We think we make our decisions because we logically thought of something, gave both sides of an argument their fair due, and then made a level-headed choice that most of planet earth would deem sound.
In reality, our decisions end up wherever the tempest that is our over-hungry, under-rested, status-needing, short-sighted, maniacal subconscious has thrown our dinghy.
And that’s terrifying to realize. What’s more terrifying is that every disturbingly petty or illogical tendency we embody has a name and people have researched it for years.
But instead of linking to a bunch of scientific jargon that you won’t read and only makes me look smarter than I am, I decided to dumb down 46 irrational tendencies (or:cognitive biases) in words we can all understand and imagine someone using.
Enjoy our collective insanity!
Ambiguity Effect – If I don’t know the outcome of this project beforehand, why should I even try?
Guy 1: How much for this random trinket, whose value I don’t know, but no way in hell would I pay more than $5 for it in a store?
Guy 1: Hmm, seems a lot. I’ll give you $40 for it.
Guy: SCORE! I just got this thing for 20% off!
Availability Heuristic – If I can’t stop thinking of that completely arbitrary and random plane crash that happened in Algeria last week, the next flight I’m on is going to crash!
Bandwagon Effect – Who won the Super Bowl? Oh that’s right. They’re actually my favorite team.
Belief Bias – Well that seems stupid because I don’t believe it.
Bias Blind Spot – I’m not as biased as those idiots over there whom I’ve never met and barely know anything about.
Choice-Supportive Bias – As far as I can remember, I’ve never really made any bad decisions. Even investing my money in Enron because I liked Ken Lay’s voice wasn’t really a “bad” decision, per se. I mean, this leaky trailer I’m living in right now is pretty sweet, actually.
Clustering Illusion – Double-zero is bound to come up on this wheel because it just came up on that wheel and that wheel over there! Quick, give me $500.
Confirmation Bias – Yeah, she said she loves me…well not directly, but by reading into her vague and ambiguous actions, I can tell she’s in love with me.
Contrast Effect – You know, after drinking that curdling, sour milk, this blue cheese isn’t that bad!
Curse of Knowledge – I just can’t listen to uneducated people give their opinions on things anymore. I’ll catch you guys later.
Decoy Effect – Hmm chicken sandwich or sushi? Chicken sandwich or sushi? Well, that burger looks like crap so I’ll obviously get the sushi.
Denomination Effect – I’ll give you five $20 bills because it’s emotionally way less painful than this $100 bill.
Endowment Effect – That random rock right over there? That’s not worth a penny. But this rock I just picked up two seconds ago that is identical to it in every way will cost you a dollar because this rock is MINNNE.
Expectation Bias – I cured cancer! Yes the cancer is dead, sir, but so is the patient. Guys, don’t get caught up in the menusha. I cured CANCER!
Forer Effect – My horoscope is so right! It says that I will find joy today and I did! This ice cream is delicious. Thank you horoscope for being so accurate.
Fundamental Attribution Error – That guy tripped because he’s a klutz. I tripped because there was a lip in the sidewalk.
Gambler’s Fallacy – I’ve gotten shot down five times in a row by random girls. So the odds of this random girl giving me her number has to be at like 90% then, right?
Group Attribution Error – All Republicans are creationists and all Democrats are communists.
Halo Effect – That candidate is really handsome. I’m sure he’d be a great on foreign policy and budget control which are really important to me. He’s got my vote!
Identifiable Victim Effect – Awwwwww, look at that poor kid who’s hungry. His name is Joseph Berkman. It’s so sad, isn’t it? Hold on, I’m gonna call this 1-800 # and donate money so he can get a cup of soup …. 10,000 people starving due to a flood? Whaddya gonna do? Shit happens. Ok, let’s go. We’re late for the movies.
Illusion Of Control – I said all my prayers so nothing bad is going to happen now.
Illusion Of Validity – See! I told you! There’s now another cloud over there. It’s obviously going to snow tonight.
Illusory Correlation – I ate a bagel yesterday and the Yankees won. The same thing happened today. Therefore, when I eat a bagel, the Yankees win.
Impact Bias – If don’t get this entry-level job at this company I happen to like for no real reasons other than they seem cool, my life is over and I’ll never be happy!
Informational Bias – I’m pretty sure I know what I have to do, but let me spend more hours on the internet searching for extra information I don’t need.
Irrational Escalation – I’m going to keep borrowing from this loan shark even though my rent-an-underwear idea has been an utter failure up to this point. I know it’s going to turn around for me soon though. It’s just a matter of time.
Just-World Hypothesis – Yes I know the whole village was raped and murdered but I’m sure they did something in a previous life to deserve it. Everything happens for a reason.
Moral Credential Effect – Guys, you know me. I love black people. I had a black friend growing up and had I lived back in the 1960’s, I would have fought for the Civil Rights movement right next to MLK. But today on the train this black guy…
Negativity Bias – We raised $10 million, I met the President and Emily Ratakowski wants to date me but the event was a complete disaster because we ran out of cocktail napkins towards the end!
Neglect Of Probability – There is no possible way this marriage will ever fail. I can guarantee that!
Normalcy Bias – I have never experienced a wildfire before so, no Mr. Firefighter, I won’t evacuate my house, thank you very much. I’m sure we’ll be fine.
Observer-Expectancy Effect – What’s your honest opinion of that low-life, blood-sucking scumbag, Craig? I’d throw him out of a window if I could and I can’t understand anyone who respects him but seriously, as your boss who’s in charge of your upward mobility at this company, I’d love to hear your un-biased opinion about him.
Omission Bias – That guy who beat up that woman is a horrible person. We 50 people who watched it happen but didn’t do or say anything to stop it are stellar individuals because we weren’t the ones who beat someone up.
Ostrich Effect – So what if those shady paramilitaries took our passports? It’s not a big deal. I’m sure we can just cross the border illegally.
Outcome Bias – See, driving drunk wasn’t the wrong decision because I got home safely!
Overconfidence Effect – I’m 99% certain of my answer, which statistically happens to be wrong 40% of the time. But so what?! I’m REALLY certain this time! Trust me.
Planning Fallacy – Oh yeah, this should only take me maximum 4 hours to complete. 16 hours later…
Post-Purchase Rationalization – How else am I supposed to watch TV if I don’t have a 96”, HD 3-D TV with Audi seats and a Rhino-tusk ottoman? I’m not a Neanderthal.
Reactive Devaluation – That is a great idea. Who’s idea was that? It was Mike’s. Oh then fuck it. We’re not doing it. I hate Mike.
Rhyme As Reason Effect – If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit…because it rhymes.
Self Serving Bias – Oh, this project that did really well? Yeah I was integral in that. I provided a bunch of reports and moral support. Oh, that other project that failed that has me listed as the project manager? Yeah I wasn’t involved in that at all really.
Semmelweis Reflex – Wait. You have proof that my husband cheated on me? Throw it out then because my husband would never cheat on me.
Shared Information Bias – Hey guys, I know we have a 1-hour meeting to bring everyone up to speed on new business but instead, let’s spend 2 hours talking aboutHouse of Cards and Kanye West.
Social Comparison Bias – Let’s hire him because he’s not as funny as me nor is he better looking than me. There’s no threat to my place in the flock. He’d really be a great fit here.
Unit Bias – I love restaurants because I just eat whatever monster portion they serve me. I can finally overeat and not feel guilty about it.
Hopefully you’re chuckling at our absurd tendencies and not in the fetal position crying because you aren’t as sane and original as you once thought. Whatever your state of mind, if you want to learn more, here are some of my favorite reads: Predictably Irrational, The Upside Of Irrationality, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty,Decisive, and Thinking Fast And Slow.