24 Common Cognitive Biases: A Visual List of the Psychological Systems Errors That Keep Us From Thinking Rationally

There’s been a lot of talk about the Dun­ning-Kruger effect, the cog­ni­tive bias that makes peo­ple wild­ly over­con­fi­dent, unable to know how igno­rant they are because they don’t have the basic skills to grasp what com­pe­tence means. Once pop­u­lar­ized, the effect became weaponized. Peo­ple made arm­chair diag­noses, gloat­ed and point­ed at the obliv­i­ous­ly stu­pid. But if those fin­ger-point­ers could take the beam out of their own eye, they might see four fin­gers point­ing back at them, or what­ev­er folk wis­dom to this effect you care to mash up.

What we now call cog­ni­tive bias­es have been known by many oth­er names over the course of mil­len­nia. Per­haps nev­er have the many vari­eties of self-decep­tion been so spe­cif­ic. Wikipedia lists 185 cog­ni­tive bias­es, 185 dif­fer­ent ways of being irra­tional and delud­ed. Sure­ly, it’s pos­si­ble that every sin­gle time we—maybe accurately—point out some­one else’s delu­sions, we’re hoard­ing a col­lec­tion of our own. Accord­ing to much of the research by psy­chol­o­gists and behav­ioral econ­o­mists, this may be inevitable and almost impos­si­ble to rem­e­dy.

Want to bet­ter under­stand your own cog­ni­tive bias­es and maybe try to move beyond them if you can? See a list of 24 com­mon cog­ni­tive bias­es in an info­graph­ic poster at yourbias.is, the site of the non­prof­it School of Thought. (The two gen­tle­men pop­ping up behind brainy Jeho­vah in the poster, notes Visu­al Cap­i­tal­ist, “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.”)

Grant­ed, a Wikipedia list is a crowd-sourced cre­ation with lots of redun­dan­cy and quite a few “dubi­ous or triv­ial” entries, writes Ben Yago­da at The Atlantic. “The IKEA effect, for instance, is defined as ‘the ten­den­cy for peo­ple to place a dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly high val­ue on objects they par­tial­ly assem­bled them­selves.’” Much of the val­ue I’ve per­son­al­ly placed on IKEA fur­ni­ture has to do with nev­er want­i­ng to assem­ble IKEA fur­ni­ture again. “But a sol­id group of 100 or so bias­es has been repeat­ed­ly shown to exist, and can make a hash of our lives.”

These are the tricks of the mind that keep gam­blers gam­bling, even when they’re los­ing every­thing. They include not only the “gambler’s fal­la­cy” but con­fir­ma­tion bias and the fal­la­cy of sunk cost, the ten­den­cy to pur­sue a bad out­come because you’ve already made a sig­nif­i­cant invest­ment and you don’t want it to have been for noth­ing. It may seem iron­ic that the study of cog­ni­tive bias­es devel­oped pri­mar­i­ly in the field of eco­nom­ics, the only social sci­ence, per­haps, that still assumes humans are autonomous indi­vid­u­als who freely make ratio­nal choic­es.

But then, econ­o­mists must con­stant­ly con­tend with the counter-evidence—rationality is not a thing most humans do well. (Evo­lu­tion­ar­i­ly speak­ing, this may have been no great dis­ad­van­tage until we got our hands on weapons of mass destruc­tion and the tools of cli­mate col­lapse.) When we act ratio­nal­ly in some areas, we tend to fool our­selves in oth­ers. Is it pos­si­ble to over­come bias? That depends on what we mean. Polit­i­cal and per­son­al prejudices—against eth­nic­i­ties, nation­al­i­ties, gen­ders, and sexualities—are usu­al­ly but­tressed by the sys­tems errors known as cog­ni­tive bias­es, but they are not caused by them. They are learned ideas that can be unlearned.

What researchers and aca­d­e­mics mean when they talk about bias does not relate to spe­cif­ic con­tent of beliefs, but rather to the ways in which our minds warp log­ic to serve some psy­cho­log­i­cal or emo­tion­al need or to help reg­u­late and sta­bi­lize our per­cep­tions in a man­age­able way. “Some of these bias­es are relat­ed to mem­o­ry,” writes Kendra Cher­ry at Very Well Mind, oth­ers “might be relat­ed to prob­lems with atten­tion. Since atten­tion is a lim­it­ed resource, peo­ple have to be selec­tive about what they pay atten­tion to in the world around them.”

We’re con­stant­ly miss­ing what’s right in front of us, in oth­er words, because we’re try­ing to pay atten­tion to oth­er peo­ple too. It’s exhaust­ing, which might be why we need eight hours or so of sleep each night if we want our brains to func­tion half decent­ly. Go to yourbias.is for this list of 24 com­mon cog­ni­tive bias­es, also avail­able on a nifty poster you can order and hang on the wall. You’ll also find there an illus­trat­ed col­lec­tion of log­i­cal fal­lac­i­es and a set of “crit­i­cal think­ing cards” fea­tur­ing both kinds of rea­son­ing errors. Once you’ve iden­ti­fied and defeat­ed all your own cog­ni­tive biases—all 24, or 100, or 185 or so—then you’ll be ready to set out and fix every­one else’s.

via Visu­al Cap­i­tal­ist

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Research Finds That Intel­lec­tu­al Humil­i­ty Can Make Us Bet­ter Thinkers & Peo­ple; Good Thing There’s a Free Course on Intel­lec­tu­al Humil­i­ty

Why Incom­pe­tent Peo­ple Think They’re Amaz­ing: An Ani­mat­ed Les­son from David Dun­ning (of the Famous “Dun­ning-Kruger Effect”)

The Pow­er of Empa­thy: A Quick Ani­mat­ed Les­son That Can Make You a Bet­ter Per­son

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • oroo says:

    You pose the ques­tion about the pos­si­bil­i­ty of over­com­ing a bias, yes; but, unfor­tu­nate­ly you haven’t a clue!

    Now, I think you should see what the earth­’s inte­ri­or might look like in writ­ing.
    You may have been miss­ing a point of two: O.K…what is a r t i f i cial about intel­li­gence?


    The speed and angle for actu­a­tion is the turn­ing or rota­tion of the earth. Pre­sum­ably, the heat for the sun is not direct­ly on the sppeed of light.. inside the earth are the ele­ments for the peri­od­ic table._.these same ele­ments are used for the hard wire, con­struct­ing­forex­change of information…how if every­thing is turn­ing, there is not deriva­tion for absolute zero, what is arti­fi­cial about infor­ma­tion and intel­li­gence?


    [Is it even pos­si­ble, that every­thing which is infor­ma­tion and intel­li­gence — are all arti­fi­cial? No thing we can iden­ti­fy as some­thing is real.][.inotherwords~.>|<.]

    A com­pul­so­ry process would not pre­cede (what?) although, it could be said time came before light…
    time had to exist before the big bang to occur.

    Dif­fer­ent ele­men­tary con­stituents of com­pul­so­ry pro­cess­ing are the basis for attach­ments with­in objects, com­prised or con­struct­ed as dif­fer­ence as an exten­sion of space.



    Reread­ing Ein­stein on Radi­a­tion
    Klepp­n­er, Daniel
    Stim­u­lat­ed and Spon­ta­neous Emis­sion
    Quan­tum beats

    Net­works and Pow­er from the Freema­sons to Face­book — YouTube

  • Lumen says:

    A cou­ple more bias­es:
    Fly­ing Mon­key bias — when you believe the peo­ple who lie to you, with­out ques­tion (these work on behalf of a nar­cis­sis­tic per­son­al­i­ty dis­or­der — NPD — indi­vid­u­als);
    Gaslighter bias — when you are deceived by an NPD indi­vid­ual to believe you are crazy, or the world is not as you think, or to drink the kool-aid and reach god.

  • Bob says:

    oroo, you dis­play the oppo­site of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence and that is nat­ur­al stu­pid­i­ty!

  • oroo says:

    It’s about time some­one noticed!

    The Ser­mon : LAN­DiO UNSCRIPTED — Episode 1

    Go gnaw on the field of com­pu­ta­tion­al geom­e­try…

  • bob says:

    I love this arti­cle so much, used this for my home­schooled lit­tle kid­dos. Thank you so much! Please update me when more are made!

  • Ariana Grande says:


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