What most people don’t know is that there are many types of bias that prevent us every single day from doing exactly that.
Psychologists continue to find new types of bias that cloud our judgment and prevent us from reaching the fairest, most accurate conclusions. For example, the overestimation bias has only recently been named and defined. That’s when you overestimate how much other people will enjoy or dislike something. With the overestimation bias, we know how we feel about various pros and cons, so we allow ourselves to have a nuanced perspective on something while assuming others will simply like or hate it more than us. ((Digest BPS: We Consistently Overestimate How Much Other People Will Enjoy Or Pay For Stuff))
For example, we overestimate how much someone else would like a tropical vacation because we know how we will feel about the mosquitos and the sunburn, but we don’t think about others having that same nuanced ambivalence. Or we overestimate how much someone would dislike drinking hot sauce from the bottle. Again, we can weigh the pros and cons for ourselves but not for others, so we tend to think people will dislike distasteful things more than we do.
The overestimation bias is just one of many types of bias, and there is an easy way to adjust our thinking to not fall prey to it — By knowing about the overestimation bias, we are better able to reach fairer, more accurate conclusions about how much or how little people will enjoy things.
Knowing about the bias will help you think more carefully the next time you buy someone a gift or determine the price others are willing to pay for something you’re selling. You’ll be better equipped to take a more nuanced view of how others will be thinking about that gift or product and, therefore, better equipped to compensate for the overestimation bias.
Let’s take a look at 9 other common types of bias and how you can be mindful of them and not let them cloud your judgment.
We tend to put more weight on the first piece of information we hear. Imagine you are selling your house. The first offer you receive is for $50,000 less than your asking price. The anchoring bias says that you will put more weight, give more importance, to this offer because it is the first.((Very Well Mind: How Anchoring Bias Psychology Affects Decision Making)) This first offer is more likely to change your mind about how much your house is worth than any future offer.
The anchoring bias often involves money and what we think things are worth, so it’s important to keep it in mind when making financial decisions. Know that the first piece of information you receive does not have any more importance than the fifth.
You can also get the upper hand in negotiations by establishing the first offer. Because of the anchoring bias, this will have a better chance of swaying how much the other person thinks what you’re buying or selling is worth.
The availability heuristic is a fancy way of saying that we overestimate the importance of whatever information we have easy access to.((The Decision Lab: Why we tend to think that things that happened recently are more likely to happen again)) We rely too much on examples that come to our minds quickly, instead of weighing all information equally.
Watching the news is one example of this type of bias. We see many more stories about violence and disaster, so we’re much more likely to think that the world is dangerous even though we could do some easy googling to see that the world is actually safer in many ways than it was decades ago.
Again, knowledge is power when dealing with the availability heuristic. Remind yourself that anecdotal evidence is not statistically relevant in decision-making. Your Aunt Sue winning the lottery in no way improves your odds of winning big.
When we’re talking about types of bias, the bandwagon effect is a fairly common one. We’re more likely to be swayed the more people around us think a certain way.((Mental Floss: 20 Cognitive Biases That Affect Your Decisions))
Think about serving on a jury. If in the initial vote, everyone says guilty except you, you’re much more likely to also think the defendant is guilty. The bandwagon effect looks a lot like peer pressure.
Stick to the facts. Know that people thinking a certain way doesn’t make them right, even if lots of people think that same way.
The confirmation bias may be the most common type of bias. It’s when people only listen to information that confirms what they already believe.
Social media is like confirmation bias heaven. Think about your Uncle Steve who loves Political Candidate A. He only watches news and shares posts about how great his candidate is. This creates an echo chamber where any information to the contrary is avoided.
Listen to the counterargument and seriously consider it. If you only watch Fox News, start checking out MSNBC. If you only read The New York Times, start reading The Wall Street Journal. The more we seriously consider other perspectives, the more likely we are to reach a better conclusion.
Learn more about this here: What Is Confirmation Bias in Psychology and What to Do About It
The Dunning-Kruger Effect explains why the more you know about something, the less confident you are in your expertise. On the other hand, the less you know, the more simplistic your understanding is. Therefore, you are more confident in your grasp of something.((Psychology Today: 12 Common Biases That Affect how we make Everyday Decisions))
If you find yourself being extremely confident about your expertise in something, take a step back and focus on what you don’t yet know or understand.
Aim for complexity. If something seems too simple, the problem is probably that you don’t yet know enough for it to be complex.
The fundamental attribution error is when you make contextual excuses for your own mistakes and failings but don’t do so for others.
The most famous example is bad driving. If we are swerving all over the road, we’re quick to take a nuanced view of our own driving. We know that we’re just having a bad morning or that we have a lot on our minds today.
However, when we see another so-called bad driver, the fundamental attribution error means we’re quick to blame their driving on the fact that they’re old or a woman or some other stereotype or generalization, even though the other driver’s situation is just as nuanced as our own.
Any time you stereotype someone based on their flaws, check yourself. You have probably fallen victim to the fundamental attribution error.
Tell yourself that they are probably having a bad day or that you simply don’t know what their situation is. If you’re allowed to be nuanced and complex, so should they.
In-group bias is similar to the fundamental attribution error, but instead of thinking we are better than others, we think members of our group are better than members of other groups. We have a more favorable view of the people in our group just because they are in our group.
Just like with the fundamental attribution error, you need to actively think about the nuance and complexity of people outside of your group if you want to compensate for your in-group bias.
The next bias is really two different types of bias. The optimism bias is when you are more likely to think things will turn out well when you’re in a good mood. Whereas, the pessimism bias is when you’re more likely to think things will turn out badly when you’re in a bad mood.
Become emotionally intelligent. If you want to compensate for these types of bias, know and understand what you’re currently feeling and save important decisions for when you’re in a more beige mood.
This bias explains why some people seem to only see what they want to see. Selective perception is all about our expectations affecting our perception.
For example, you might expect your friend to do well in their presentation because they’re your friend and you think they’re amazing. Selective perception is the reason you may not notice all your friend’s mistakes but notice all the other presenters’ errors.
Keep your expectations in check to avoid selective perception. You may even want to pretend you don’t have any expectations. To put it simply, be aware of all types of bias and try your best to keep an open mind about everything.
One final bias gives us the best remedy for combatting all other types of bias: the blindspot bias. The blindspot bias explains why people notice other people’s cognitive biases but fail to notice their own.
So the best solution for overcoming all types of bias is to take a long, hard look in the mirror. Educate yourself about types of bias and then do a thoughtful inventory about your own biases.
And if you don’t think you have any biases, keep looking in the mirror because that’s your blindspot bias talking. Just like the rest of us, you have biases. But being aware of them and introspective about the way they affect your decision-making is a good way to not let them have the final word.