There is no sin except stupidity
You probably think you made pretty good decisions in your life, based on critical thinking and logic. You also know that you are smarter than the average person and your reasoning skills are very good. You probably failed, but don’t worry, we all fail – it’s in our brain.
1 Optimism bias – this is a systematic tendency for people to be optimistic about their outcome. If you are a smoker, your probably think that smoke related diseases don’t apply to you (but they do). According to these studies, people have an unrealistic optimism about their live. In this study, college students rated their own chances to be above average from positive events and below average for negative events. Dalziel and Job (1997) found that professional drivers, such as metropolitan taxi drivers from
underestimate their risk of automobile accident. Hoch found that MBA students actually overestimate the number of job offers they will receive and their salary.
Next time you think you drive much better than a professional driver and your running like crazy or there’s no way something can happen to you (sounds familiar?), think about optimism bias. While we’re on the subject we should also talk about wishful thinking. Wishful thinking is a common error people make when they expect and make decisions based on what they want to happen. This is also a logical fallacy in the form of: I wish X is true, therefore X is true. It can also be linked to the logical fallacy called argument from ignorance where a person will state that if x hasn’t been proved to be false, then it must be true.
2 Rosy retrospection – remember your first boyfriend/girlfriend? Ah, such great times you had together, you don’t even know why you guys split up in the first place. Stop that, that’s rosy retrospection, when you rate past events more positively than you actually rated them when they happened. Now think about all those decisions you made that involved this cognitive bias.
3 Illusion of control – people like to believe that they have the ability to control events and outcomes even when they are demonstrated that they cannot influence them. For example, when rolling the dice people throw harder for a higher number and softer for a lower number although they know that couldn’t influence their chances. Those of you with a passion for critical thinking and logical argumentation probably know about the Gambler’s fallacy. The gambler thinks that because they lost many times, their chances of winning increase. For example if we toss a coin 4 times and it shows heads all those times, one would think that the chances of it showing heads the 5th time decreased; however, the chance is always 50%. If a lot of bad things happened to you in a long time it is false to assume that something good must happen because your chances of something bad happening haven’t decreased at all.
4 Illusory superiority and Dunning Kruger effect – is another cognitive bias that causes people to overestimate their positive traits and underestimate their negative ones. In the Dunning – Kruger effect, unskilled people make poor decisions and make erroneous conclusions while their incompetence keeps them from appreciating their mistakes. This can also happen in reverse for competent people as they might believe that other people have an equivalent understanding. Also, the highly skilled might underestimate their abilities. So it seems that the unskilled and stupid are arrogant about their knowledge while those who actually know what they are talking about are doubtful. Also, according to the Pollyanna principle (yes, it’s that annoying positive girl from the children’s books) people tend to agree with positive statements about themselves. As you can see, we are seriously deluded.
5 Self-serving bias – You have to be honest, we all have this (I have poor grades because the teacher hates me). The self-serving bias is when people attribute success to themselves and failure to events or circumstances. Also, it seems to work even with ambiguous information which is used by people in their favor, although that information is not necessary related to them. But hey, it sounds great and you will delude yourself fantastically with it. While we’re on the subject, I will also mention the fundamental attribution error, when a person judges the behaviour of others but when they find themselves in the same situation, they take situational factors into consideration.
6 Bias blind spot – after reading this article you are probably thinking “Hmm, I don’t have those, I’m a logical person” while thinking about situations when you acted all rational and logical. That’s called bias blind spot and you see yourself better than average and less likely to have the biases described to you. Well, the good thing is that we will always deny our stupidity.