Decision Bias

Posted on May 15 2009

Cognitive and personal decision biascreep into decision making. Bias call into question the correctness of a decision. Below is a list of some of the more common cognitive decision biases.

— A selective search for evidence – We tend to be willing to gather facts that support certain conclusions but disregard other facts that support different conclusions.

— Premature termination of search for evidence – We tend to accept the first alternative that looks like it might work or that matches our decision bias.

— Conservatism and inertia – Unwillingness to change thought patterns that we have used in the past in the face of new circumstances. (also see tradition)

–Experiential limitations – Unwillingness or inability to look beyond the scope of our past experiences; rejection of the unfamiliar; sticking to our decision bias.

–Selective perception – We actively screen-out information that we do not think is salient. (also see prejudice)

–Wishful thinking or optimism – We tend to want to see things in a positive light and this can distort our perception and thinking.

— Recency – We tend to place more attention on more recent information and either ignore or forget more distant information. (also see semantic priming

— Repetition bias – A willingness to believe what we have been told most often and by the greatest number of different of sources.

— Anchoring and adjustment – Decisions are unduly influenced by initial information that shapes our view of subsequent information.

— Group think – Peer pressure to conform to the opinions held by the group.

— Source credibility bias – We reject something if we have a bias against the person, organization, or group to which the person belongs: We are inclined to accept a statement by someone we like. (also see prejudice)

— Incremental decision making and escalating commitment – We look at a decision as a small step in a process and this tends to perpetuate a series of similar decisions. This can be contrasted with zero-based decision making. (also see slippery slope)

–Inconsistency – The unwillingness to apply the same decision criteria in similar situations.

— Attribution asymmetry – We tend to attribute our success to our abilities and talents, but we attribute our failures to bad luck and external factors. We attribute other’s success to good luck, and their failures to their mistakes.

— Role fulfillment – We conform to the decision making expectations that others have of someone in our position.

— Underestimating uncertainty and the illusion of control – We tend to underestimate future uncertainty because we tend to believe we have more control over events than we really do. We believe we have control to minimize potential problems in our decisions.

— Faulty generalizations – In order to simplify an extremely complex world, we tend to group things and people. These simplifying generalizations can bias decision making processes.

— Ascription of causality – We tend to ascribe causation even when the evidence only suggests correlation. Just because birds fly to the equatorial regions when the trees lose their leaves, does not mean that the birds migrate because the trees lose their leaves.

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