Cognitive Biases

Cognitive biases?

What is a cognitive bias and what should you know about them?

 

A cognitive bias is a systematic tendency towards making a certain type of error in our decisions and judgments.

 

Countermeasures

If we are aware that we’re in a circumstance where we might be affected negatively by one or more cognitive biases, then we have an opportunity to take countermeasures to increase the likelihood of making better choices.

Sunk cost fallacy

 

Let’s examine first a cognitive bias that counts for untold suffering and costs in most people’s lives. It’s called the “sunk cost fallacy.” It’s the tendency to make a decision to continue with a certain course of action because of our past investment, instead of considering the decision freshly, as if we hadn’t already invested in it.

 

Here are some examples:

Honorable outcome?

“Our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives.” Donald Trump made this statement on August 21st, 2017 to justify the continuation of the U.S involvement in the conflict in Afghanistan. Assuming he was not just playing to the audience, he (and others) were not looking freshly at the options: “Knowing what we know now, about the costs and benefits, the risks and possibilities of continuing in this conflict (in contrast with quitting), would we choose freshly to continue in this conflict or not (without regard to costs incurred in the past)?” If the answer is “no” and we still continue in the conflict, we are “throwing good money after bad” and justifying killing more soldiers to “make up for” the soldiers who were already killed.

Can't waste the food

 

“I paid for this food; I’m going to finish it.” The money you paid for the food is gone. Imagine you hadn’t paid anything for the food. Then compare freshly the costs and benefits of finishing off what’s on your plate. You can more easily see if the benefits are more or less than the costs by thinking this way. You don’t get any additional benefits for finishing it just because you already paid for it.

Making up for what it's already cost me

“I’ve already spent two years majoring in accounting. Even though I don’t like it, I should finish it.” Why? Is suffering for another two years going to help pay for the suffering you’ve already tolerated? If you want to “make up for the suffering” you’ve already gone through, the best way is to end your suffering as soon as possible and get onto creating some joy in your life.

If my spouse changes, then it will have been worth it

“I’ve invested fifteen years in this marriage; I’m not going to quit now.” Again, whether or not it makes sense to end your marriage, has nothing to do with the “investment” you’ve already made. Here’s a simple test to find out whether or not you should seriously consider ending your marriage: Imagine, somehow, you were magically not married to this person. Yet you know how you would tend to get along and not get along with them if you two were married. Knowing this, would you choose to marry them newly? If the answer is “no,” while factoring in the one-time transaction costs of getting a divorce, why wouldn’t you get divorced?

Can't just get rid of them

“I just bought these clothes; I don’t think I will wear them, but I can’t throw them out or give them away.” To admit that we made a mistake (and incurred a loss than cannot be recouped) can occur as painful. By not getting rid of the clothes we’re not going wear, we’re trying to avoid accepting the loss that has already been incurred.

 

 

A countermeasure using imagination
 

We can often avoid the error of the sunk cost fallacy by just imagining that whatever circumstance we are in was given to us with no cost. Example: some stranger just gave you the clothes. Without any past cost, knowing what you know now, would you continue to keep the clothes or get rid of them? Would you continue in the war or quit? Would you continue eating the food or stop? Would you finish your major or do something you love? Would you continue in your marriage or get out? If you had been gifted the stock (that lost value recently), would you keep it or sell it? If you imagine that you incurred no cost to be in your current circumstance, would you continue with it or not? Asking the question this way will likely give you an answer with less cost and more benefit.

Many more juicy cognitive biases

Learn about the many other juicy cognitive biases and their ability to steal from you without you even knowing it.

The biases highlighted in pink are ones I think are more noteworthy than others.

The biases highlighted in white are ones I have "discovered" and named myself that I recommend you pay attention to.

Cognitive biases (ack websites)...mark more salient ones

  • Adult bias (contrast with the Baby bias)

    • The tendency to discount the value of and to repress the natural expressions of childhood: playfulness, silliness, shouting, curiosity, adventurousness, just-having-fun-now, and unrestrained self-expression. This tendency often blinds us to the importance and value of loving the journey and processes of life.

    • "Stop playing around and get serious!"

    • This bias (grow up, man!) is so deeply rooted that we rarely see full expressions of its breakdown in adults, except in some cases of drug use. How many adults do you know who can slip easily into the role of being a child again?

  • Affective heuristic

    • ​A mental shortcut that allows people to make decisions quickly by bringing their emotional response into play. They make decisions according to their gut feeling.

    • "The doctor seemed very kind...I will take the medicine he prescribed?"

    • Just because the doctor seemed kind, does that mean anything about whether or not his prescription will be helpful?"

  • Agent detection

    • The inclination to presume the purposeful intervention of a sentient or intelligent agent.

    • "I can't find my mobile phone. I wonder if my housekeeper took it."

    • It's most likely that you forgot where you left it. However, your mind goes more immediately to the idea that it was purposefully taken.

    • "I know that God was looking out for me when I met you."

    • This is a romantic type of thought I like to indulge in, while not believing it.

  • Altruism bias (contrast with the Selfishness bias)

    • The tendency to moralize and put the fulfillment of other's needs and desires ahead of your own. Even though we wouldn't want others to sacrifice themselves for us (for example, would you want your spouse to stay married to you for your benefit, but not for his or hers?), we embrace a double standard by sacrificing ourselves to others when we are affected by the altruism bias. This bias upholds a lose-win dynamic approach to your relationships with others (where you are loser and "the good guy").

    • "I really need to be careful about how I spend my money, but I think I must give my friend John another loan, even though he hasn't paid back the last one."

    • The altruism bias in compounded by many other biases: Attachment bias, Defense bias, It's-about-me bias, Looking-good bias, Resistance bias, Short-term bias, and Victimhood bias. In most cases, the best countermeasures to the Altruism bias is to check if your choice supports a double standard and to consider the transaction and relationship at issue both long-term and short-term.

  • Anchoring

    • ​A cognitive bias that describes the human tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered (the “anchor”) when making decisions.

    • "They're asking $367,000 for the house. Maybe they will accept $360,000"

    • The $367,000 may have little to do with the value of the house or even how much the seller might be willing to let it go for."

  • Assumption bias (contrast with the Expectation bias)

    • The tendency to be unaware and unquestioning of the assumptions we are already starting with when making choices and conclusions.

    • "The flight arrives at 3:45pm. I'll get to your place by 4:25pm."

    • Even with this simple conclusion, you have made many assumptions regarding your promise/prediction to be there by 4:25pm.

      • Do you have the money to buy your flight ticket?

      • Do you know when and how you will purchase the ticket?

      • Will tickets still be available at a price you're willing to pay?

      • Have/can you make sure all your other commitments fit easily with this one?

      • Can you easily handle everything to catch the flight on time?

      • What are the chances that the flight will arrive later than predicted by the airline (and how late)?

      • How long will it likely take to get out of the airport and catch your local transportation?

      • Could local traffic interfere with your arrival estimates?

      • How much buffer time have you put into your estimates for the unanticipated things that may (and often do) happen?

    • It's impossible to be aware of and examine all of our assumptions that are being used in order to make a given decision. Most of us, however, err on the side of under questioning our assumptions. This decreases the likelihood of us making the better projections and choices.​

  • Attachment bias

    • The tendency to persist in a relationship or behavior, regardless of its current likelihood to result in the desired/intended results.

    • "I know I need to get out of this relationship, but I just can't let go." "He often breaks his word with me, but I keep believing he'll keep it next time."

    • Other overlapping biases: Expectation bias, Persistence bias, Victimhood bias, It's-about-me bias, Life-is-hard bias, Long-term bias, Looking-good bias, Love bias, and Victimhood bias.

  • Availability bias

    • A mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to a given person’s mind when evaluating a specific topic, concept, method or decision.

    • "It's very dangerous to go out now because of the COVID-19 virus."

    • The dangers of not wearing a seat belt or getting sick because you have not been eating for the best health and immunity is more likely greater...but those don't come to mind when everybody's talking about COVID-19.

  • Availability cascade

    • A self-reinforcing process in which a collective belief gains more and more plausibility through its increasing repetition in public discourse (or "repeat something long enough and it will become true").

    • Parents in China often hear the repeated inference that something is wrong with their daughter if she's over 30 and not yet married with kid(s). 

    • If they didn't already believe it, they soon will with all their friends asking, "Why isn't your daughter married yet?"

    • Related biases: Bandwagon effect, Groupthink, Herd behavior.

  • Baby bias

    • The tendency to want to be loved (and forgiven for anything) unconditionally. The Baby bias is a resistance to accepting 100% responsibility for your life and the relationships in your life.

    • "If you really loved me, you wouldn't withdraw when I scream at you."

    • ​​​The rampant idea of unconditional love (any behavior will be tolerated), not only is a fantasy, it promulgates and justifies bad behavior, both in ourselves and in others. It blinds us to the consequences of our actions and attitudes.

  • Barnum effect

    • The observation that individuals will give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for them, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people. This effect can provide a partial explanation for the widespread acceptance of some beliefs and practices, such as astrology, fortune telling, graphology, and some types of personality tests.

    • "This is the best astrologer. You've got to get a reading."

    • Personal note: I went to one of the "best astrologers" in New York City (out of curiosity) in my early thirties. I was very careful not to give him any information about me, except what he could see. Everything he said that "fit" me was in the category of being so general it could have fit almost anyone. He did say a few more specific things about me and they were totally off.

  • Ben Franklin effect​

    • A person who has performed a favor for someone is more likely to do another favor for that person than they would be if they had received a favor from that person.

  • Bias blind spot

    • The tendency to see oneself as less biased than other people, or to be able to identify more cognitive biases in others than in oneself.

    • "You're just taken in by your own confirmation bias. That would never happen to me."

    • How many of us can say that we actively look for information that questions the beliefs we already have? It can take courage to do so.

  • Certainty effect

    • When people overweight outcomes that are considered certain relative to outcomes that are merely possible.

  • Choice overload

    • A cognitive process in which people have a difficult time making a decision when faced with many options.

    • "There are just too many choices; I don't feel comfortable deciding."

    • Can I make a decision that is good enough, instead of insisting that it be optimal?

  • Clustering illusion

    • The tendency to overestimate the importance of small runs, streaks, or clusters in large samples of random data (that is, seeing phantom patterns).

    • "Nobody's going to give me a job." "How do you know that?" "I applied for three jobs and didn't get them."

    • Even if the chance of getting accepted to any particular job was 50%, the chance of getting turned down three times in a row is over 12%. Beware over generalizations; they are toxic to our mind and our life.

  • Cognitive dissonance

    • ​A mental discomfort that occurs when people’s beliefs do not match up with their behaviors.

  • Commitment bias

    • The tendency to be consistent with what we have already done or said we will do in the past, particularly if this is public.

    • "I've already said I was a fan...I guess I might as well donate to the charity they are sponsoring."

    • If you hadn't indicated any commitment before, would you still want to take on this new promise?

  • Compassion fade​

    • The predisposition to behave more compassionately towards a small number of identifiable victims than to a large number of anonymous ones.

    • "I gave that beggar near my church some food. I'm just not moved to do anything about the seven million people in Burundi who are almost starving."

  • Confirmation bias

    • The tendency to search for or interpret information that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs.

    • "I knew I was right...see, when I asked my friend, she agreed with me."

    • Who might I ask or where might I look to find arguments or information that might challenge what I already believe?

  • Conjunction fallacy​

    • The tendency to assume that specific conditions are more probable than a more general version of those same conditions. For example, subjects in one experiment perceived the probability of a woman being both a bank teller and a feminist as more likely than the probability of her being a bank teller.

  • Curse of knowledge

    • This is when better-informed people find it extremely difficult to think about problems from the perspective of lesser-informed people.

    • "Why can't my assistant do this right?! It's so easy to understand the correct way to do it."

    • It's easy to forget how difficult it was to understand something before we understood it. It's easy to lose patience or compassion for those who are in the same position we once were (or could have been).

  • Decision fatigue

    • ​A lower quality of decisions made after a long session of decision making.

  • Declinism

    • The predisposition to view the past favorably (rosy retrospection) and the future negatively.

    • "People's morality just isn't what it used to be." "I should have been born in the age of King Arthur."

    • Violence between people is the lowest it's ever been in recorded history. King Arthur, if he could compare his life to the life of the average person today, would gladly trade places in a heartbeat.

  • Decoy effect

    • People will tend to have a specific change in preferences between two options when also presented a third option that is asymmetrically dominated.

  • Default effect​

    • When given a choice between several options, the tendency is to favor the default one.

    • "Well, if I don't do anything to avoid it, I'm going to be drafted into the army. Might as well."

    • Are you likely to have the life you love while allowing others to specify the default that they want?

  • Defense bias

    • The tendency to defend or justify ourselves when we feel attacked, insulted, or slighted...or we feel concerned about looking like the bad guy.

    • "Why didn't you call me last night?!" "You need to understand, I didn't mean to hurt you."

    • The defense bias is so endemic and seems so natural, it's hard to see it in ourselves or hard to imagine why it would be better not to defend ourselves. But as Byron Katie said, "Defense if the first act of war." Use undoing defensiveness to let go of defensiveness.

  • Disposition effect​

    • The tendency to sell an asset that has accumulated in value and resist selling an asset that has declined in value.

  • Distinction bias

    • The tendency to view two options as more dissimilar when evaluating them simultaneously than when evaluating them separately.

  • Diversification Bias

    • People seek more variety when they choose multiple items for future consumption than when they make choices sequentially on an ‘in the moment’ basis.

  • Dunning-Kruger effect​

    • The tendency for unskilled individuals to overestimate their own ability and the tendency for experts to underestimate their own ability.

  • Duration neglect

    • The neglect of the duration of an episode in determining its value.

    • "It was really a horrible experience for two hours, but then the last five minutes were great...so I am happy."

    • This relates to our tendency to value the quality of the end (or result) over the quality of our life processes...it's a very poor way to maximize our happiness in life.

  • Ego depletion

    • ​People have a limited supply of willpower, and it decreases with overuse. Willpower draws down mental energy – it’s a muscle that can be exercised to exhaustion.

    • Ego depletion only exists in the context of lack of Now-Next integrity. To dissolve Ego depletion, see the NNI toolkit.

  • Empathy gap​

    • The tendency to underestimate the influence or strength of feelings, in either oneself or others.

  • Endowment effect​

    • The tendency for people to demand much more to give up an object than they would be willing to pay to acquire it.

    • "My house is worth much more than you're offering me."

    • This calculus can blind us to making good economic decisions.

  • Exaggeration expectation​

    • The tendency to expect or predict more extreme outcomes than those outcomes that actually happen.

  • Expectation bias

    • The tendency to anticipate desired/undesired results to occur either one way or the other, without considering the risk of it turning out differently (either in the desired or undesired direction). This tendency includes the setup for an upset (and blame towards oneself, others, or the universe) if the anticipated desired results don't occur. Expectations allow us to blind ourselves to the risks of it not turning out the way we count on. They allow us to feeling safer, at the expense of putting us at more risk. They also allow us to indulge in "counting our chickens before they hatch." Ultimately, without expectations, we would never be upset and we would never feel betrayed or let down either by others or by ourselves.

    • "I expected my girlfriend to be true to me. Then I caught her kissing my best friend. I was so betrayed."

    • By indulging in the expectation that he could count on his girlfriend to be loyal, he set himself up for betrayal. The Expectation bias could also be called the Hope bias, when related to positive expectations. See undoing expectations.

  • Fear of missing out (FOMO)

    • An anxious feeling that can happen when you fear that other people might be having rewarding experiences that you’re missing. Many people have been preoccupied with the idea that someone, somewhere, is having a better time, making more money, and leading a more exciting life.

    • This bias is driven by the habit to compare yourself negatively to others, which is driven by the fear that others are comparing you negatively to themselves or others. Use undoing fear to zap this habit, step by step.

  • Focusing effect

    • The tendency to place too much importance on one aspect of an event.

  • Framing effect​

    • Drawing different conclusions from the same information, depending on how that information is presented.

    • "If half the people who take this drug will die, then let's not do that. But, if half the people who take this drug will survive, we should go ahead."

    • Many sales people are good at the framing effect (to influence you to buy).

  • Gambler's fallacy​

    • The tendency to think that future probabilities are altered by past events, when in reality they are unchanged.

    • "My luck's got to change. I got four tails in a row."​

  • Giving-up bias (contrast with the Persistence bias)

    • The tendency to give up when (from your Next's perspective) it would be best to keep going. 

    • "I'm not good at selling myself. I think I'll just get a regular job."

    • Giving up when it would be best to keep going is usually caused either by a resistance to fear (see undoing fear) or not having (or even looking for) a way for your Now to enjoy the process of going for what your Next wants (a lack of Now-Next integrity). See the NNI toolkit.

  • Good-Bad bias

    • The (strong) tendency to add judgment (make wrong or make right) to assessment, often inhibiting our ability to make accurate assessments and more effective choices as well as our ability to create the best relationships both with ourselves and with others. Rumi pointed to the possibility of stepping outside this bias when he said, "Out beyond the ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field. I will meet you there." The Victimhood bias is a subset of the Good-bad Bias.

    • "My son's a good boy. I don't want to be a bad mother."

    • It's impossible to overstate the damages caused to ourselves and our relationships with others by our addiction to the Good-bad bias. However, it has some short-term benefits: it can reduce fear, it can help us feel like we belong, it can make us feel more in control, it can give us hope for a rescuer, and righteous anger can feel good in the moment. But the costs are enormous. It destroys discernment as to who and what contributes to both desirable results and undesirable results. We become willing to both bear and inflict deep wounds to prove ourselves "right" and others "wrong." We become willing to tolerate the war between our Now and our Next, constantly feeling guilty when our Now "wins." Use undoing shoulds to let go of the Good-bad bias.

  • Halo effect

    • The tendency for a person's positive or negative traits to "spill over" from one personality area to another in others' perceptions of them.

  • Hard-easy effect

    • The tendency to overestimate one's ability to accomplish hard tasks, and underestimate one's ability to accomplish easy tasks.​

  • Hedonic adaptation

    • ​People quickly return to their original level of happiness, despite major positive or negative events or life changes.

  • Herd behavior

    • ​The tendency for individuals to mimic the actions (rational or irrational) of a larger group. Individually, however, most people would not necessarily make the same choice.

  • Hindsight bias

    • Sometimes called the "I-knew-it-all-along" effect, the tendency to see past events as being predictable at the time those events happened.

  • Hostile attribution bias

    • The tendency to interpret others' behaviors as having hostile intent, even when the behavior is ambiguous or benign.

    • "How could he be so disrespectful by showing up 20 minutes late?!"

    • This bias causes immense hurt and misunderstandings between peoples.

  • Hot-cold empathy gap

    • We have trouble imagining how we would feel in other people’s shoes. We are also not good at imaging how other people would respond to things because we assume they would respond in the same way we would.

    • This bias is a subset of the Similarity bias.

  • Hot-hand fallacy​

    • The belief that a person who has experienced success with a random event has a greater chance of further success in additional attempts.

    • "I'm on a roll, baby...no way I'm going to cash out."

    • The is the other side of the Gambler's fallacy.

  • Hyperbolic discounting

    • Discounting is the tendency for people to have a stronger preference for more immediate payoffs relative to later payoffs.

    • A good example of this: a study showed that when making food choices for the coming week, 74% of participants chose fruit, whereas when the food choice was for the current day, 70% chose chocolate.

    • Creating Now-Next integrity is fundamental in reducing this bias.

  • Identifiable victim effect

    • The tendency to respond more strongly to a set of one or more easily identifiable people at risk than to a larger group of people at risk.

    • This effect partially explains why many people support trade and anti-immigration restrictions. Trade restrictions and anti-immigration restrictions can reduce the wages (or cost the jobs) of some already in-country workers (with them becoming "victims"). Two other much larger sets of victims are not so easily identified or singled out. For example (currently as of May, 2020), imported sneakers, or the materials used to make sneakers (think New Balance, Nike, Adidas) have to pay a 48% tariff. This makes every person in the USA who buys sneakers a victim of the higher prices they have to pay for sneakers (did you ever wonder why they cost so much in the USA?). The other set of victims are all the employees in foreign companies (usually employees who are poorer than their USA counterparts who would be threatened by the elimination of sneaker tariffs) who either lose their jobs or are not paid as well as they would be otherwise if they were able to compete in a open market with suppliers in the USA.

  • Identity bias

    • The tendency to see ourselves in a way that make it difficult or impossible to make the better choices in circumstances where such a choice would conflict with that way of seeing ourselves.

    • "I can't get a divorce. I'm a person who can always be relied upon."

    • Typical identities include "being a good guy," "not a quitter," "being a friendly person," "being a positive person," "keeping my word," "a loyal person," "a Democrat or Republican," "a good parent," "a good student," and "always tells the truth." Identities can also seem negative, for example, "unreliable," "will hurt others," and "will always give up." One tool to loosen up our identity when it would be helpful to do so is undoing fear. Initiating a divorce with my former wife was my biggest courage of my life because I was going head-to-head with my identity of "being a good guy."

  • IKEA effect

    • The tendency for people to place a disproportionately high value on objects that they partially assembled themselves, such as furniture from IKEA, regardless of the quality of the end product.

  • Illusion of asymmetric insight

    • People perceive their knowledge of their peers to surpass their peers' knowledge of them.

  • Illusion of control

    • The tendency to overestimate one's degree of influence over external events.

    • "I got this one...you can count on it."

    • This is one aspect of expectations/projections made (usually automatically) without considering the likelihood that something won't happen the way you expect. See undoing expectations.

  • Illusory correlation​

    • Inaccurately perceiving a relationship between two unrelated events.

  • Illusory truth effect

    • ​A tendency to believe that a statement is true if it is easier to process, or if it has been stated multiple times, regardless of its actual veracity.​

  • I'll-remember-it bias

    • The tendency to unreasonably believe that we'll surely remember something at the time or in the circumstance that we'll need to remember it without recording it in the appropriate place in order to remind us later.

    • "I'll bring the documents with me next week when we meet."

  • Impact bias

    • The tendency to overestimate the length or the intensity of the impact of future feeling states.

  • Information bias

    • The tendency to seek information even when it cannot affect action.

    • "I just have to know why he left me."

    • This bias creates a lot of cost and grief. I have learned to ask myself a question about my questions, "If I get the answer to this question, will that likely make any difference in my current or future decisions?"

  • In-group favoritism​

    • The tendency to favor people who exist in similar groups as themselves. These groups could be formed by gender, race, ethnicity, or a favorite sports team. We tend to overwhelmingly favor people who are similar to us and who belong to these similar groups.

  • Insensitivity to sample size​

    • The tendency to under-expect variation in small samples.​

  • Intentionality bias

    • Tendency to judge human action to intentional rather than accidental.

  • Interoceptive bias

    • ​The tendency for sensory input about the body itself to affect one's judgement about external, unrelated circumstances. (As for example, in parole judges who are more lenient when fed and rested.)

    • "I'm at my best any time of day."

    • Time of day can make a big difference in test scores and in making the best decisions. Most people will make lower scores on a test given in the afternoon in contrast with one given in the morning.

  • It's-about-me bias​

    • The tendency to personalize another's response to us, either negatively (we're bad) or positively (we're good). This personalization diminishing our ability to be curious about and understand the other's person's behavior and appropriately adjust our own to more likely get the results we want. For example, if you are handing out flyers to people on the sidewalk and someone refuses to accept your flyer, you will think/feel, "I feel bad; they rejected me." Or alternatively, they accept the flyer, you will think/feel, "That feels good; they accepted me and I got the result I wanted." Or consider an example with more drama: "My husband slept with my best friend. I feel so betrayed and I wonder what's wrong with me."

    • You might find it hard to imagine if you would still be human if you didn't personalize things. Your identity is attached to the idea that it means something (either good or bad) about you depending upon how others respond to you. In many cases, their response may be independent of anything you did; they are just that way with everybody or they're just having a bad day. They are just "raining" on you and it means nothing about you. Other times there is something that you did that stimulated their response: you fired them, you blamed them, you praised them...and they responded in a way that you liked or didn't like. Regardless, it still means nothing good or bad about you; you are always magnificent.

  • Knowledge bias

    • The tendency for us to think we know more than we do or to have more confidence in what we think we know than is warranted.​ The Expectation bias is a subset of the Knowledge bias.

    • "It's hard to get a good job in this market." 

    • How many jobs have you applied for? How much time have you spent per day searching for a job and how many weeks have you being doing that for? What innovative approaches have you researched or applied in order to get a job? Have you honed your skills to do well in job interviews? It's unlikely that the person who says, "it's hard to get a good job in this market" has taken the actions suggested by these questions. They are suffering from the knowledge bias.

  • Law of the instrument​

    • An over-reliance on a familiar tool or methods, ignoring or under-valuing alternative approaches. "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

    • "Whoops, it looks like your cholesterol is high. I'll prescribe you one of the new statins," says your doctor.

    • Medical doctors are trained in the knowledge, skills, and techniques to try to rescue people after they have fallen off the cliff. They spend little time learning about how to prevent people from getting near the cliff. These are their "instruments." In their years of medical training doctors receive only 24 hours of training in nutrition. Nutrition knowledge is not their instrument. As such they typically ignore or under-value a nutritional approach to reversing or curing diseases. 

  • Less-is-better effect

    • When low-value options are valued more highly than high-value options. For example, a person giving an expensive $45 scarf as a gift was perceived to be more generous than one giving a $55 cheap coat.

  • Life-is-hard bias​

    • The tendency view going through different things in life as hard. For example: getting stuck in a traffic jam, studying for a test, worrying about your relationship, getting fired, being sick, a parent or child dying, going through a divorce. Add to this tendency our inclination to praise ourselves and others for their willingness to endure hard things, like a badge of honor. This bias blinds us to the fact that "hardness" never exists out in the world; it only exists in our resistant thoughts about it, in our beliefs about it. 

    • Going through my divorce was hard."

    • Did you blame yourself? Did you blame your spouse? That would make it hard. Did you indulge in an expectation of how the divorce should have gone? That would make it hard. Did you embrace the energy of your fear and honor yourself for your courage during the process of divorce? If you didn't, that would make it hard. Did you express any pain you felt freely and see that as one manifestation of your capacity to love? If not, that would make it hard.

  • Long-term bias (contrast with Short-term bias)

    • The tendency to sacrifice taking care of now and being happy now for the sake of having a better future and hopefully being more happy in the future. This blinds us from looking for ways that both now and the future can win. It also excuses our never learning to be happy now...so that when the future becomes now, again we're sacrificing now for the future (until we die).

    • "My job is really boring and unfulfilling, but I've got to have that paycheck."

    • The antidote to the Long-term bias is learning to put lifestyle first and results second, as well as becoming adept at creating integrity between your Now and your Next through the tools and approaches in the NNI toolkit.

  • Looking-good bias​

    • Then tendency to be overly attached to looking good to others (and to avoid looking bad) in a way that interferes with out ability to make the best choices in both contributing to ourselves and to others, especially in the longer term.

    • Being responsible for how we might be occurring for others is important. But when we're driven by it, when we haven't made friends with the fear that we might not look good, when we don't honor ourselves for the courage for being willing to not look good, then we are trapped and we relinquish both our freedom and some of our power. See undoing fear and not caring what others think?

  • Loss aversion (see also sunk cost bias)

    • People’s tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains. It’s better not to lose $5 than to find $5. For example, scientists randomly divided participants into buyers and sellers and gave the sellers coffee mugs as a gift. They then asked the sellers for how much they would sell the mug and asked the buyers for how much they would buy it. Results showed that the sellers placed a significantly higher value on the mugs than the buyers did. Loss aversion was the cause of that contradiction.

  • Love bias

    • The tendency to think that loving behavior (especially in the short-term) is all that is needed to support others in having a great life and to have the best relationships with others. The Love bias tends to discount (and blinds us to) the importance of showing respect to others (especially children, employees, and even spouses). It also discounts (and blinds us to) the importance of taking care of oneself (with appropriate boundaries, requests, and saying no) as necessary in both supporting others as well as having the best relationship with them. See also the Baby bias.

    • "Honey, it's because I love you that I help you with your homework and insist that you do it."

    • The Love bias is often a cover for justifying our need to control others and to mess in their business.

  • Mental accounting​

    • The tendency of people to divide their money into separate accounts based on subjective criteria, like the source of the money and the intent for each account. For example, people often have a special fund set aside for a vacation, while carrying substantial credit card debt, despite the fact that diverting funds from debt repayment increases interest payments and reduces net worth. Similarity, another study revealed that supermarket shoppers spent less money paying with cash than with credit cards. Comparing the price of goods to a smaller mental account (cash) than to a larger mental account (credit card) increased the pain of payment.

  • Mere exposure effect​

    • The tendency to express undue liking for things merely because of familiarity with them.

  • Money illusion

    • The tendency to concentrate on the nominal value (face value) of money rather than its value in terms of purchasing power.

  • Moral credential effect​ (also called licensing effect)

    • This occurs when someone who does something good gives themselves permission to be less good in the future.

    • "I've been so good with my eating. Time to have a pizza."

    • Once we're able to create consistent integrity between our Now and our Next, the "moral credential effect" will disappear.

  • Naive realism

    • The belief that we see reality as it really is – objectively and without bias; that the facts are plain for all to see; that rational people will agree with us; and that those who don't are either uninformed, lazy, irrational, or biased.

  • Negativity bias​

    • Psychological phenomenon by which humans have a greater recall of unpleasant memories compared with positive memories.

  • Neglect of probability

    • The tendency to completely disregard probability when making a decision under uncertainty.

    • "I just knew my friend would be on time, but they showed up late."

    • We do this mostly to avoid the sense of risk or fear (and to be able to count our chickens before they hatch). To undo the "neglect of probability" bias we would have to learn to undo expectations.

  • Normalcy bias​

    • The refusal to plan for, or react to, a disaster which has never happened before.

  • Not invented here

    • Aversion to contact with or use of products, research, standards, or knowledge developed outside a group. Related to IKEA effect.

  • Observer-expectancy effect

    • When a researcher expects a given result and therefore unconsciously manipulates an experiment or misinterprets data in order to find it

  • Omission bias

    • The tendency to judge harmful actions (commissions) as worse, or less moral, than equally harmful inactions (omissions).

  • Optimism bias

    • The tendency to be over-optimistic, underestimating greatly the probability of undesirable outcomes and overestimating favorable and pleasing outcomes. For example, smokers tend to feel they are less likely than other individuals who smoke to be afflicted with lung cancer. Similarity, motorists tend to feel they are less likely to be involved in a car accident than is the average driver.

    • "I'm sure that many people were engaging in the optimism bias before COVID-19 started to affect their country."

  • Ostrich effect

    • Ignoring an obvious negative situation.

    • "All her friends were aware that she was blinded by the Ostrich effect regarding her untenable marriage."

    • The Ostrich effect is mostly likely driven by resisted fear, an unwillingness (unconsciously driven) to feel the fear that they know they would feel if they took their head out of the sand. See undoing fear.

  • Outcome bias​

    • The tendency to judge a decision by its eventual outcome instead of based on the quality of the decision at the time it was made.

    • "Hey, he was driving at 100mph, but he got us there in one piece. What's the big deal?!"

  • Outgroup homogeneity bias

    • Individuals see members of their own group as being relatively more varied than members of other groups.

  • Outside-problem bias

    • The tendency to see our problems as outside of ourselves and as something to fix in the outside world, at the expense of not noticing how much of the problem is an inside problem (an issue within ourselves) and also at the expense of not addressing that inside problem first before trying to address any outside problem that may still exist once that is done.

    • "I'm so fed up with my sister taking advantage of me. I'm going to give her a piece of my mind."

    • Have you given yourself the right to say "no" to your sister and maintain the boundaries needed to take care of yourself? Have your dissolved any guilt you might feel in doing that by using undoing guilt? Have you asked yourself which of your behaviors may have allowed or stimulated your sister to "take advantage of you"? Have you used undoing fear to let go of any feelings of defensiveness with your sister? All these are possible inside problems to be addressed before deciding what different outcomes you'd like to have with your relationship with your sister.

  • Overconfidence effect

    • Excessive confidence in one's own answers to questions. For example, for certain types of questions, answers that people rate as "99% certain" turn out to be wrong 40% of the time. It also turns out the experts suffer even more from the overconfidence effect than laypeople do. Studies have found that over 90% of US drivers rate themselves above average, 68% of professors consider themselves in the top 25 percent for teaching ability, and 84% of Frenchmen believe they are above-average lovers.​

  • Overjustification Effect

    • The loss of motivation and interest as a result of receiving an excessive external reward (such as money and prizes). When being rewarded for doing something actually diminishes intrinsic motivation to perform that action. For example, researchers gave children reward for doing activities they already enjoyed, like solving puzzles. Then, the children were given an opportunity to engage in these same activities on their own, when no rewards would be forthcoming. The results: children engaged in these activities less often than they did before.

    • When students are rewarded for good grades, either by praise or physical rewards ("now you can have your mobile phone back"), they learn to respond to the external reward for "learning" and consequently become inured to the natural intrinsic joy of learning.

  • Persistence bias (contrast with Giving-up bias)

    • The tendency to keep going in the face of not enjoying the process as well as ignoring new information or insights as to the benefits and costs associated with the original intention. Like the Long-term bias, the Persistence bias is willing to sacrifice enjoying now and enjoying the process for some projected future benefits. It perpetuates a lose-win relationship between Now and Next. It blinds us to the possible benefits of giving up or changing course. For many, the Persistence bias has become part of their identity. The Sunk Cost bias can also reinforce the Persistence bias.

    • "I've been unhappy in this marriage for over ten years and I don't see how it can get any better, but I can't give up."

    • The persistence bias is usually just an identity bias. The idea of persistence has very good PR. Many of us have gotten attached to the idea of "being persistent," making it difficult to discern when it would be better to give up. Or, even if we do give up, we feel guilty about it instead of honoring ourselves for making the best choice.

  • Pessimism bias

    • The tendency for some people, especially those suffering from depression, to overestimate the likelihood of negative things happening to them.

    • "Nobody's going to give me a job...I can't just feel it."

  • Plan continuation bias

    • Failure to recognize that the original plan of action is no longer appropriate for a changing situation or for a situation that is different than anticipated.

    • "I need to stick with my plan I made at the beginning of the day instead of allowing any interruptions."

    • When you indulge in the habit of resisting your fear of how life and results can sometimes be unpredictable, then you'll want to keep pushing your plan even in the face of new circumstances or awareness that make your original plan unworkable.

  • Planning fallacy

    • The tendency to underestimate task-completion times.

    • "At the end of the day I never get as much done as I thought I would."​​

    • When we're planning, we're in ego mode. We want to feel good about ourselves (and relieve our anxiety) by planning to do as much as possible. Consequently, we over promise (see under promising) and we neglect to schedule buffer time in our day (see buffer). No matter how many times we underestimate how long most tasks will take, we never learn. Deep learning would mean designing our day by putting process first (with the process working easily and with enjoyment), instead of putting results first ("more results is better"). See lifestyle first; results second.

  • Present bias

    • The tendency of people to give stronger weight to payoffs that are closer to the present time when considering trade-offs between two future moments.

    • This bias is exacerbated by our habit of putting results as a priority over enjoying the process. If we were being happy now in the process, then we'd be less likely to discount future payoffs.

  • Principles bias

    • The tendency to believe in and follow a principle, while remaining unaware of or ignoring the costs incurred by the continued belief in and adherence to the principle.

    • "Never give up" is a good example of such a principle. How much suffering has be caused by the unquestioned obedience to this idea, in wars, in jobs, in marriages. Here in China most people believe in the idea, "everyone should get married and have children." I see this idea promulgating by almost everyone, seemingly without awareness of the costs that are created in so many unhappy marriages.  

    • We need principles. It's impossible to live well (or even to live) without them. But when we absorb and follow principles without questioning them, without contextualizing them, without being clear as possible about their costs, benefits, and risks, both short-term and long-term, then the costs can quickly outweigh the benefits as we continue to follow our principles like an ostrich. 

  • Projection bias​

    • The tendency to overestimate how much our future selves share one's current preferences, thoughts and values, thus leading to sub-optimal choices.

    • "I just know I'm going to love this woman forever. I might as well promise her that."

    • How many costly one-way decisions do we make because we don't appreciate the possibility/even likelihood that our desires, thoughts, and even values might be different in the future. Are you showing respect to your future self by not seriously considering that possibility?

  • Pseudocertainty effect​

    • The tendency to make risk-averse choices if the expected outcome is positive, but make risk-seeking choices to avoid negative outcomes.

  • Reactance

    • The urge to do the opposite of what someone wants you to do out of a need to resist a perceived attempt to constrain your freedom of choice.

    • The Japanese have a word, amanojaku, to describe this behavior, particularly in children. Given how Japanese have traditionally "loved their children to death," instructing them in detail as to how they should behave, it's not surprising they've got this word. When I was in high school I was curious as to why almost all of my classmates were dissing their parents with expressions like, "my old man" or "my old woman." In retrospect, I can see that my parents showed me so much respect (to make my own choices) and gave me little to rebel against.

  • Reactive devaluation​

    • Devaluing proposals only because they purportedly originated with an adversary.

    • Over the decades I've noticed that Republican leaders can get non-Republican ideas (ideas more in line with the Democratic party at that time) adopted by their constituency much easier than if they had been proposed by a Democratic leader. And vice versa.

  • Recency illusion​

    • The illusion that a phenomenon one has noticed only recently is itself recent. Often used to refer to linguistic phenomena; the illusion that a word or language usage that one has noticed only recently is an innovation when it is in fact long-established.

    • This one bit me recently. I discovered a TV series that I was impressed with on Prime Video called "Booth at the End."  I just assumed it had come our recently. Checking Google, I found it debuted in 2010.

  • Resistance bias

    • The tendency to resist (both mentally and physiologically) both pain and fear, thereby limiting our ability to respond more appropriately to the circumstances. This resistance most often intensifies the pain or fear, turning them from a "clean pain" into a "dirty pain."

    • "I'm feeling so pressured to get these taxes done right and on time."

    • The fear associated with doing the taxes is automatically resisted creating the feeling of pressure. All of the following are probable symptoms of resisted fear: worry, anxiety, stress, impatience, waiting for something to be over, defensiveness, blame, anger, irritability, indecisiveness, lack of confidence, avoiding something, feeling something is hard, difficulties in making requests, difficulties in saying "no," difficulties in setting and maintaining boundaries with others, reluctance to share or express yourself openly, not staying in communication, ignoring someone, guilt, regrets, perfectionism, justifying yourself to others, shyness, trying to control others, loneliness, embarrassment, jealousy, envy, comparing yourself negatively to others, setting yourself up to be upset or betrayed, and uneasiness or awkwardness. Use undoing fear to address any of these symptoms.

  • Restraint bias

    • The tendency to overestimate one's ability to show restraint in the face of temptation.

    • What else could most fully explain all the unwanted pregnancies and unwanted sexual diseases in the world!? Or the failed diets!? Or allow gyms to over sell memberships by many factors, knowing that the large majority of those purchasing memberships will only show up for a month or less!? The restraint bias is sustained by our Next making plans (and assumptions) without future-pacing and asking, "How is my Next and my Now both going to be happy in these likely circumstances?"R

  • Results bias (contrast with the Short-term bias)

    • The tendency to prioritize going for results over enjoying the process, a willingness to sacrifice enjoyment and pleasure now for the prospect of getting desired results in the future.

    • "I've just got to keep my nose to the grindstone until I can get out of debt."

    • The Results bias comes from our cultural characterization of Now as the bad guy and Next as the good guy and the widely accepted idea that our Now must be sacrificed for our Next (the future). The antidote to the Results bias is Now-Next integrity. See the NNI toolkit.

  • Rhyme as reason effect​

    • Rhyming statements are perceived as more truthful. A famous example being used in the O.J Simpson trial with the defense's use of the phrase "If the gloves don't fit, then you must acquit."

  • Risk compensation

    • The tendency to take greater risks when perceived safety increases.

    • "Despite engineering, education, and enforcement actions such as antilock brakes, seat belts, air bags, road improvements, and driver training to decrease problems, accidents and death outcomes remain constant because of behavior compensation." (Researchgate.net)

  • Salience bias

    • ​The tendency to focus on items that are more prominent or emotionally striking and ignore those that are unremarkable, even though this difference is often irrelevant by objective standards.​
    • "​An example would be someone who watches the news and sees several news stories of violence in their city. Although their likelihood of being a victim of violence has not changed the memory of the violence is very salient in their mind and makes them feel more vulnerable when they go out." (alleydog.com)

  • Selfishness bias (contrast with the Altruism bias)

    • The tendency to disregard or ignore the selfish desires and needs of others, not looking for ways to create mutually selfish outcomes, both short-term and long-term. 

    • "I don't care if you don't want to do your homework. Don't you dare talk back to me."

    • The Selfishness bias is the logical extension of the Altruism bias, except that it's the other person who should be altruistic, not you. The Selfishness bias almost always ends up being short-term selfishness at the expense of long-term selfishness. When we've got Now-Next integrity, then the Selfishness bias disappears. It's unlikely that another will become the "victim" of someone's Selfishness bias unless they don't choose courage to say "no" and set appropriate boundaries with that person who is suffering from the Selfishness bias.

  • Selective perception

    • The tendency for expectations to affect perception.

    • "For example, a teacher may have a favorite student because they are biased by in-group favoritism. The teacher ignores the student's poor attainment. Conversely, they might not notice the progress of their least favorite student." (Wikipedia.org)

  • Semmelweis reflex​

    • The tendency to reject new evidence that contradicts a paradigm.

    • The Catholic church's imprisonment of Galileo is a stark example of the Semmelweis reflex.

  • Sexual over-perception bias​

    • The tendency to overestimate sexual interest of another person in oneself.

    • This bias is more common in men. A man is easily fooled into thinking a woman is sexually interested in him, when she only being friendly.

  • Sexual under-perception bias​

    • The tendency to under estimate sexual interest of another person in oneself.

    • Although some more attractive women are acutely aware of the sexual interest of particular men, some less attractive women may be unaware of a man's interest because of his shyness and fear of rejection.

  • Short-term bias (contrast with Long-term bias)

    • The tendency to discount future benefits and happiness (or lack of discomfort) in exchange for more immediate benefits and happiness (or lack of discomfort).

    • "I just want to sleep a few more minutes...even though I know by boss will be upset when I show up late for work."

    • The Short-term bias (as well as the Long-term bias) is symptomatic of lack of integrity between Now and Next. They will both diminish or disappear as we create and maintain more Now-Next integrity. See the NNI toolkit.

  • Similarity bias (other people are like me)

    • The tendency to project your own values, preferences, and ways of thinking on others.

    • "Everybody knows what's basically right and wrong. All they have to do is listen to their conscience."

    • The Similarity bias is reinforced by the Assumption bias, the Knowledge bias, and the Confirmation bias. 

  • Stereotyping​

    • Expecting a member of a group to have certain characteristics without having actual information about that individual.

  • Subadditivity effect

    • The tendency to judge probability of the whole to be less than the probabilities of the parts.

  • Subjective validation

    • Perception that something is true if a subject's belief demands it to be true. Also assigns perceived connections between coincidences.

  • Sunk cost fallacy (see explication at the beginning of this link)

  • Surrogation

    • Losing sight of the strategic construct that a measure is intended to represent, and subsequently acting as though the measure is the construct of interest.

    • Surrogation is a major problem in the Chinese education system. The value is the grade, the score, passing the test...not the value of the learning, which the score is intended to measure.

  • Surviorship bias​

    • Concentrating on the people or things that "survived" some process and inadvertently overlooking those that didn't because of their lack of visibility.

    • You notice all the successful (looking) restaurants as you walk down the street. And it's rare that you eat at a restaurant that cooks better than you do. And look at the markup they charge over the basic cost of the food! You interview the owners of a few...it seems that you could do what they did. But you don't think of interviewing the former owners of the 60% of restaurants that failed in their first year or the 80% that failed within five years. In fact, you don't even get curious to know this information. This is the survivorship bias in action.

  • Time-saving bias​

    • Underestimations of the time that could be saved (or lost) when increasing (or decreasing) from a relatively low speed and overestimations of the time that could be saved (or lost) when increasing (or decreasing) from a relatively high speed.

    • "For example, when increasing from 20 to 30 mph the time required to complete 10 miles decreases from 30 to 20 minutes, saving 10 minutes. However, the same speed increase of 10 mph would result in less time saved if the initial speed is higher (e.g., only 2 minutes saved when increasing from 50 mph to 60 mph)" (Wikipedia.org)

  • Parkinson's law of triviality

    • The tendency to give disproportionate weight to trivial issues. Also known as bikeshedding, this bias explains why an organization may avoid specialized or complex subjects, such as the design of a nuclear reactor, and instead focus on something easy to grasp or rewarding to the average participant, such as the design of an adjacent bike shed.

  • Unit bias

    • The standard suggested amount of consumption (e.g., food serving size) is perceived to be appropriate, and a person would consume it all even if it is too much for this particular person.

  • Victimhood bias

    • The strong tendency to see ourselves (and some others) as victims, to feel wronged by another or others, to make ourselves or our group right (and the victim) and to make others wrong. But it goes deeper...because victimhood is based in the good/bad, right/wrong, should/shouldn't view of the world. Even when we blame ourselves, we have become the victim of ourselves. This tendency blinds us to looking at the facts, to discovering how we may have contributed to the situation, and to being curious how how we can best get what we want under the current circumstances (with blaming the other person or ourselves almost always being counterproductive). The victimhood bias shuts down our capability to assess the situation more accurately. It shuts down our creativity and our ability to possibly negotiate a collaborative solution.

    • In WWII, Japanese saw Americans and Chinese as the bad guys. Americans and Chinese saw the Japanese as the bad guys. Everyone was the victim. In the divorce between my parents, my mother saw my father as the bad buy and vice versa. They were both victims. In the disputes between the Republicans and the Democrats, they both see themselves as victims of the other. Whenever you are defensive, whenever you are resentful, whenever you feel taken advantage of, whenever you lack curiosity about the "bad" guy's behavior, whenever you feel guilty or regret, whenever you are willing to let go of some of your power and influence (by not being 100% responsible), you will be able to notice that you are a righteous victim (even if you are blaming yourself). And it's very addictive. It's been a lifelong process to undo this (mostly) in myself. See undoing shoulds and being 100% responsible.

  • Weber–Fechner law

    • Difficulty in comparing small differences in large quantities.

  • Well travelled road effect

    • Underestimation of the duration taken to traverse oft-traveled routes and overestimation of the duration taken to traverse less familiar routes.

  • What-the-hell effect***

  • Women are wonderful effect​

    • A tendency to associate more positive attributes with women than with men.

    • I notice my indulgence in this effect. LOL...

  • Zero-risk bias

    • Preference for reducing a small risk to zero over a greater reduction in a larger risk.

  • Zero-sum bias

    • A bias whereby a situation is incorrectly perceived to be like a zero-sum game (i.e., one person gains at the expense of another).

    • Often people resent the profit that the other party is making "at their expense," not noticing that they chose to trade with the other party because they judge themselves to be better off (that is, making a profit for themselves) than if they did not trade. They are thinking more zero-sum than the win-win it is.

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