There’s this guy named Sid who wrote about cognitive biases over on Medium. Sid got me thinking about all the ways we make decisions based on wrong assumptions or biases.
He lays out ten, right?
And I just wanted to talk about the first two this week and maybe make this a series.
Well, because as Sid says, “Being aware of our cognitive biases helps to recognize their power in shaping our thoughts, opinions, attitudes and the decisions we make. Let’s check out these effects by analyzing ten cognitive biases that shape our world today.”
So, those first two are:
The Availability Heuristic
The Affect Heuristic.
Let’s start with the first one.
The availability heuristic
According to the Decision Lab, the availability heuristic is a bias that “describes our tendency to use information that comes to mind quickly and easily when making decisions about the future.”
It’s basically memorable moments that are made influence our decisions in ways that they shouldn’t.
The decision lab has a great example.
“Imagine you are considering either John or Jane, two employees at your company, for a promotion. Both have a steady employment record, though Jane has been the highest performer in her department during her tenure. However, in Jane’s first year, she unwittingly deleted a company project when her computer crashed. The vivid memory of having lost that project likely weighs more heavily on the decision to promote Jane than it should. This is due to the availability heuristic, which suggests that singular memorable moments have an outsized influence on decisions.”
And this sucks because bad memories are easier to remember than good ones. And that means we aren’t making our decisions logically.
This happens because our brains need shortcuts. We like shortcuts because it’s less energy. So we recall the strongest facts, the most biggest memories.
The first step to avoid this bias is to know it exists, right, and maybe have a baby pause before we make our decision and think about why we’re making it.
The Affect Heuristic
“The affect heuristic is a type of mental shortcut in which people make decisions that are heavily influenced by their current emotions.1 Essentially, your affect (a psychological term for emotional response) plays a critical role in the choices and decisions you make.”
It’s another shortcut. And it’s about how good or bad something or someone feels.
They give this example:
“Imagine a situation in which two children arrive at a local park to play. One child has spent a lot of time playing on swings at a neighbor’s house, so he has nothing but positive feelings when he sees the swing set at the park. He immediately makes the decision that the swings will be fun (high benefit, low risk) and runs to play on the swings.
“The other child, however, recently had a negative experience while playing on the swings at a friend’s house. When he sees the swings at the park, he draws on this recent negative memory and decides that the swings are a bad choice (low benefit, high risk).”
Basically, we aren’t relying on facts to make choices; we’re relying on emotions. Politicians and retailers know this and use fear to influence decisions because fear is a really strong emotion.
Jerks, but clever jerks.
DOG TIP FOR LIFE
Don’t just always make automatic decisions. Pause. Sniff. Figure out where those decisions are coming from.
RANDOM THOUGHTS ABOUT PYTHAGORAS
The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License.
Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song? It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.
AND we have a writing tips podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW!
We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.
Carrie is reading one of her poems every week on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!