Buster Benson was filling his time on paternity leave when he came across Wikipedia’s exhausting list of cognitive biases. He synthesized the 175 biases into vague categories and with the help of John Manoogian, organized these predispositions into a poster they called the cognitive bias cheat sheet. It has been viewed over 700,000 times which has motivated Benson to start writing a book about the 4 qualities of the brain that can make us do crazy things.
Too Much Information
It is called priming. Where our brain interprets experiences based on the previous encounter. It is through this lens that we notice bizarre things that do not conform to our reality. This is why we have trouble embracing change. We are subsequently drawn into thinking that matches our preconceived notions of the world. Once on this slippery slope, we tend to see the speck of dirt in our neighbor’s eye and avoid the log in our own. We start to write our personal stories based on these patterns that prohibit us from seeing other people and things as they really are.
Not Enough Meaning
We take our experience and start filling in the gaps of our understanding of the world based on limited data from biases and beliefs gained from stereotypes. We develop in-group and out-group bias. We gravitate toward our in-group and we move away from our out-group. Our brain thin slices data by taking short cuts as we frame the information in ways that are easy to understand. Projection bias enters the picture as we project as beliefs on other people by assuming we know what they are thinking. We take the most recent events supported by limited information and project them into our past and future behavior.
Not Enough Time or Resources
We gravitate to the quick fix and ignore the hard work of taking another look at our preconceived notions. To preserve our king of the hill status and in-group strength, we will stubbornly hold on to our biases which prevent us from revisiting our decisions. We justify investment in judgements based on prior outlays even in the face of evidence that suggests our original decisions were wrong. In other words, it is too late to turn back now. We fall victim to temporal discounting when presented with multiple options, we go with the immediate one. We will squeeze the trigger too quickly since we want to preserve our status of making a difference and doing what feels good in the moment.
Not Enough Memory
We categorize what happens in our life based on how we experience life. We organize data about those experiences into the smallest categories by discarding information that would allow us to see these events in a broader light. To make up this deficit of knowledge, we develop generalities about what we are going through. To cover our behinds even more, we continue to edit our interpretation of life occurrences long after the original experience.
To summarize, our brain processes too much information, gives us limited understanding of that information, leads us to think we do not have enough time or wherewithal to interpret the information and has limited capacity to store the information accurately.
Now you know one aspect of why we make poor decisions in the workplace. We often don’t see people and things as they are. We see them as we are. Until we clean the dirty windows of our own lives, we will never view others in ways where they can meet their full potential.