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The Decision-Making Tree, AKA Our Cognitive Biases

By December 15, 2015 March 27th, 2018 No Comments

Pros and ConsNot 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!

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