The 20 Most Common Cognitive Biases

In laymen’s terms, a cognitive bias is a shortcut taken by your brain that leads to illogical conclusions. Cognitive biases arose in the brains of our ancestors, whose environment placed a premium on quick decisions at the cost of accuracy. Today, these biases can still benefit us in certain contexts (e.g. athletic competitions or life and death situations), but can really hurt us in arenas governed by rationality (e.g., one’s career or investment decisions).

Luckily, 20% of cognitive biases are responsible for 80% of our illogical decisions. Capitalizing on this statistical advantage allows one to thoroughly identify and avoid the vast majority of their cognitive biases. A very helpful article published by Business Insider makes this process seamless by illustrating the 20 most common cognitive biases in infographic form, including:

  1. Anchoring Bias (the bias that gives the first number thrown out in a negotiation disproportionate weight)
  2. Availability Bias (you know a dishonest lawyer, and suddenly dishonesty becomes a trait common to all lawyers)
  3. Confirmation Bias (you sometimes hear only what confirms your preconceptions about a certain subject)
  4. Ostrich Effect (the decision to ignore unfavorable information, e.g., research suggests that investors check the value of their holdings less frequently during bad markets)
  5. Zero-risk Bias (your tendency to do things that are not optimally effective because of your comfort with the certainty of a familiar outcome)

So take a few minutes and review the infographic, identify your biases, and avoid them. Your path to maximizing the efficiency and accuracy of your decisions can begin today!

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