12 January 2013


Irrationality ~ "an action or opinion given through emotional distress, inadequate use of reason, or cognitive deficiency."

We have an experiential and intuitive understanding of emotional distress.  As for the other two, George Dvorsky in The 12 cognitive biases that prevent you from being rational suggests that "it's important to distinguish between cognitive biases and logical fallacies [inadequate use of reason].  A logical fallacy is an error in logical argument (e.g., ad hominem attacks, slippery slopes, circular arguments, appeal to force, etc.).  A cognitive bias, on the other hand, is a genuine deficiency or limitation in our thinking ~ a flaw in judgment that arises from errors of memory, social attribution, and miscalculations (such as statistical errors or a false sense of probability)."

Here are some important cognitive biases to keep in mind ~

  • Confirmation bias ~ the often unconscious act of preferring those perspectives which affirm our pre-existing views.
  • Ingroup bias ~ overestimating the abilities and values of our immediate group at the expense of people we don't know.
  • Gambler's fallacy ~ putting undue weight on previous events, believing that they'll somehow influence future outcomes.
  • Post-purchase rationalization ~ subconsciously justifying the purchase of something totally unnecessary, faulty, or overly expensive.
  • Neglecting probability ~ our inability to grasp a proper sense of risk or peril.
  • Observational selection bias ~ the effect of suddenly noticing things we didn't notice before, and wrongly assuming the frequency has increased.
  • Status quo bias ~ a conservative tendency to stick to our routines, assuming another choice will be inferior.
  • Negativity bias ~ paying more attention to, or giving more credibility to, bad news over good news.
  • Bandwagon effect ~ going with the flow of the crowd without critical questioning, in order to fit in or conform.
  • Projection bias ~ ascribing to others our own attributes, thoughts, or emotions ~ or assuming that others share our assumptions and opinions.
  • The current moment bias ~ our difficulty in altering our behaviors and expectations to better our future lives.
  • Anchoring effect ~ our tendency to compare and contrast only a limited number of items.
Dvorsky notes that over 100 cognitive biases have been identified.  Browsing through them is an education in the varieties of self-delusion.

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