• Jennifer Stafford

Getting to Know Self Series: A Few Biases


A cognitive bias is a psychological process that can influence our viewpoints, distort our understanding and impact our decision making. Most adult human beings are under the influence of some sort of bias at any given moment. Are you aware of what biases may be guiding your self-operation?


Being unaware of what may be impacting our reasoning, judgments or decision making can be problematic when it comes to interactions with others. Biases occur to provide us with mental shortcuts when processing information. The goal of our brain in having these biases is to speed up our processing not create problems for us, but without awareness these biases can become the silent bane of our sense of self.


Give yourself permission to get to know and learn about what could be going on inside of your mind. Read through this blog and increase your awareness of what may be gaslighting your gut instincts. Which bias rules you? Do you lean towards a few? Which ones do you depend on to defend your life stance?


“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” - Aristotle

Anchoring Bias

The anchoring bias can occur when we rely too much on the first piece or group of information we receive. Anchoring can be found as a fueling force behind most other biases.


Example 1: The initial house bid was for $1.5 million so buying the $600,000 home for $1 million feels like a steal.


Example 2: An interviewer believes people of a certain height are more capable and confident, a shorter candidate is interviewed and passed on for the job despite their experience and expertise.


Confirmation Bias

The confirmation bias is when we have the tendency to lean towards information that supports our existing beliefs. Information has more weight when we are familiar with it and this bias can close our openness to new ideas or ways of thinking.


Example: A teacher believes males are better at math, so they help female students more and overlook the male students that are struggling with their math skills.


Hindsight Bias

The hindsight bias is when people after the fact believe they knew the outcome of an event, but only after the outcome has been determined.


Example: A man states that he figured his desired candidate would win, after learning the outcome of an election.


Optimism Bias

The optimism bias is a mistaken belief where we overestimate positive outcomes or events for ourselves compared to others. In this bias, we also end up underestimating negative outcomes or events for ourselves compared to others.


Example: A person believes being intoxicated does not impair them as much as others therefore they can drive home safely in their minds.


The Self-Serving Bias

The self-serving bias is when we take credit for our character and actions when outcomes are successful and positive, but attribute negative and unsuccessful outcomes to external factors outside of our actions or character.


Example: "I was able to get my first car with my own money and credit. The car being repossessed is totally the bank's fault, my payments were never that late."


The Availability Heuristic

This effect is when we have the tendency to rely upon what first comes to mind over deeper more reflective thinking. What is most recent and vivid stands out and informs our decision making and self-operation.


Example: Waking up hungry and choosing hot dogs and potato salad for breakfast the morning after the family barbecue.


Bystander Effect

Standing by and failing to help. With this effect, the bystander is less willing to act when in the presence of others. Operating under the belief that someone else will act or tend to the situation when in a setting with others present.


Example: While on a packed subway train, a woman passes out and onlookers do not call anyone. A subway train employee ends up tending to the woman.


The False Consensus Effect

This effect is when we falsely state and or believe that there is universal agreement from most on our viewpoint or way of operating. This is when we have the tendency to overestimate how much other people agree with us.


Example: A wife insults and berates her husband for forgetting their anniversary and says to him that everyone they know would have responded the way that she did.


The Halo Effect

This effect occurs when our overall perception of someone influences our evaluation of their character. We may put a person on a pedestal based on how we have decided to characterize them.


Example: "He's handsome and tall so he must be smart, nice and hardworking."


The Illusion of Transparency Effect

This effect occurs when we believe our emotional state and feelings are more obvious to others than they truly are. Being unable to detach from our emotional perspective, it can be difficult to see how anyone couldn't see what we are experiencing.


Example: "You know how I feel; I shouldn't have to tell you. Just look at me."


The Misinformation Effect

This effect occurs when past information is influenced by newer memories. False memories are created when misleading or new information distorts the memory of an event.


Example: A father recalls his daughter's greatest game last year, but mixes up the information with highlights from this year's games.


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