5 Cognitive Biases in the Modern World

Cognitive biases are widely accepted as something that makes us human. Every day, systematic errors in our thought process impact the way we live and work. But in a world where everything we do is changing rapidly, cognitive biases impact the way we make decisions.

  • Automation Bias– Automation bias refers to the tendency to favor the suggestions of automated systems. AI-infused applications are becoming incredibly good at “personalizing” our content, and there may come a time when algorithms would be capable to make all our decisions. A powerful example of the same are the Netflix and Instagram algorithms.
  • The Google Effect– Also known as “digital amnesia”, the aptly named Google Effect describes our tendency to forget information that can be easily accessed online. Our modern brains appear to be re-prioritizing the information we hold onto. However, this doesn’t suggest we’re becoming less intelligent—our ability to learn offline remains the same.
  • The Clustering Illusion– clustering illusion bias arises from seeing a trend in random events that occur in clusters, but they appear to be connected.  The clustering illusion bias is often called the “hot hand fallacy”  when playing cards – you won the last few occurrences, so you believe your odds are better for the next game played.
  • Confirmation Bias– This occurs when you warp data to fit or support your existing beliefs or expectations. The effects are often found in religion, politics, and frequently in statistical data. It causes the inability to look outside of your existing belief systems and will vastly limit your ability to see other options.
  • Authority Bias– Authority bias is the tendency to attribute greater accuracy to the opinion of an authority figure (unrelated to its content) and be more influenced by that opinion. Authority bias affects individuals in everyday decisions, even when the authority figure may not be an authority on the topic at hand.

These biases control the interplay between our two modes of thinking: Fast Cognition (our effortless, almost reflexive thoughts) and Slow Cognition (our more deliberate, purposeful thoughts). Fast cognition is more susceptible to cognitive biases — our personal assumptions and predispositions can easily infiltrate those automatic thoughts — yet biases can still be introduced as systemic errors in our slow cognition. Each system of thought overlaps and cooperates with the other, and neither is immune to bias. Therefore, it’s so critical to develop strategies for identifying and avoiding cognitive blunders.

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