when our beliefs and expectations influence the way we perceive events. For example, watching a football game, people often are more aware of infractions committed by the opposing team than their own.