Change Your Thinking: How Cognitive Biases Might be Hampering Your Problem Solving

Problem-solving is a very broad skill and thus it is one that can be highly useful in a range of different situations. Essentially, problem-solving is the ‘master key’ to helping you accomplish everything more quickly and efficiently and is perhaps the single most useful skill to cultivate. The question is… how do you go about cultivating this skill?

The answer may lie not in adding to your skill set as such, but rather removing the blocks that are preventing you from performing your best. And one of the main areas to focus on here is ‘cognitive biases’.

What Are Cognitive Biases?

The easiest way to think of cognitive biases is as ‘flaws’ in our thinking. While most of us think that we are logical and reasonable in our thought processes, in reality, we actually often make our decisions based on some incomplete or inaccurate information. Or else, we might focus on the wrong aspects of a problem, or we might let our emotions get in the way.

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And this isn’t anything you should feel bad about – as actually, most people suffer from precisely the same cognitive biases because they are part of the way we are programmed to think. The human brain is designed to be able to make decisions rapidly and efficiently and sometimes this comes at the expense of accuracy.

Examples

Struggling to relate to this concept? Here are some of the most common cognitive biases that you likely will have been guilty of at some point in your decision making life…

Confirmation Bias

The confirmation bias is our tendency to seek out information that confirms our hypothesis rather than discrediting it. This is one of the psychological tendencies that can ultimately lead to the development of extreme or radical views.

Gambler’s Fallacy

This is our habit for factoring past outcomes into our future expectations. For instance, if you throw a coin ten times and get heads ten times in a row, then it has to be tails next time right? Wrong: the odds of throwing tails are always 50% (unless you have a trick coin).

Hindsight Bias

This describes the way in which things seem obvious in hindsight. This can be destructive if it causes us not to take the problem seriously the next time it occurs. Of course, things seem obvious when you have all the information available!

So what can you do about these biases? Research them and learn them. Armed with knowledge you’ll at least have the ability to spot when you’re potentially veering into dangerous territory. Start with the book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ for a great introduction to the world of cognitive biases.

 


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