The human brain is amazingly fast at processing data. For example, you may be consciously thinking of only one thing, but your brain is processing thousands of bits of data on a subconscious level. Unfortunately, our thinking processes are not perfect and we suffer from what psychology calls cognitive biases: patters of deviations of judgment that occur in certain situations.
The list of these judgment deviations is extensive and numbers close to 100. Some of these sound like things we encounter every day: false memories, hindsight bias, selective perception, stereotyping, and the hostile media effect. Others are a bit more obscure: hyperbolic discounting, Semmelweis reflex, availability heuristic, and the bandwagon effect to name a few.
Not all cognitive biases are bad. Some even allow us to reach a conclusion or make decisions faster. However, there are some that lead us to distorted perceptions, and inaccurate or illogical interpretations.
Listverse.com has compiled a list of the top 10 common faults in human thought. As you read these think about whether you or someone you know have experienced any of these.
10. Gambler’s Fallacy: the tendency to think that future probabilities are altered by past events, when in reality, they are not. Example: Flip a coin 37 times and each and every time the probability of landing heads is exactly 50% each and every time.
9. Reactivity: the tendency of people to act or appear differently when they know that they are being observed. Example: Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to type accurately when someone is looking over your shoulder?
8. Pareidolia: when random images or sounds are perceived as significant. Example: Seeing Jesus on a piece of toast or hearing messages when a record is played backwards.
7. Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: engaging in behaviors that obtain results that confirm existing attitudes. Example: Telling yourself that you have bad luck and then falling, tripping, or bumping into things constantly.
6. Halo Effect: the tendency for an individual’s positive or negative trait to “spill over” to other areas of their personality in others’ perceptions of them. Example: When your sister arrives late to every family gathering and you conclude that they don’t care about the family.
5. Herd Mentality: the tendency to adopt the opinions and follow the behaviors of the majority to feel safer and to avoid conflict. Example: Peer pressure in all its forms.
4. 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. Example: Not doing something you know is good for you just because your parents told you to do it.
3. Hyperbolic Discounting: the tendency for people to prefer a smaller, immediate payoff over a larger, delayed payoff. Example: Taking a $20 million lottery payoff today rather than $100 million in five years.
2. Escalation of Commitment: the tendency for people to continue to support previously unsuccessful endeavors. Example: Continuing to put money into a business that you repeatedly lose money at.
1. Placebo Effect: when an ineffectual substance that is believed to have healing properties produces the desired effect. Example: You start a clinical trial for a prescription medication that is supposed to cure your cold symptoms. The symptoms disappear and you attribute it to the medication, but it turns out that you were taking sugar pills the entire time.
To see the original list at Listverse go here.
To see a comprehensive list of cognitive biases go here.