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The 12 types of Cognitive Biases (and their characteristics)

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Biases are distortions of reality or unconscious decision-making mechanisms that are carried out quickly without prior reflection. Normally its usefulness lies in maintaining greater stability in our way of thinking, protecting ourselves and believing that we have more control in our life.

It is frequent that they appear in the social sphere, when we want to make a causal attribution, we normally link our own behaviors to external factors and those of others to variables internal In reference to the attribution of failures and successes, we normally conceive of successes to factors internal factors and failures to external factors, referring to the endogroups, the group itself, we do the same. In this article we will define what is meant by bias and present the most characteristic types that exist.

  • We recommend you read: "Psychology of women: 12 female psychic characteristics"

What are cognitive biases?

Cognitive bias is a term introduced by psychologists Daniel Kanheman and Amos Tversky that is defined as

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a deviation from the normal processing of information, which produces a distortion in reality according to our beliefs and ways of thinking. It is a trend of response maintained in a systematic way in different situations. In this way, the person fixes her attention or processes a type of information that confirms or is consistent with her beliefs, ignoring the information that contradicts her way of thinking.

Thus, cognitive biases allow us to make a quick decision in situations in which we do not have time to reflect, when it is important to make a choice for our survival. Although sometimes this hasty decision can have negative consequences, in many situations this Less rational thinking, moving away from the norm can contribute to psychological well-being and the adaptation of the subjects.

In this way, if we differentiate human thinking into conscious and unconscious, in the first case the processing will be more reflective and irrational. influencing the biases to a lesser extent, on the other hand, in the second case the processing is more intuitive and automatic, affecting to a greater degree the use of biases. Despite emerging in the field of psychology, it has also been used and gained strength in other contexts such as Medicine, Politics and Economics..


What kinds of cognitive biases are there?

There are different types of biases depending on their usefulness and under what circumstances they appear.

1. Illusory correlations

This type of bias is based on focus on confirmatory cases and ignore those that are not consistent with a particular fact when you are looking for association or relationship between different variables. In the case of the social sphere, it would be related to stereotypes, we tend to link infrequent behaviors with minority groups.

For example, in the case of robbery, if different suspects appear, we tend to conceive the immigrant, such as a Arab with the cause of the theft and we do not associate him with an individual who we conceive to be more similar to us, who are part of our group Social.

2. Positivity bias

This bias refers to the fact that normally people tend to conceive of the other in a positive way, that is, it is more common for us to evaluate someone positively than to do it negatively.

Although negative evaluations and evaluations are more important and have more force than positive ones, this means that although it costs more to make a conception of someone According to negative characteristics, once established, it will be more difficult to modify them than the positive conceptions that, despite being easier to carry out, are modified with more ease.

This previous event could be explained by the figure-ground principle that would tell us that as we normally value in a way positive, any negative element or event that happens will stand out in contrast to the tending conception positive.


3. Bias towards balance

The bias towards equilibrium appears in Fritiz Heider's equilibrium theory, which analyzes social cognitions and interpersonal relationships. This bias is based on a tendency to establish balance on the value of relationshipsFor example, if I don't like someone, they won't like me either and we won't like the same things, on the other hand, if we like each other we will also agree on the likes.

4. Positive biases linked to the self, to oneself

As we saw before, the tendency to the positive conception of others, the positive valuation of oneself is also typical, this means that I use positive self-descriptive adjectives more frequently than negative ones, this bias is called positive illusions. This has been seen to appear in almost all subjects except some with a disorder, such as individuals with depression.

Within this bias we find different types, for example we would have the illusion of control that consists of the willingness to conceive a greater relationship between our own response and a result when there really is no such association, especially it appears if positive consequences are achieved with the result. Another type would be unrealistic optimism where the subject thinks that nothing bad will happen to him, this can be negative for the individual since he can be trusted thinking that he will never have an accident and perform reckless behaviors of driving

Finally we also have the bias of the illusion of a just world, which refers to thinking that the bad will receive negative consequences, they will be punished and the good positive ones. This may not be accurate since sometimes to maintain the belief of a fair world we can blame the victim of an event in order to continue thinking that the world is fair.

5. Biases in causal attribution

This type of bias will refer to where or in whom each individual places the cause of a behavior.

5.1. Correspondence bias

The correspondence bias, also called fundamental attribution error, consists of the tendency to give more importance to the characteristics dispositional factors that would refer to personal or internal factors of the subject as opposed to situational or external factors as the cause of a behavior. For example If someone answers us badly, it will be more common for us to think that he has done it because he is badly educated and not because he has had a bad day.

Different explanations have appeared to understand the use of this bias, one proposed by Fritz Heider is the influence of the salience, that we will show a tendency to focus on the person rather than on the situation, in this way it will have greater weight when we seek the cause. Another explanation would be the better assessment of the internal attributions in contrast to the external ones to make a causal attribution.


5.2. Actor-observer bias

The observer actor bias or differences refers to the tendency to make situational attributions of one's own behaviors and internal or personal attributions of the behavior of others.

In order to understand this bias, different explanations have been given. One of them points out that having more information about your past behaviors will be more likely in this way that you attribute it to external conditions. Other explanations would refer to the different perceptual focus, if we change this it would change the attribution made. Finally, in an investigation it was observed that the subjects who looked at themselves in a mirror increased the conception of own responsibility in a behavior, relating to a higher degree of salience, self importance.

5.3. False consensus bias

The false consensus bias refers to the greater tendency that the subjects present to value their own behaviors as more common and appropriate to the circumstances that arise, also appearing consistency of this consideration over time and situations. This bias will appear mainly when we value our own opinions or attitudes.

5.4. False quirk bias

The false peculiarity bias is opposite to the previous false consensus bias, since traits themselves are believed to be unique or peculiar. This bias appears more frequently when we refer to our own positive qualities or characteristics that are considered important.

5.5. Egocentric bias

In the egocentric or autofocus bias, there is a greater conception, overestimation, of own contribution in an activity that is carried out in a shared way with other people. In the same way, memory bias will also occur since there will be a tendency to remember our own contribution better than that of others.


5.6. Favorable biases for the self

The pro-self biases also called self-serving or self-sufficiency occur when the subject shows a predisposition to attribute successes to internal factors and failures to factors situational. This bias has been seen to appears to a greater extent in men.

5.7. Favorable group biases or ultimate attribution error

In the same way that it happens with the biases favorable to the self in the biases favorable to the group, the same thing happens but at the group level. Thus, subjects tend to consider that successes are due to internal factors, to responsibility of the group itself, of the endogroup, instead the failures are attributed to variables external to the group.

In the case of outgroups, to which the subject making the attribution does not belong, it will be more common that successes are conceived as a consequence of external factors and failures to internal causes of that group.
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