- The human brain is wired in a way which makes objective thinking difficult.
- This makes us prone to bias.
- There are more than 180 cognitive biases which affect how we process information, 24 of which are explored in the infographic below.
- While there is no easy fix for overcoming these biases, we can increase our understanding of the mistakes we make and why we make them.
We are each entitled to our own personal world view.
But unfortunately, when it comes to interpreting information and trying to make objective sense of reality, human brains are hard-wired to make all kinds of mental mistakes that can impact our ability to make rational judgments.
In total, there are over 180 cognitive biases that interfere with how we process data, think critically, and perceive reality.
Flawed human reasoning
There is no simple way to get around these basic human instincts, but one thing that we can do is understand the specific mistakes we make and why.
Today’s infographic comes to us from School of Thought, a non-profit dedicated to spreading critical thinking. The graphic describes 24 of the key biases that warp our sense of reality, providing useful examples along the way.
At the beginning of the infographic, you may have noticed illustrations of two gentlemen.
In case you were wondering, those happen to represent Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, two of the leading social scientists known for their contributions to this field. Not only did they pioneer work around cognitive biases starting in the late 1960s, but their partnership also resulted in a Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002.
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Biases distorting reality
Here are some of the biases we found most interesting from the list:
You remember the past as better than it was, and expect the future to be worse than it is likely to be. This is an interesting one, since statistically this is one of the most peaceful and prosperous times in history—yet the 24-hour news cycle rarely reflects this. (For a good example how the world is improving, see these six charts)
Just World Hypothesis:
Your preference for a just world makes you presume that it exists. Of course, it’s much more uncomfortable to think that the world is unfair, but by understanding this you will make more accurate judgments about people and situations.
If a conclusion supports your existing beliefs, you’ll rationalize anything that supports it. In other words, instead of willingly looking at new information, we are primed to defend our own ideas without actually questioning them.
Context and delivery can have a big impact on how a story is interpreted. We must have the humility to recognize that we can be manipulated, and work to limit the effect that framing has on our critical thinking.
What's the World Economic Forum doing about diversity, equity and inclusion?
The COVID-19 pandemic and recent social and political unrest have created a profound sense of urgency for companies to actively work to tackle inequity.
The Forum's work on Diversity, Equality, Inclusion and Social Justice is driven by the New Economy and Society Platform, which is focused on building prosperous, inclusive and just economies and societies. In addition to its work on economic growth, revival and transformation, work, wages and job creation, and education, skills and learning, the Platform takes an integrated and holistic approach to diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice, and aims to tackle exclusion, bias and discrimination related to race, gender, ability, sexual orientation and all other forms of human diversity.
The Platform produces data, standards and insights, such as the Global Gender Gap Report and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 4.0 Toolkit, and drives or supports action initiatives, such as Partnering for Racial Justice in Business, The Valuable 500 – Closing the Disability Inclusion Gap, Hardwiring Gender Parity in the Future of Work, Closing the Gender Gap Country Accelerators, the Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality, the Community of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officers and the Global Future Council on Equity and Social Justice.
The Curse of Knowledge
Ever try to explain something you know intricately and have worked on for many years? It’s hard, because you’ve internalized everything you’ve learned, and now you forget how to explain it. This bias is similar—you know something inside and out, and what is obvious to you is not to others.
Sometimes we all get the urge to do the opposite of what we’re told. Nobody likes being constrained. The only problem is that when we’re in this situation, there is a tendency to overreact and to throw any logic out of the window.
Because we each live inside our own heads, our natural focus is on what we’re thinking and doing. We project this onto others, and we overestimate how much they notice about how we look or how we act.
Want to see more on cognitive biases? Here are 188 of them in one infographic.