42 Types of Decision Making Cognitive Biases That Affect Your Life


One of the things that we often tend to ignore in our behavior is the profound existence of Cognitive Bias. There are a number of mistakes our mind unconsciously makes which act as an obstacle in our understanding or relating ourselves with others.

Eradicating the exposure of the brain to dodge the certain events of everyday life might not be completely possible, but it is important for us to identify and acknowledge its presence and to be aware of its impact on our basic analysis. This is particularly important for people who are thought leaders and want to improve upon their leadership skills.

What is cognitive bias?

The modern concept of cognitive biases was first introduced by two psychologist Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in 1972.

Our brain often tends to perceive information based on our personal experiences and preferences. This information transpires with our decision making and judgment of certain instances. The limitation in objective thinking is known as Cognitive Bias.

The mental shortcut that enables people to make judgments quickly and efficientlyis called heuristics.

Types of decision making cognitive biases.

There are a number of cognitive biases identified through research on human judgment and decision making over the past few decades. Some of them are very common.

1. Confirmation bias.

The tendency to jump to conclusions in a spontaneous manner causes the occurrence of confirmation bias. It can also come to effect when there is a direct influence of desire on beliefs.

When people try to elude themselves from the truth and believe in a certain idea or concept to be true based on their likes and dislikes, they tend to overlook the facts and rely on their own opinions. This error is motivated by wishful thinking.

It compels the brain to stop gathering information and resolvesa certain problem based on their personal views and affirmation. Subsequently, lead to denial of truth. Raymond S. Nickerson from Tuft University suggests confirmation bias as, “The term is typically used in the psychological literature, connotes the seeking or interpreting of evidence in ways that are partial to existing beliefs, expectations, or a hypothesis in hand.”

Example: For instance, if a person holds a belief that left-handed people are more creative than right handed people, when they run into someone who supports their belief (being both left-handed and creative) They place greater importance of this indication that supports what they already believe to be true.

2. Anchoring bias.

The word “anchor” is used here. This implicatesthe instance when people often tend to rely too heavily on one specific trait or piece of information.

They end up driving conclusions based on that. In this situation, a person is bound to adjust to the value of that piece of information or trait to justify for other elements of the circumstance.

Example: If you walk into a shop and you see a bag that costs $80 and another one that is on discount for $65. You’d be inclined to believe that the latter is in fact a good bargain based on the anchor effect.

3. Availability heuristic.

This is one of the most common mental shortcuts. It implicates being dependent on information that comes to mind quickly. This is known as availability.

Sometimes people may subconsciously base their decisions to a series of events or instances that are relevant to their situation. As a result, they give greater credence to the information at hand. This leads to judging or overestimating the probability of similar events happening in the given situation.

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Example: An example of such an instance is when we’re comparing the jobs of a police officer and a logger. The first thing that comes to mind about a job that would involve guns and similar weapons is that it’s a dangerous profession.

This hints us to believe that the former would be a riskier job. While statistics show that a logger is more likely to die on job rather than a cop.

4. Bandwagon effect.

This is a psychological phenomenon in which people are likely to mold their behavioral implications primarily based on what others are doing. They end up with less or no regard to their personal beliefs.

In such instances, they tend to adapt to their surroundings and find themselves “hopping on the bandwagon”. Subsequently, this affects a larger group of people at the same time causing impact and influence on individuals to behave a certain way due to the pressure and norms exerted upon them.

Example: As more and more people begin listening to a certain singer or a band, chances are that the number of individuals who would opt to listen to those artists would increase.

5. Conservatism bias.

In Cognitive Psychology, conservatism bias is a mental process in which people tend to cling to their former views and beliefs. This happens at the expense of admitting new information.

It causes individuals to overweight their opinions and to under react to basic facts or sample evidence. As a result, the individual fails to react as a normal rational person. This mental process is also meticulously referred to as an extension of the Anchoring Bias.

Example: In ancient time’s people who believed that the Earth was flat were adamant and comparatively slow when they had to accept that the Earth was in fact round.

6. Framing effect.

This is a Cognitive bias in which the brain tends to make decisions about certain information based on how it was presented to them. It is often used in marketing to influence decision making and purchases.

It’s the mere tendency of people to view the same information and react in different ways and justify the end results either in a positive frame or a negative frame.

Example: There are many prominent examples of the framing effect; For instance, you’d rather opt for an 80% ground beef and avoid buying 20% fat ground beef.

You’d know they’re both the same but your mind would compel you to go for the first one.

7. Clustering illusion.

Clustering illusion is a cognitive bias which is a tendency of the human mind to expect random and inapt events to be inevitably regular or uniformed they really are. This results in the belief and assumption that cluster in a data cannot be caused by chance alone.

Example:A common example for clustering illusion is the night sky filled with stars that are randomly scattered on the horizon.

8. Conformity.

This is the tendency to conform to other people. It is so powerful that it may lead people to do ridiculous things just because they feel compelled to mimic something the other person is doing.It helps them feel comfortable, even regarding ethical manners.

Just like the Bandwagon effect, it causes people to join the herd rather than making a mark of their own.

Example:  Politicians often mimic each other during their election campaign.

9. Empathy gap.

This happens when people in a certain state of mind refuse to understand anyone from a different state of mind.

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It generally makes it difficult for people to account for the manner in which differences in mental states alter the capability for others to make decisions.

Example: A common example is that of the seasons. During summers, when the temperatures are rising to incontrollable heights, you might wonder how ideal it would be in the winters. And you experience similar temptations about the opposing season in winters.

10. Fundamental attribution error.

Fundamental Attribution Error is the tendency to over-empathize personal uniqueness. It also leads to ignoring situational factors when it comes to judging others.

 As a result, people tend to believe that others do bad things because they are in fact bad people. We are inclined to ignore situational factors that might have played a role. There is an interesting case study that elaborates further on the subject.

Example: If someone cuts us off while driving, our first thought might be “What a jerk!” Instead of considering the possibility that the driver may be rushing someone to the hospital.

11. Negative bias.

This is the tendency to believe and rely on more negative than positive attributes. It leads people to think that things around them are getting worse and worse.

Their understanding of negativity in their surroundings gets amplified.

Example: For instance, the level of crimes, violence, war or other discriminations has considerably decreased as compared to the past, but people with negative bias believe that the circumstances are only getting worse.

12. Overconfidence effect.

In this case, people are seen with the tendency to overestimate their personal abilities and feel superior to others. They take no notice of others’ performances and only rely on their own skillfulness.

This type of mental malfunction makes people intensely narcissistic. According to the psychology of judgment and decision making, Plous (1993), it is also considered one of the most pervasive and potentially catastrophic among the cognitive bias.

Example:For instance, in a classroom, some of the students who are very bright and talented often tend to be overconfident during the exams. This way, they end up with less preparation which eventually leads to a bad result.

13. Dunning-Kruger effect.

This is the lack of assessment of people for their own level of competence or incompetence which occurs when they overestimate their knowledge. It often comes at the expense of their ability to analyze their performance due to their low level of competence.

As specified by Dunning, If you are incompetent, you cannot know you are incompetent. The skills needed to produce the right answer are exactly the skills needed to recognize what the right answer is.

Example: An example of this bias can be seen among the politicians who often overvalue their abilities to run the country in a highly conventional manner while they aren’t capable of delivering much of what they presume.

 14. Loss-aversion bias.

This is the tendency to stick to the decisions people make rather than taking risks to achieve more. It happens due to the fear of losing what they already have and wishing to see it implemented.

They tend to be more emotionally attached and give more value to something they’ve invested their time, effort or energy in it.

Example: It is better not to lose $1000 than to gain $1000. The fear of taking a risk involved makes people adamant to avert themselves from their initial decisions.

15. Authority bias.

The tendency to base one’s decisions and attributes on the opinion of one authority figure is known as authority bias. The occurrence of this bias makes people believe that whatever that person is doing is to be followed even if it proves to be wrong.

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They tend to put their own personal opinions on hold. This causes hindrance in their ideas and conclusions subsequently leading them to make wrong decisions.

Example: An example of such an instance would be that of children in their growing years, how they follow their parents’ actions and attributes even when they are in the wrong sometimes.

16. False causality bias.

This bias, also known as illusory correlation, occurs when people mistakenly connect two distinct opinions in a cause and effect relationship based on proximity in time or other shared elements.

They believe that because one event follows another, the first event caused the second.  As a result, they end up with the lack of logic and an absurd conclusion.

Example: When someone shuts the door and co-incidentally, there’s a clap of thunder at the same time the door was closed, it might influence one to believe that they have cause it.

17. Action bias.

Sometimes people prefer doing anything instead of nothing, even when it doesn’t prove to be beneficial for them in the longer run. Their natural instinct to get into action is what causes this bias.

It comes so naturally that they often tend to ignore its existence, but the fact is that it can cause trouble with finances.

Example: A common example of this would be how people prefer taking a longer route to avoid a stop sign rather than just waiting for it to go green. They end up burning more petrol just for the sake of being in action.

18. Self-serving bias.

Often times, people tend to attribute positive events to their own character and negative events to external factors. This bias that raises one’s self-esteem is known as the self-serving bias.

Similarly, they believe that their successes were based on their personal characteristics while their failures are the factors beyond one’s control. Personalizing one’s success, in a way, helps their self-esteem rise. 

Example:When someone is suffering from depression, this bias flips causes them to feel the effects of the invert self-serving bias. They attribute negative events to something they did and positive events to luck or any other external factors.

19. Ambiguity bias.

This is a cognitive bias where people base their decisions on options with higher probability of required outcomes, over that for which the probability is unknown. This occurs even if both options have the same expected value.

The fear of taking risks and lack of information causes for this to take place. Because of ambiguity bias, when trying to influence anyone for a certain decision, it is advantageous to (at least appear to) show as much clarity as possible.

Example:For instance if a customer is considering to buy 3 different cars, they would cut down the ones from the list that they can’t find information to.

20. Strategic misrepresentation.

The instance of knowingly accepting the costs and exaggerating the benefits for a certain purchase or decision is known as the strategic misrepresentation bias. It is a form of fact-lying when trying planning and budgeting.

Example: Misrepresentation of weight is more strongly predicted based on the gender than by other factors.

21. Projection bias.

In this bias, people overestimate the degree of which other people agree with them. They think that other people feel, behave and believe what they do. They assume that their way of thinking about something or doing things is typical, and therefor other normal people will respond in a very similar manner.

Example: If you’re following someone’s weight loss regime and believe strongly that it’s accurate; you might end up thinking that t would have the same impact on everyone else as it did on you.

Further to aforementioned biases, we have compiled an easy to understand image that contains 42 known types of decision making cognitive biases. Please note this list is a work in progress.

Decision Making Cognitive Biases

Final Thoughts.

These Cognitive biases mentioned above are common and usually influence our thought process and ultimately, decision making. We can’t simply eradicate these inevitable biases and we certainly don’t have the time to evaluate every thought to acknowledge the presence of them. Nonetheless learning about these cognitive biases helps us realize how we’ve made poor decisions in life.