Cognitive Biases – Logical Fallacies & Impact on Public Policy

Cognitive biases are tendencies to think in certain ways that can lead to systematic deviations from a standard of rationality or good judgment, and are often studied inpsychology and behavioral economics.

I think that knowing about Cognitive Biases can help in effective decision making in both our personal and professional life.

Knowing about the Cognitive biases of our politicians, our leaders, our bureaucrats can help us spot faults in decisions in ongoing and upcoming policies. 12

These are some cognitive biases –

Bandwagon effect The tendency to do (or believe) things because many other people do (or believe) the same. Related to groupthink and herd behavior.[15]
Bias blind spot The tendency to see oneself as less biased than other people, or to be able to identify more cognitive biases in others than in oneself.[18]
Cheerleader effect The tendency for people to appear more attractive in a group than in isolation.[19]
Congruence bias The tendency to test hypotheses exclusively through direct testing, instead of testing possible alternative hypotheses.[10]
Conjunction fallacy The tendency to assume that specific conditions are more probable than general ones.
Conservatism (Bayesian) The tendency to revise one’s belief insufficiently when presented with new evidence.[23][26][27]
Curse of knowledge When better-informed people find it extremely difficult to think about problems from the perspective of lesser-informed people.[29]
Empathy gap The tendency to underestimate the influence or strength of feelings, in either oneself or others.
Endowment effect The fact that people often demand much more to give up an object than they would be willing to pay to acquire it.[32]
Essentialism Categorizing people and things according to their essential nature, in spite of variations.[dubious ][33]
Gambler’s fallacy The tendency to think that future probabilities are altered by past events, when in reality they are unchanged. Results from an erroneous conceptualization of the law of large numbers. For example, “I’ve flipped heads with this coin five times consecutively, so the chance of tails coming out on the sixth flip is much greater than heads.”
IKEA effect The tendency for people to place a disproportionately high value on objects that they partially assembled themselves, such as furniture from IKEA, regardless of the quality of the end result.
Illusion of control The tendency to overestimate one’s degree of influence over other external events.[45]
Information bias The tendency to seek information even when it cannot affect action.[50]
Loss aversion “the disutility of giving up an object is greater than the utility associated with acquiring it”.[51] (see also Sunk cost effects and endowment effect).
Not invented here Aversion to contact with or use of products, research, standards, or knowledge developed outside a group. Related to IKEA effect.
Optimism bias The tendency to be over-optimistic, overestimating favorable and pleasing outcomes (see also wishful thinking, valence effect, positive outcome bias).[57][58]
Ostrich effect Ignoring an obvious (negative) situation.
Planning fallacy The tendency to underestimate task-completion times.[49]
Post-purchase rationalization The tendency to persuade oneself through rational argument that a purchase was a good value.
Pro-innovation bias The tendency to have an excessive optimism towards an invention or innovation’s usefulness throughout society, while often failing to identify its limitations and weaknesses.
Rhyme as reason effect Rhyming statements are perceived as more truthful. A famous example being used in the O.J Simpson trial with the defense’s use of the phrase “If the gloves don’t fit, then you must acquit.”
Stereotyping Expecting a member of a group to have certain characteristics without having actual information about that individual.
Survivorship bias Concentrating on the people or things that “survived” some process and inadvertently overlooking those that didn’t because of their lack of visibility.
Time-saving bias Underestimations of the time that could be saved (or lost) when increasing (or decreasing) from a relatively low speed and overestimations of the time that could be saved (or lost) when increasing (or decreasing) from a relatively high speed.
Well travelled road effect Underestimation of the duration taken to traverse oft-traveled routes and overestimation of the duration taken to traverse less familiar routes.
Zero-risk bias Preference for reducing a small risk to zero over a greater reduction in a larger risk.
Zero-sum heuristic Intuitively judging a situation to be zero-sum (i.e., that gains and losses are correlated). Derives from the zero-sum game in game theory, where wins and losses sum to zero.[69][70] The frequency with which this bias occurs may be related to the social dominance orientation personality factor.

In India, the father of the nation is Mahatma Gandhi. His portrait is present in every public office as well as educational institutions as well as every currency note. Gandhi, in his book “My Experiments with Truth” constantly struggled and pondered on his own biases as well as that of his people. Perhaps, decision makers in India should keep a poster of the logical fallacies as reminders that they can also make errors.


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