Everybody likes to think that we’re completely fair, logical, and rational at all times, but in reality, that could not be further from the truth. Everybody holds cognitive biases that influence how we think, what we believe, and the decisions that we make. Moderators train to become aware of these biases so as to not let it affect their interpretations from research. You do not need to be a Market Research professional to benefit from awareness of how everyday biases affect you and how you view the world.
Why do biases exist?
Our brains are working so much on a daily basis that it takes “shortcuts” when it can. Relying on past experiences or simply refusing to look at situations objectively. Biases are often not evident to the individual experiencing them. Even things such as height, name, or weight can trigger unconscious bias. Below are a few types of everyday biases that may be affecting you.
One of the most common, yet still prevalent, cognitive biases. Confirmation Bias refers to the tendency to search for and focus on information that supports our pre-established thoughts or opinions. Letting this bias get carried away can result in one being a close–minded, stagnant thinker.
Sunk Cost Fallacy
The Sunk Cost fallacy is commonly referenced in behavioral economics. It refers to an individual’s tendency to continue with an endeavor, regardless of the endeavor’s success, because of the time, money, or energy they have already exerted for the effort.
“We’ve already started, so we might as well keep going.”
Status Quo Bias
Intuitively, our brains prefer to go with what is known over something unfamiliar. This is a survival instinct that we’ve adopted over hundreds of thousands of years. The Status Quo Bias refers to this tendency. Humans will forgo change, even if it could be positive, in order to stick to the norm. While change can be scary, we must remember that deviating from the norm shouldn’t be seen as a negative, instead an opportunity.
False Consensus Effect
The False Consensus effect can be a mental trap preventing you from looking at the world from any perspective besides views similar to yours. The False Consensus effect refers to the cognitive bias of an individual to overestimate how many people agree with their point of view. This can lead to myopic thoughts and actions that prevent growth. If you’ve ever seen Shark Tank and thought, “Why would anyone want that?,” the creators may have fallen into this effect during development.
The Salience Bias is an easy one to identify, but knowing of its existence isn’t enough to avoid this mental trap. The Salience bias is relied on heavily in messaging by companies and politicians, and it refers to a human tendency to focus our attention on emotionally striking things. From campaign ads to “for a dollar a day” commercials, our emotional heartstrings are constantly pulled.
Choice Supportive Bias
Have you ever heard of post-buyer’s remorse? Think of Choice Supportive Bias as the antonym. Choice Supportive bias is what we display when we recall previous decisions we’ve made as being more positive than it may have actually been. This bias typically has us forget the downsides of decisions we’ve made, and only focus on the positive. While it is optimistic, it doesn’t paint the full picture.
To Avoid These Biases
There are countless other cognitive biases humans demonstrate and while we may not always be able to avoid biases, identifying them is a first step. Awareness of these mental traps and in what situations they tend to arise assists in avoiding them. These biases tend to show themselves more when we are overtly reactive or relying too much on our own egos. Remember to reflect on past mistakes with humility, embrace opposing opinions as equally valid, and remember: everyone is wrong sometimes (and that’s okay!).