Cognitive Bias and Confirmation Bias as Mental Shortcuts

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  “A compelling narrative fosters an illusion of inevitability.” ― Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

Mankind has always been hailed as the most intelligent species on this planet. We like to believe the fact that we are in “control” of all that is happening around us and we are always under this illusion that all of our choices and judgements are made by us after a lot of thought and processing. Whereas the truth is that most of our choices and judgements are made by us non-consciously, which heavily rely on cognitive schemas and mental short cuts. How do you define Cognitive Schema you say? – Well, Cognitive Schemas are basically kinds of structures that helps people organize the knowledge which they have gained along with the new information that they receive. It is basically a framework of how the mind interprets and stores the information that is gathered throughout the time. For example, let’s assume a baby sees a dog for the first time, then he creates a schema that a dog walks on all fours and has sharp teeth. Now when this child sees a lion in the zoo, he’ll think it is a dog because the lion also fits the schema of the dog. When the parent of the child will say that no this is a lion, then the child will modify his existing schema and add a new schema for a lion. This is a process that basically goes on throughout our lives, where in we try to fit a new information into existing schemas or if a new information is gathered then a new schema is created.

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Cognitive Biases are mental shortcuts that which are help us make decision based on previous information that we have received or that we have come across. We come across so many various kinds and medium of information on a daily basis and we have so much less time to process it that we end up taking these mental shortcuts to make decisions quickly and effectively. Biases are the reason that we have been able to survive for so long. A very basic example of cognitive bias is that: Lets assume you go to buy a car and the salesman quotes the price as 40 Euros. The next time when you go, he quotes it as 20 euros which is half the price. Since previously your brain had the knowledge that the car was of 40 Euros and later it was 20 Euros, your brain is tricked to believe that you are getting a 50% discount and instead of looking at the facts and researching about it, your brain takes the mental shortcut and you go ahead and buy the car. Whereas for all you know the price of the car was originally marked at 20 Euros. This is the simplest example of how our brain uses Cognitive Bias to make decisions and choices. Just imagine the impact cognitive bias has when important decisions pertaining to a country or the planet is taken into account! Therefore, it is said that biases are great for survival but not for innovation (Board of Innovation - Blog). Because the mind will always opt for a way which has already been done in the past and proven to be successful rather than innovating a new way.

Cognitive Bias is of many types; Confirmation bias, Availability heuristic, Anchoring, Halo effect, Sunk cost fallacy, Survivorship bias, The Self-Serving Bias, The False-Consensus Effect, The Actor Observer Bias etc. Out of these, I’ll be discussing about the most prominent and the most common types of biases.

Confirmation Bias 

This is the most common type of bias that is prevalent in almost every human being on this planet. This bias is the one which favours the data or information that you already have and you tend to discard the evidence that does not support the information you already have.        

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