Not to put a damper on your holidays, but I read an interesting post on the train this week entitled, “Why do you make bad decisions?” There is a lot of food for thought in the piece as we make those last-minute holiday purchases, and overindulge in food and drink. But there’s also a lot to behold for 2016 – for our professional and personal lives.
Freelance writer Donald Armbrecht, authoring the piece for the World Economic Forum, takes no prisoners in his lead:
“Do you pride yourself on being a good decision-maker? Well, chances are you aren’t one, and don’t even know it. Like everyone else, you’re subject to cognitive bias, a limitation in your thinking brought about by errors of memory, miscalculation or social attribution.”
Cognitive bias isn’t all bad, according to Armbrecht. In some applications, it can help patients believe a placebo is helping them get better; or it can help alleviate suffering in people who have experienced traumatic events.
The author references a Business Insider infographic on “20 cognitive biases that screw up your decisions.” This is a handy reference guide to all the ways we rationalize events and decisions.
Take, for example, the “Choice-supportive bias.” It describes how we humans fall in love with our choices, even if they are flawed to begin with. Or, “Recency”: The tendency to give more weight and credence to the latest information rather than older data.
Or my favorite: “Outcome bias.” That’s where we judge the success of a decision based on its outcome and not how the decision was made in the first place.
So as you’re sipping champagne, visiting with loved ones or just watching a football game during the holidays, see how many of these cognitive biases you recognize in your interactions, or the ones you catch yourself employing. Heck, you could even make a board game of it.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!