As humans, we constantly use mental shortcuts to make sense of the world around us. We have to instantly produce an image of reality because we need to react quickly, so we use information that comes easiest to mind, or that aligns with what we already believe about the world. These are the cognitive biases or heuristics we use every day to make sense of the world. They are kind of mental shortcuts, and they are the fastest way of achieving the result we want: understanding the world. These biases however are not flawless and often result in us making mistakes. We falsely assume that the reality we project through these biases is the actual reality, but when our quick judgment is incorrect, we find out it isn’t. We use these biases constantly and automatically in every situation, but this doesn’t mean that we can’t become conscious of them and make sure that we rein them in, trying to prevent making costly mistakes. To be able to do this you need to know what these biases are, how they work, and what you can do to fight them. Below are five of the most common cognitive biases that impair your judgment and how you can counteract them:
To convince ourselves that an argument is true, we need to go and look for evidence to support it. We obviously do this by looking objectively for evidence, whether for or against our argument, seeing both sides, and coming to a logical conclusion, right?
Sadly, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Our judgments are always clouded by our beliefs. We tend to only look for evidence that supports what we believe, and we dismiss the evidence that could discredit it. This is called the confirmation bias and it’s something every single human experiences.
We want to confirm our beliefs by looking for evidence, but this search for evidence is subconsciously very one-sided. You’ve already decided that a certain statement is true, so now you only have to look for the evidence to support it. But what do you do when you notice there is evidence to the contrary? Most of the time you simply dismiss it or you exaggerate the negatives of the counter-argument and downplay these negatives in the arguments for your statement.
The confirmation bias is based on the so-called ‘pleasure principle’. It means that humans will always seek out things that are pleasurable and avoid things that are not. Having our beliefs confirmed by evidence feels really good, so we tend to look for this feeling and want to have our beliefs confirmed at all costs. Having our beliefs debunked is simply too painful for us. So we get as much evidence as possible for our beliefs and we play up their positives and downplay their negatives to make them look better, and we do the opposite to the contrary evidence to make it look worse. Now we can say that we did see some evidence that contradicted my point, but it wasn’t that strong, so I still believe that I am right.
In this digital age, it has become easier to find evidence, which means it’s also easier to find evidence that confirms your beliefs. Now its possible to find evidence for almost every claim you make, no matter how ridiculous. This has only amplified our confirmation bias, making us look only for the evidence we want to see because it aligns with what we believe is correct, not what objectively is.
In addition, we also have a lot of fake news and opinions floating around on social media, disguised as real information. The news has turned out to simply be a propaganda machine, only showing us information they want us to believe. It has become very hard to find believable evidence to back up or discredit your claims and this makes it difficult to prove what is really true.
You must stop getting fooled by this confirmation bias and face reality. You accomplish this by analyzing your beliefs and explicitly going out on the internet and finding evidence to the contrary. Look at this evidence objectively, set the arguments for and against side by side, and then decide what is true. Don’t let the confirmation bias believe that you’re in some kind of fantasy land and that everything you believe is true. Challenge your beliefs and ideas and get to the bottom of reality. Only then, will you find out the truth.
If you are truly convinced that some belief you hold is true, then it must be true right? Why else would you believe it so much, you must have a good reason for it. We tend to believe arguments that we are convinced are true, must simply be true. This is something that is known as the conviction bias, it works on yourself and your own beliefs, but it also works when someone else seems very convinced of what they are saying, but we’ll get to that later on. For now, we’re going to talk about how the conviction bias clouds your own judgment by being convinced of something being true, without having any arguments to back your conviction up. This bias sometimes makes us fervently defend our ideas without having any good arguments to explain why they are true.