Can’t overcome biases if we don’t know what they are...

Human bias prevents the collection of objective and factual information. If we can understand the sources of bias and their negative impact on establishing high quality information for good decision making we can recognize when bias is causing problems. Here is a list of some common biases.

bi·as (n). Prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair: there was evidence of bias against foreign applicants; the bias toward younger people in recruitment | [in sing.] a systematic bias in favor of the powerful- [in sing.] a concentration on or interest in one particular area or subject: he worked on a variety of Greek topics, with a discernible bias toward philosophy. - [STATISTICS] a systematic distortion of a statistical result due to a factor not allowed for in its derivation.

       (2010-04-01). The New Oxford American Dictionary). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition. 


Individual Identity is a Narrative Construct

THE MISCONCEPTION: One makes sense of life through rational contemplation. 

THE TRUTH: One makes sense of life through narrative. 

This mental construct is built from an overarching storyline and fundamentally defines one’s identity regarding how the individual is being in the world. All assumptions about reality come together as a cohesive set of events defined by the Narrative. This Narrative sets up a strong possibility of dissonant and consonant conflict as the Narrative serves as an absolute standard that filters information that does not fit the already known and accepted storyline. The Narrative is protected and sustained through the following list of cognitive biases:


Confirmation Bias:

THE MISCONCEPTION: Your opinions are the result of years of rational, objective analysis. 

THE TRUTH: Your opinions are the result of years of paying attention to information that confirmed what you believed, while ignoring information that challenged your preconceived notions. See narrative bias. 

In psychology, confirmation bias is a phenomenon whereby, in a variety of settings, decision makers have been shown to notice more, assign more weight to, and actively seek out evidence that confirms their claims, and tend to ignore and not seek out evidence that might discount their claims. As such, it can be thought of as a form of selection bias in collecting evidence.

Within the science framework confirmation bias purposely or lazily overlooks the inherent power of falsification as an attitude towards the establishment of fact.

"Science is never secret when it's done right. Science is a way of finding out that is self-correcting and involves many people. Science isn't science unless it's published, unless it's openly published and made available for criticism." Lynn Margulis, PhD, National Medal of Science 1999, Da Vinci Award 2010

“Be careful. People like to be told what they already know. Remember that. They get uncomfortable when you tell them new things. New things . . . well, new things aren’t what they expect. They like to know that, say; a dog will bite a man. That is what dogs do. They don’t want to know that man bites a dog, because the world is not supposed to happen like that. In short, what people think they want is news, but what they really crave is olds . . . Not news but olds, telling people that what they think they already know is true.”      Terry Pratchett


Hindsight Bias:

THE MISCONCEPTION: After you learn something new, you remember how you were once ignorant or wrong. 

THE TRUTH: You often look back on the things you’ve just learned and assume you knew them or believed them all along.

A psychological bias where an individual thinks or believes that new information acquired in the present is information that they had already possessed. The hindsight bias can also be defined as a tendency to revise or edit a recollection to something different in the present due to the acquisition of new information.


Self-Serving Bias:

THE MISCONCEPTION: You evaluate yourself based on past successes and defeats. 

THE TRUTH: You excuse your failures and see yourself as more successful, more intelligent, and more skilled than you are.

A cognitive bias where an individual’s self esteem and its contribution to one’s identity are reinforced and protected by attributing success and favorable outcomes to one’s own intelligence and competency. Unfavorable outcomes are falsely attributed to external circumstances and influences. It is believed that the negative outcome was not due to one’s own incompetency.


Consistency Bias:

THE MISCONCEPTION: You know how your opinions have changed over time. 

THE TRUTH: Unless you consciously keep tabs on your progress, you assume the way you feel now is the way you have always felt.

A cognitive bias that fails to recognize that one’s thinking, belief systems, and perspectives on various subjects undergo change over time. Evidence of inconsistencies and contradictions between current and previously held beliefs and perspectives are downplayed or revised to avoid dissonance. Individuals tend to believe that they possess a strong cognitive consistency regarding many subjects and topics over time.


Association Bias:

A cognitive bias that results from an external stimulation that triggers a memory that is then reconciled with the stimulus but that may have no valid connection to the stimulus. A cognitive process that is reflexive in nature and non-conceived resulting in a superficial conclusion between the two or more items being associated that their correlation creates equivalence between some property and characteristic. A.k.a. linking or correlation bias.


Availability Bias:

A cognitive bias where individuals make inaccurate predictions regarding the frequency of an event within a population based largely on limited experiences. This errant estimation as to the probabilities of events is then excessively weighted in resulting judgments. 


Representative Bias:

A cognitive bias where individuals make potentially inaccurate categorizations based on too few observed characteristics.