9 votes

What are your cognitive biases, and how do they affect you?

From Wikipedia:

A cognitive bias is a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment. Individuals create their own "subjective reality" from their perception of the input. An individual's construction of reality, not the objective input, may dictate their behavior in the world. Thus, cognitive biases may sometimes lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality.

For obvious reasons, it is much easier to identify biases in others than ourselves. Nevertheless, some of us went through practices (such as psychotherapy), experiences, and introspection that allowed us to put our biases in check. So, instead of scrutinizing the behavior of others (something that comes naturally to us, especially on the internet), here I ask you to exercise some self-criticism. What intellectual tendencies you have that obsessively repeat themselves in different contexts?

I should note that cognitive biases do not always lead to bad outcomes or falsehoods, as stated in Wikipedia:

Although it may seem like such misperceptions would be aberrations, biases can help humans find commonalities and shortcuts to assist in the navigation of common situations in life.[5]

On this thread, I am deliberately not asking about political bias or anything of the sort, including all the juicy controversial subjects surrounding it. Anything that often leads to uncivil discussion should be considered out of bounds.

For inspiration, look at this list (you don't need to identify a named bias, though... a subjective description of something you believe to be a form of bias is enough).

Dear Mods, due to the contentious nature of the subject, please feel free to act more aggressively on this topic than you currently do.

11 comments

  1. [2]
    Icarus
    Link
    The thing is, we have a lot of cognitive biases impacting our lives daily that are purely subconscious. I would recommend Cialdini's Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion for some common tactics...

    The thing is, we have a lot of cognitive biases impacting our lives daily that are purely subconscious. I would recommend Cialdini's Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion for some common tactics that you encounter every day. If you want to go further, Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow is also a good read into why we have cognitive biases.

    I will try to be mindful throughout the day and point out some that I encounter so I can update later.

    5 votes
    1. mrbig
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Yes, I am sure most of these biases are not only pervasive but largely harmless. But some of them are so salient, and take so many forms, that they can become both harmful easier to identify.

      Yes, I am sure most of these biases are not only pervasive but largely harmless. But some of them are so salient, and take so many forms, that they can become both harmful easier to identify.

      2 votes
  2. [2]
    Staross
    (edited )
    Link
    Confirmation bias is the biggest one I'm aware of, I usually google/read/watch stuff that goes in my direction. I sometimes try to find evidence to the contrary but that sometimes makes me more...

    Confirmation bias is the biggest one I'm aware of, I usually google/read/watch stuff that goes in my direction. I sometimes try to find evidence to the contrary but that sometimes makes me more convinced that I'm right I think.

    4 votes
    1. Nivlak
      Link Parent
      I think you just described the biggest issue with “ the algorithm”. Isn’t that algorithm just piggybacking off our confirmation bias to keep us engaged? And if so, how far can that go before any...

      I think you just described the biggest issue with “ the algorithm”. Isn’t that algorithm just piggybacking off our confirmation bias to keep us engaged? And if so, how far can that go before any kind of damage may happen?

      2 votes
  3. Atvelonis
    Link
    Glancing through that Wikipedia list, I seem to identify with a few of the anchoring biases and quite a few of the egocentric biases. I've never been exactly sure how my attitude is perceived on...

    Glancing through that Wikipedia list, I seem to identify with a few of the anchoring biases and quite a few of the egocentric biases. I've never been exactly sure how my attitude is perceived on this website, but I'm aware that I can be pretty intractable in my arguments—in truth I'm certain about rather little, but I rarely make arguments I'm not extremely confident I can defend. To compensate for a potential appearance of narrow-mindedness, a lot of what I write tries to address counterarguments pre-emptively, sometimes legitimately or sometimes by just making my thesis more ambiguous (and therefore more difficult to attack). It can be difficult for me to distinguish between "offering nuance" and pointlessly hedging my statements (you can see a few instances of the latter in this very comment). Often my "counterarguments" are snarky or condescending, because I am bored by the thought of having to talk about something so clearly incorrect. Sometimes that's warranted, but most of the time I think it makes me look a little conceited.

    2 votes
  4. joplin
    Link
    I think for me it's a selection bias. I try to be aware of it, but it's so easy to fall into. I think, "Nobody I know does/thinks that, so it must be that nobody does/thinks that," or the...

    I think for me it's a selection bias. I try to be aware of it, but it's so easy to fall into. I think, "Nobody I know does/thinks that, so it must be that nobody does/thinks that," or the opposite, "Everyone I know does/thinks that, so everyone must do/think that." Or, "Why would anyone think/believe that? It's so obviously incorrect." But when your pool of experience involves people who are very similar, it's clear that you might be missing out on some other possibilities.

    Ironically, I often fall into the opposite camp when discussing things with other people. They'll make a reasonable generalization, and I'll think of the 1 minor example of where that's not correct and start feeling like I want to argue with the person or at the very least that they're wrong about whatever they're talking about.

    Both of these come from my upbringing where I was constantly criticized for anything and everything. My family, and in particular one of my brothers always acted like, "Oh, you made a minor misstep while making an argument, therefore everything you've said up to now or will say about this topic, or anything else really, is wrong and you're stupid."

    2 votes
  5. [4]
    mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    I suppose I'm biased towards the combination of brevity and simplicity, especially in argumentative content. I believe there's value in communicating in this manner, and that it is generally...

    I suppose I'm biased towards the combination of brevity and simplicity, especially in argumentative content. I believe there's value in communicating in this manner, and that it is generally easier to compose correct arguments when they contain fewer moving parts. It is also easier to ascertain their soundness.

    The problem is that length and complexity are often requirements to talk about things that are inherently elusive, tricky, or surrounded by disputed claims that must be addressed. It is also valuable to go back and forth on the subject, unsettling the order in which arguments are traditionally posed. Sadly, I will be less inclined to read and allow myself to be persuaded by such content.

    I am similarly less inclined to favor argumentative writing that is overtly passionate or emotional, even though is entirely possible to be reasonable while experimenting strong sentiments.

    With some adaptations, the above is also true for real life encounters.

    1 vote
    1. [2]
      Adys
      Link Parent
      I'm curious about your (rough) age. Over my life I've gone back and forth between brevity and long-form. I choose mostly subconsciously now; brevity is only for the people I know and trust more....

      I'm curious about your (rough) age. Over my life I've gone back and forth between brevity and long-form. I choose mostly subconsciously now; brevity is only for the people I know and trust more. In forums such as tildes, long-form wins out, because context is so important.

      I feel I often fail at communicating it properly though. Maybe because I am not a native English speaker. Also because I rarely re-read myself before posting a comment.

      I also found Tildes to be a place which doesn't assume good faith often enough to encourage brevity. In fact, come to think of it, it's kinda crazy that I feel comfortable being brief more often on HN than here on Tildes.

      2 votes
      1. mrbig
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I'm not sure how is that relevant (:P), but I'm 39 years old. I don't have a scale of trust relative to length. With literally one exception (which I will never disclose) among thousands of users,...

        I'm not sure how is that relevant (:P), but I'm 39 years old.

        I don't have a scale of trust relative to length. With literally one exception (which I will never disclose) among thousands of users, I give little importance to the person that is writing. But a lengthy contribution takes a long time to read and respond, and it is hard to determine if I will consider it valuable in the end. Some people write a lot because they have lots of relevant things to say, while others just write a lot. So, if I had such a scale, I would probably use it in the exact opposite way that you do, and read most short comments regardless of authorship, and long comments only when they were written by certain people.

        Personally, I rarely write long posts or comments. In my experience, this is not an impediment to engagement. People seem to enjoy responding to my short (sometimes super short) content.

        1 vote
    2. Atvelonis
      Link Parent
      It certainly has value. I'm occasionally reminded of conversations you and I have had when I'm editing an oppressively long-winded piece of writing (my natural cadence). If you can believe it, I...

      It certainly has value. I'm occasionally reminded of conversations you and I have had when I'm editing an oppressively long-winded piece of writing (my natural cadence).

      If you can believe it, I have a similar bias about information density, but I think I just happen to have a pretty high baseline. I might visualize it as a -log(x)+2 to your -log(x), where the horizontal axis is the length of the material and the vertical axis is my personal interest in it (the root being a complete loss of interest). For example, I tend to consider the ideas or themes in the first 200 pages of a novel more important than next 200, even if that's not how it's actually structured—I always notice this when I take notes on a work of fiction, because I'll barely have anything for the later chapters. In academia I would call this "efficient," but it sort of misses the point of skimming. I do get weirdly uppity once I reach this arbitrary threshold, as if I'm personally offended that the work is "wasting" my time, and become less receptive to whatever it's trying to say. Odd!

      1 vote
  6. Kuromantis
    Link
    I'll talk mostly about assumptions I make. Admittedly I'm not entirely confident I'm interpreting cognitive biases too loosely. I personally is having a habit of assuming what the past was like...

    I'll talk mostly about assumptions I make. Admittedly I'm not entirely confident I'm interpreting cognitive biases too loosely.

    I personally is having a habit of assuming what the past was like when it comes to things like aesthetics and anything that belongs in ~life (as in, social things like friendships and dating) with the exception of employment, mainly because those things don't seem to be so easily available in a historical context and people don't talk about often for reasons I can only assume. This doesn't affect me greatly mainly because I can't believe claims which I have no idea how to prove or disprove, so the main effect is being stuck between committing to that assumption vs dismissing it entirely and looking for another.

    Examples

    Part of me likes to assume it was rare for people to have trouble getting a girlfriend SO 20 years ago, mainly because most of the discourse I see of this stuff is from young and young-er people online, so part of me assumes that what happened the 40 year olds got their GFs SOs "easily". Thing is, I can't actually believe that claim my mind puts out because I have no way of proving to myself dating was "easy" 20 years ago. So I am stuck between believing that struggling to get a

    A few other examples of things I like to assume were rare 20+ years ago with no evidence or actual confidence to believe would be procrastination, irregular sleep schedules, loneliness, political awareness, people who could foresee technology not being used for the greater good.

    Like you (OP) said, I generally dislike people arguing from a place of emotion, which as pointed out by kfwyre doesn't work in the context of discrimination and has to be ditched in that context. Similarly,

    When it comes to subjects that go in ~life (barring, again, professional life stuff), I often like to operate on the assumption those things are wholly divorced from anything political and thus building relationships is the same for everyone, but this only truly applies to cis-het-white (enough for brazil lol)-male people, and even them economic concerns will still limit what you can do if you aren't wealthy enough.

    I definitely, like most people I assume have a general egocentric bias and I hedge my statements my statements a lot, as mentioned by Atvelonis. I am a pretty strong subscriber to "not all ______" as a general idea, and rarely make absolute statements if I'm taking myself seriously. I often spend a decent amount of time thinking about how much I should hedge any given statement, but nothing says that gets through to people, or that they find this important.