Cognitive Bias: Is it avoidable?

Cognitive bias is a term we often hear not only in the field of psychology, but business and economics as well. What does it actually mean?

Cognitive bias can be described as a “systematic error in thinking that affects the decisions and judgments that people make”. This type of bias is a limitation of our human brain, and not a conscious decision that we are normally aware of. An example is when we assume our first answer in a multiple-choice question is the best answer, because we assume anything after our first answer is just “doubt” that will make us even more confused when/if the second answer differs from the first.

There are lots of different biases that have been identified over the years, though some of them are very similar to one another. Buster Benson, helped by John Manoogian III, made a simplified and categorised explanation of these biases that you can see in the diagram above. We will briefly discuss the big general reasons why we may resort to cognitive bias:

1. Information Overload

According to Dr. Joseph Dispenza, D.C., “the brain processes 400 billion bits of information a second. But, we are only aware of 2,000 of those?”. Amongst the 2,000 bits of information that we are aware of, we can only process so much of it at the same time. There is a need for us to prioritise and select the best information to take in. This leads us to find “shortcuts” when rationalising why certain information are more important than others. Thus, causing us to be biased.

2. Abstract Understanding

A lot of things in the world is strange and often incomprehensible. Our brain tends to select and accept information that is understandable at its capacity. This also applies to biasness towards familiarity. Have you ever realised that when going to a new restaurant, you tend to pick dishes you’ve eaten before?

3. Time Pressure

Being pressured to pick a dress quickly before continuing on your shopping spree can be a stressful experience. You feel like you don’t want to waste your time so you subconsciously try to convince yourself that the only two dresses you’ve tried on are the best of the best in the store. When pressured by time, we tend to pick the “least bad” option and brand it as the “best”.

4. Lacking Memory

Our brain can only retain a certain amount of information for a period of time. We tend to be biased towards options that we are certain of as compared to those we only have a vague memory of. It gives us a sense of security and often cloud our judgment. You may be more willing to drive through a longwinded road you’ve gone through for the majority of your life rather than a shortcut you learned a week ago.

For most cases, these biases are undetectable by the person committing the bias. Even with lots of practice, chances are you’ll never be able to get rid of this biasness as it is hard-wired into our brains. Understanding this concept will help you understand other psychology concepts going forward.


Benson, B. (2016, September 2). Cognitive Bias Cheat Sheet. Retrieved March 1, 2020, from

Cherry, K. (2020, February 3). How Cognitive Biases Influence How You Think and Act. Retrieved March 1, 2020, from

Human Brain - Neuroscience - Cognitive Science. (n.d.). Retrieved March 2, 2020, from

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