WHAT IS A COGNITIVE BIAS?
The simplest definition of a cognitive bias is an inherent flaw in one's reasoning. The word “inherent” is of particular importance here as these flaws in thinking are programmed into all of us. That is, these flaws are unavoidable; even after you learn about them, it is incredibly difficult to avoid them. Daniel Kahneman, one of the individuals who pioneered the field of behavioral economics through his work with heurisitics (i.e., mental shortcuts) and cognitive biases, even stresses the insidiousness of these “mistakes” as they are eternally persistent.
A more formal definition for a cognitive bias is a systematic pattern of deviation from the norm or rationality in judgment. The way in which an individual views the world is completely subjective as our senses (i.e., touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell) do not perfectly render the world around us. As a result, we can never be truly objective; this often times leads to inaccuracies in judgment, distortions in perception, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality.
Cognitive biases are our brain's way of taking “shortcuts” in decision making when timeliness outweighs the importance of accuracy. Moreover, they may lead to a more effective action in a given situation, while, in other instances, be a result of our brain's processing limitations.
There are many different types of cognitive biases out there and we won't address all of them within this blog. However, we will cover quite a number of the more salient ones. On your journey to critical thinking, it is imperative that you are well informed on cognitive biases.