2 Steps to Combating Cognitive Biases

There are problems hiding in our thinking patterns, or our cognitive processes.  Theses biases are not easy to spot. Further, we rarely look for them. Worse yet, most people do not realize they exist. But they are there and they have a negative impact our decisions.

Cognitive Biases

Cognitive biases are mistakes in reasoning, remembering or other cognitive process. They often occur as a result of holding onto preferences and beliefs without considering additional or new information. Biases frequently represent easy paths to a decision. They are easy because they allow us to avoid the effort of true cognitive processing.
The first step to combating cognitive biases is to be able to identify them. An article on the Business Insider website, “20 Cognitive Biases that Screw Up Your Decisions,” included a helpful list of some cognitive biases. These are a good representative sample of the biases that can plague our decision making.

20 Cognitive Biases
From ’20 cognitive biases that screw up your decisions,” Business Insider, August 26, 2015

Cognitive Biases and Intelligent Communication

We discuss cognitive biases as part of the Intelligent Communication approach.  There are a few that we focus on, as they are particularly common and problematic.  The first of these is what we call the Primacy Effect. The chart above refers to it as the Anchoring Bias. This is a dangerous bias, since it often leads to additional biases, such as Confirmation Bias (or Belief Perseverance) and Selective Perception.
Another common bias not referred to above is the Fundamental Attribution Error. This bias describes our tendency to attribute others’ behavior to their personality, while attributing our own behavior to the situation. This bias may lead us to label others as jerks if they cut us off in traffic. But if we do the same, it is because we are in a hurry.

Two Steps to Combat Biases

Think and Feel Steps

In the thinking step, we learn to develop competing hypotheses concerning the meaning of any information we receive. This includes the words and behaviors of others. Cognitive biases will lead us to a single hypothesis. Taking the time to develop additional hypotheses opens our mind to alternatives. This process often quickly unmasks the bias that led to our initial hypothesis.The Smart Talk model includes two steps that help us identify cognitive biases in our communication and relationships.  These two steps are part of the Think and Feel process. They are the two steps the process is named after: thinking and feeling.
The feeling step is another weapon against bias. In the feeling step, we engage our empathy to view information and/or situations from others’ perspectives.  This is particularly effective against the fundamental attribution error. When we put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, we can begin to see how situation impacts them as well as ourselves.

Try It Out

Give it a try. Go back over the 20 cognitive biases listed above.  See for yourself how applying the thinking and feeling steps of the Smart Talk model could help you combat them. If you need more information on the think and feel steps of the Smart Talk model, add a comment below or send me an email.
Good luck as you go to war against cognitive biases.
Be swift to hear and slow to speak.

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