45 Biases to Be Aware of to Become the Best Version of You
What distinguishes between rational and irrational thinking?
In a world that’s rapidly advancing, we encounter systematic errors in our thought process that affect the way we ascertain situations.
In the realm of self-improvement, understanding some of your unconscious biases helps you to become a better human who makes rational choices even during unprecedented times.
1. Sunk Cost Fallacy
We invest more in things that have cost us something instead of altering our investments. The same is true, even if we encounter negative outcomes.
Example: Sally clings on to a lacklustre relationship due to the investment of time, effort, and money, making her more prone to stay in the relationship even though she’s unhappy.
2. Status Quo Bias
We tend to prefer things to stay the same, keeping things the way they are, rather than taking a risk on unfamiliarity. Changes are considered to be a loss.
Example: Instead of placing money in investments that bear a degree of risk, John feels safer leaving his money in low-yield savings accounts.
We tend to view the future negatively and romanticise the past, believing that societies are by and large in decline.
Example: “Back in my days, we have more leisure time!”
4. Availability Cascade
It relates to our need for social acceptance. Collective beliefs are likely to gain plausibility through public repetition.
Example: A news story triggers a wave of public discussion regarding a topic such as climate change. This leads to more stories and conversations on that topic, in a way that eventually led to a call for legislation order to deal with it.
5. Gambler’s Fallacy
We think past events affect future possibilities.
Example: Josiah has lost nine coin tosses in a row, so he’s bound to win the next one.
We adopt generalised beliefs that members of a group have specific characteristics, despite not having much information about the individual.
Example: “The guy who wears flip flops to class is probably a lazy dude.”
7. Authority Bias
We tend to trust and be influenced by opinions of authority figures.
Example: “My parents said that lying is bad.”
8. Outgroup Homogeneity Bias
We perceive our in-group as more diverse and heterogeneous than an out-group sees us.
Example: Italians see themselves as quite diverse and distinct from each other, whereas Americans view Italians as more similar to one another.
9. Zero-Risk Bias
We prefer to reduce small risks to zero, even if alternative options produce a greater overall reduction in risk.
Example: “You should consider buying the warranty.”
10. Framing Effect
We tend to infer different conclusions from the same information, depending on the ways it’s presented.
Example: Alice says, “This milk contains 10% fat.” while Wayne says, “This milk is 90% fat-free.”
When making decisions, we rely heavily on pre-existing or the first piece of information presented to us.
Example: If you see a mug that costs $100, then see a second one that costs $20, you’re more prone to view the second mug as dirt cheap.
12. Automation Bias
We rely on automated systems, at times trusting too much in the automated correction of actually correct decisions.
Example: Grammarly auto-corrects “their” to “they’re”, so you presume it’s right.
13. Google Effect
We tend to forget information that can be easily looked up in search engines.
Example: “What are the seven colours in a rainbow? I remember googling it like ten times…”
14. Dunning-Kruger Effect
The less you know, the more confident you are, vice versa.
Example: President Donald Trump’s confidence never wavers, despite having a weak interest in and understanding of policy matters.
15. Forer Effect
We tend to attribute our personalities to vague statements, even if they apply to a wide range of people.
16. Backfire Effect
Your beliefs get stronger when your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence.
Example: You believe the government faked the evidence when it contradicts your conspiracy theory.
17. Third-Person Effect
We believe that others are more affected by mass media consumption than we are ourselves.
Example: “The media have influenced you.”
18. Belief Bias
We’re likely to accept a conclusion as accurate when it is plausible to us, instead of examining whether the conclusion is in fact, logically valid.
Example: “All birds can fly. Therefore, a pelican can fly.”
19. Confirmation Bias
We tend to seek information that confirms our perceptions.
Example: “Dandy hasn’t replied my texts since an hour ago, he must’ve not liked me.”
We do the opposite of what we’re told, especially when we perceive others are trying to constrain our freedom.
Example: “The teens are seen drinking in excess in places of prohibition.”
21. Placebo Effect
If we believe a treatment will work, it’ll have a small psychological effect.
Example: Placebos are given to convince patients into thinking that they’re getting the real treatment — “Catherine was given a placebo for her pain, and her pain has decreased.”
22. Survivorship Bias
We tend to focus on things that survived a process and overlook the ones that failed.
Example: “Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg, and Bill Gates dropped out of college and became millionaires, so will I.” (but ten others failed individuals also had the same mentality).
23. Law of Triviality
We avoid complex issues while giving more time and attention to trivial matters.
Example: The approval of plans for a nuclear power plant was settled in a matter of minutes, whereas the debate of choosing materials for the staff at a bike shed lasted over an hour.
24. Zeigarnik Effect
We remember incomplete tasks more than completed ones.
Example: Jack feels guilty for never being able to get anything done until he sees all the tasks he’s checked off his task list.
A trauma event, drug use, and physical exertion distort our perceptions of time.
Example: “I felt like I was in slow motion when the car almost hit me.”
26. IKEA Effect
We place a higher value on things we partially created ourselves.
Example: “This chair is the best. I built it myself!”
27. Ben Franklin Effect
We’re more likely to do another favour for someone if we’ve already done a favour for them, as compared to if we received a favour from that person.
Example: Lily loaned Greg an umbrella. When Greg asked to borrow a pen, Lily did it readily.
We — especially children — act or accept suggestions based on others’ inputs.
Example: You’re likely to yawn after seeing multiple people yawning.
29. False Memory
We mistake imagination for real memories.
Example: You believed your mom grounded you for not tidying your room when you were 14, but in reality, your mom told you it was because you were always disrespectful to her.
30. Bystander Effect
The more other people are around, the less likely we’re going to help a victim.
Example: “No one called an ambulance even though people were crowding around a man who got injured from a fight.”
31. Clustering Illusion
We see a trend in random events that occur in clusters, which in reality are just random events.
Example: An investor who observed the stock market went up, down, up, and down. Therefore, he’s likely to believe that a trend could be found when, in fact, there was none.
32. Optimism Bias
Sometimes, we get over-optimistic about good outcomes.
Example: “Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll seal the deal!”
33. Pessimism Bias
Sometimes, we overestimate the likelihood of bad outcomes.
Example: “My presentation is going to turn out badly.”
34. Blind Spot Bias
We see others having more bias than we do ourselves.
Example: “I’m not biased.”
We mistake real imagination for real memories.
Example: James thinks he was admitted into a hospital, but it was just a dream.
36. Defensive Attribution
We blame the attacker more and the victim less if we relate to the victim — or ourselves.
Example: We might blame a highway accident on the other driver instead of ourselves.
37. Just-World Hypothesis
We tend to believe the world is just. Hence, acts of injustice deserve consequences.
Example: “Ray’s bike was stolen because he was mean to Jennifer about her make-up. He deserved bad karma.”
38. Naïve Cynicism
We believe that others are biased in the direction of their self-interest while thinking that our opinions and beliefs are objective.
Example: “George is so nice to me, he must be trying to get something out of me.”
39. Naïve Realism
We believe we see the world around us objectively and that people who disagree with us are irrational, biased, or uninformed.
Example: “I see the world as it is — other people are dumb.”
40. Availability Heuristic
We make judgements on immediate examples or cues that come to mind.
Example: When trying to decide what you should eat for lunch, you consume the food you most recently saw an ad for.
Our desire for conformity and harmony in the group cause us to make irrational decisions — often to minimise conflicts.
Example: Engineers knew there were some faulty parts in the space shuttle weeks before takeoff, but they didn’t rectify the problem because they wanted to avoid any negative press.
42. Bandwagon Effect
Ideas and beliefs grow when more people adopt them.
Example: Harry believes that a tooth fairy will exchange a quarter for his tooth. John does, too.
43. In-Group Favouritism
We favour people who are in our in-group as opposed to an out-group.
Example: The lunch table near the entrance is only for the athletes.
44. Self-Serving Bias
We attribute responsibility to our successes while we view our failures as situational.
Example: “I won the writing competition because I worked hard for it, not because of luck. Meanwhile, Jane probably came last in place because she hasn’t gotten enough sleep.”
45. Fundamental Attribution Error
We judge others based on their personality, but we judge ourselves on the situation.
Example: “Tom was late for the meeting because he’s lazy. I’m late because I had a bad morning.”
Thank you for reading!