A cognitive bias is an inherent thinking ‘blind spot’ that reduces thinking accuracy and results inaccurate–and often irrational–conclusions.
Much like logical fallacies, cognitive biases can be viewed either as causes or effects but can generally be reduced to broken thinking. Not all ‘broken thinking,’ blind spots, and failures of thought are labeled, of course. But some are so common that they are given names–and once named, they’re easier to identify, emphasize, analyze, and ultimately avoid.
And that’s where this list comes in.
Cognitive Bias –> Confirmation Bias
For example, consider confirmation bias.
In What Is Confirmation Bias? we looked at this very common thinking mistake: the tendency to overvalue data and observation that fits with our existing beliefs.
The pattern is to form a theory (often based on emotion) supported with insufficient data, and then to restrict critical thinking and ongoing analysis, which is, of course, irrational. Instead, you look for data that fits your theory.
While it seems obvious enough to avoid, confirmation bias is particularly sinister cognitive bias, affecting not just intellectual debates, but relationships, personal finances, and even your physical and mental health. Racism and sexism, for example, can both be deepened by confirmation bias. If you have an opinion on gender roles, it can be tempting to look for ‘data’ from your daily life that reinforces your opinion on those roles.
This is, of course, all much more complex than the above thumbnail. The larger point, however, is that a failure of rational and critical thinking is not just ‘wrong’ but erosive and even toxic not just in academia, but at every level of society.
The Cognitive Bias Codex: A Visual Of 180+ Cognitive Biases
And that’s why a graphic like this is so extraordinary. In a single image, we have delineated dozens and dozens of these ‘bad cognitive patterns’ that, as a visual, underscores how commonly our thinking fails us–and a result, where we might begin to improve. Why and how to accomplish this is in a modern circumstance is at the core of TeachThought’s mission.
The graphic is structure as a circle with four quadrants categorizing the cognitive biases into four categories:
1. Too Much Information
2. Not Enough Meaning
3. Need To Act Fast
4. What Should We Remember?
We’ve listed each fallacy below moving clockwise from ‘Too Much Information’ to ‘What Should We Remember?’ Obviously, this list isn’t exhaustive–and there are even subjectivities and cultural biases embedded within (down to some of the biases themselves–the ‘IKEA effect,’ for example). The premise, though, remains intact: What are our most common failures of rational and critical thinking, and how can we avoid them in pursuit of academic and sociocultural progress?
So take a look and let me know what you think. There’s even an updated version of this graphic with all of the definitions for each of the biases–which I personally love, but is difficult to read. You can find it at the bottom of this post.
Too Much Information
We notice things already primed in memory or repeated often
Illusory truth effect
Mere exposure effect
Mood-congruent memory bias
Base rate fallacy
Bizarre, funny, visually-striking, or anthropomorphic things stick out more than non-bizarre/unfunny things
Humor effect Von Restorff effect
Picture superiority effect
We notice when something has changed
We are drawn to details that confirm our own existing beliefs
Continued influence effect
We notice flaws in others more easily than we notice flaws in ourselves
Bias blind spot
Not Enough Meaning
We tend to find stories and data when looking at sparse data
Insensitivity to sample size
Neglect of Probability
Illusion of validity
Masked man fallacy
We fill in characteristics from stereotypes, generalities, and prior histories
Group attribution error
Ultimate attribution error
Moral credential effect
argument from fallacy
We imagine things and people we’re familiar with or fond of as better
Out-group homogeneity bias
Not invented here
Well-traveled road effect
We simplify probabilities and numbers to make them easier to think about
Appeal to probability fallacy
Magic number 7+-2
We think we know what other people are thinking
Illusion of transparency
Curse of knowledge
Extrinsic incentive error
Illusion of external agency
Illusion of asymmetric insight
We project our current mindset and assumptions onto the past and future
Need To Act Fast
We favor simple-looking options and complete information over complex, ambiguous options
Law of Triviality
Rhyme as reason effect
Status quo bias
To avoid mistakes, we aim to preserve autonomy and group status and avoid irreversible decisions
Social comparison bias
To get things done, we tend to complete things we’ve invested time & energy in
Processing difficulty effect
Escalation of commitment
Sunk cost fallacy
Identifiable victim effect
To stay focused, we favor the immediate, relatable thing in front of us
Appeal to novelty
To act, we must be confident we can make an impact and feel what we do is important
Trait ascription bias
Defensive attribution hypothesis
Fundamental attribution error
Illusion of control
Lake Wobegone effect
False consensus effect
Social desirability bias
What Should We Remember?
We store memories differently based on how they are experienced
Tip of the tongue phenomenon
Levels of processing effect
We reduce events and lists to their key elements
Serial position effect
Part-list cueing effect
Serial recall effect
leveling and sharpening
We discard specifics to form generalities
Fading affect bias
We edit and reinforce some memories after the fact
Misattribution of memory