Cognitive Biases

20 Common Cognitive Biases That Mess Up Your Decision Making

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We all make countless decisions on a daily basis, ranging from figuring out how to fix a problem at work to as simple as deciding on a place to eat. According to social psychologists, states that there are a number of cognitive biases that will affect our behaviour, which can lead you to making decisions with the worst outcome. Here are some of the most common biases that can mess up your decision making.

1. Anchoring bias

We are over-reliant on the first information that we get. For example, the first person that makes the first salary offer will establish a range of reasonable possibilities in each person’s mind. In most cases, other people would tend to agree upon the initial argument being made by the first person. Generally, it is best to engage with open-ended questions to ensure that the first information is the best option or there are better alternatives.


2. Availability heuristic

We tend to overestimate the significance of information that is available to us. For example, after hearing that some of your colleagues have left the company, you might think that you are at risk of being laid-off. You start to feel worried and it affects your work productivity. While availability heuristic can be a handy tool in certain situations, but it is important to keep in mind that it could lead you to making incorrect assessments.

3. Bandwagon effect

The probability of a single person adopting a belief increases based on the number of people who held a similar belief. This is a powerful form of groupthink and there are certain cases where it can be a negative trait in the workplace. For example, if more than one person slacks while at work, more people would likely follow suit.


4. Blind-spot bias

Unable to recognise your own cognitive biases in itself. We tend to notice cognitive and motivational biases much more in others than in ourselves. Understanding our own biases is the best outcome to overcome the blind-spot bias while familiarising with other people biases can also help us improve each other understanding.



5. Choice-supportive bias

When you choose something, you tend to feel positive about it, even if that choice has its limitations or setbacks.For example, you think your project will be successful even if it would require a substantial investment. If you think you are overly defending an idea just to protect your self-esteem, it would not be a wise idea to stick to it, especially if there are inherent flaws being pointed out by others.



6. Clustering illusion

The tendency to spot patterns or estimate a number of small runs, streaks or clusters of data. For example, if a web analyst took a sample of a one week period to observe network traffic went down, down, up, up he/she might think that a trend could be found when in fact there was not.


7. Confirmation bias

We tend to listen only to information that confirms our preconceptions, one of the many reasons why it’s so hard to have an intelligent conversation about serious topics. Whereas information that contradicts the preconceptions are ignored and rejected. Confirmation bias occurs only when a person tries to reach a conclusion and shapes the evidence either knowingly or unknowingly to fit the situation.



8. Conservation bias

Where people favor prior evidence over new evidence or information has emerged. We can be slow to accept that there is a new work policy because they maintained their earlier understanding that the existing policy is still deem acceptable.



9. Information bias

The tendency to search for information when it does not affect action. Having excess information does not mean it will be better. With less information, people can often make more accurate predictions.



10. Ostrich effect

The decision to ignore dangerous or negative information by “burying” one’s head in the sand, like an ostrich. For example, your colleague may continue to work despite your advice towards his deteriorating health situation.



11. Outcome bias

Judging a decision based on the outcome rather than how exactly the decision was made in the moment. For example, your current manager only makes a decision based on his own “gut instinct” when his entire department are strongly advising him on the right direction while he takes the opposite direction.

12. Overconfidence

We can be overconfident with our abilities, and at certain times it could lead us to take on greater risks in our daily lives. Senior employees are more prone to this bias than newer workers, since they are more convinced that they are right.

13. Placebo effect

When simply believing that something will have a certain effect on you  causes it to have that effect. When it comes to medication, patients are given fake pills often experience the same physiological effects as people given the real thing.



14. Pro-innovation bias

When a proponent of an innovation tends to overvalue its usefulness and undervalue its limitations. While most companies fail to innovate largely due to lack of funds but the lack of understanding of your customer needs is a common factor as well.



15. Recency

The tendency to weigh the latest information more heavily than older data. For example, investors tend to think that the market will always look the way it looks today and make unwise decisions.



16. Salience

Our tendency to focus on the most easily recognisable features of a person or concept. For example, when you are thinking about resigning from your job, you might worry about adapting into your new job, as opposed to looking for a job vacancies.

17. Selective perception

Allowing our expectations to influence how we perceive the world. An experiment involving a badminton game between students from two high schools showed that one player saw the opposing player commit more infractions.



18. Stereotyping

Expecting a group or person to have certain qualities without having real information about the person. It allows us to quickly identify strangers as friends or adversaries, but people tend to overuse and abuse it.

19. Survivorship bias

An error that comes from focusing on surviving examples, causing us to misjudge a situation. For instance, we might think that being a freelancer is easy because we haven’t heard of people of the hardship of those who struggled. 



20. Zero-risk bias

Sociologists have discovered that we crave for certainty even if it’s counterproductive. Removing risk entirely indicate there is no chance of harm being caused. It often occurs in cases where decision makers address problems concerning health, safety, and the environment. For example, your employer opts to increase expenses for a single project at the expense of reducing expenses for other projects which could be detrimental to the company.


Which cognitive biases have you experienced before? Leave us your thoughts on the comment sections below. Head over to and unveil your next job opportunity.

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