Cognitive Biases, and the way they might be affecting your judgement at work


Keywords - cognitive bias, bias in the workplace, bandwagon effect, confirmation bias, avoiding biases

 

What are cognitive biases?

We all have certain cognitive biases whether we may realise it or not, it may be the way you agree with notions that already match your ideas or may be the way you’d reply to propositions based on the way they are phrased. The term ‘cognitive bias’ was coined by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, in the 1970s to describe people’s systematic but flawed patterns of responses to judgement and decision problems.


Why do we have these biases?

These cognitive biases are the brain’s attempt to simplify information processing. These biases are sort of “mental shortcuts” or heuristics, and they generally help us make decisions more efficiently. (Cherry, 2020)



Bandwagon Effect

The term “bandwagon effect” denotes a phenomenon of public opinion impinging upon itself (sometimes also referred to as “contagion effect”) (Beck, 2015). This means that people just go with what the masses are saying and don’t think about their notions themselves.

This bias can be seen when a group of employees are set out to make decisions and everyone simply says “Yes” to every proposed idea. This diminishes creativity and innovation in the workplace.

Another place we can see the consequences of this effect is in the financial market. Over here, when multiple investors line up to buy a security, the price of it goes up, and this increase in price attracts other new investors. This is termed a price bubble, and it causes the security to be overvalued in comparison to its fundamentals.

Bandwagon Effect. (n.d.). Why do we support opinions as they become more popular? Retrieved from https://thedecisionlab.com/biases/bandwagon-effect/.



Confirmation Bias

This bias is one where we focus on accepting and agreeing with ideas that match our preconceived notions and reject information that doesn’t match these notions.

For example, if you think an employee does their work incredibly well, you’d easily accept the times wherein they did their work perfectly and ignore the times where they made mistakes. So, here you accepted the ideas that matched your previous beliefs with ease and simply ignored the times where the information went against what you believed.

Clear, J. (n.d.). Confirmation Bias. 5 Common Mental Errors That Sway You From Making Good Decisions. Retrieved 2020, from https://jamesclear.com/common-mental-errors?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits.


The difference between the Bandwagon effect and the Confirmation bias, is that the Bandwagon effect deals with how we react to others making similar/group decisions, whereas the Confirmation bias deals with information on an individual level. It affects the way we accept and reject ideas based on the knowledge we previously have on the topic.


These biases may seem daunting to hear about, although the fact that you’re reading this article and being aware that these biases exist, reduces your chances of having them! Research suggests that cognitive training could reduce the effects these biases have on our professional life and private life (A.L. Sellier et al, 2019). Another way to combat these biases would be to critically think and take your time while making decisions (The Decision Lab). A few more interesting biases that you may (unknowingly) have could be the Dunning-Kruger effect, Optimism bias, and Planning Fallacy.

 

About the Author:



Hey there, I'm Tanvi!

A third-year Psychology student from Fergusson College, Pune, I've had a keen interest in all things psychology right from my school days. I aim to further take up Organisational or Clinical Psychology in the future. In my free time, you'd find me reading, baking, or walking my dog!



 

References

Cherry, K. (2020, May 5). How cognitive biases influence how you think and act. Verywell Mind. Retrieved September 22, 2021, from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-cognitive-bias-2794963.


Cognitive biases that ruin your workplace and; how to beat them. ScreenCloud. (2020, December). Retrieved September 19, 2021, from https://screencloud.com/blog/cognitive-biases-workplace.


Schmitt‐Beck, R. (2015). Bandwagon effect. The international encyclopedia of political communication, 1-5.





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