Psychological Biases And How To Wield Them (Sneak Peak)

Psychological Biases And How To Wield Them (Sneak Peak)

Domain Neglect Bias

The Domain Neglect Bias is a cognitive bias where individuals tend to focus on the specific features of a problem or decision at the expense of the majority of factors.

In Scottish politics (for most people) the only thing that matters is Independence.  The rest of the policies could be terrible (They usually are), but if they align with them on Independence they’ll get their vote.  What’s the one policy people are voting on in your country?

Healthcare is seen as ‘When we’re sick the doctors will help us’ neglecting the fact that if we took more care of ourselves before hand we wouldn’t need the help of the doctors (as much).  Eat healthy, exercise, get plenty sun and socialise with loved ones and you’ll be far less likely to become sick.

Knowing that one factor usually towers over everything else means that when persuading people we should focus on what’s most important t them, instead of listing everything good (that they may have little to no interest in).


Berkson’s Paradox

Berkson's Paradox refers to a phenomenon where a positive correlation between two variables can be observed in one sample, but disappear or even reverse in another sample with a larger population size. This paradox can be useful in situations where you need to consider the potential for different results based on the size of the sample.

Imagine a sales room.  Some of the staff are over 6ft, some aren’t.  Those over 6ft have better sales than the rest of the staff.  Does that mean being over 6ft = Being a better sales person?  Maybe in this sales room, but not in the wider world.  It may help, but it’s not the direct correlation that the small sample size of the sales room would have you believe.

Believing the small samples will produce the same output as larger samples is what leads people to racist, homophobic, sexist and bigoted mindsets.  Next time you’re presented with this sort of data ask yourself ‘Is Berkson’s Paradox at play?’ Unless they’ve sampled a majority of the group, there’s a good chance it is.


Sunk Cost Fallacy

The Sunk Cost Fallacy refers to the tendency to continue investing resources into a decision, project or investment, based on the amount of resources already invested, instead of making a decision based on its current value and expected future outcomes.

This is why ending relationships can be so hard.  You’ve invested so much of your time/resources into it walking away from all that would be a waste, right?  Maybe, but continuing to invest will result in a much bigger waste. 

Most of the time we know when it’s time to walk away.  When that time comes imagine that you’re the main character in a video game and this is level one.  Do you care how many years/how much money was wasted in the characters back story?  No what matters is what you choose to do now.  What do you need to walk away from in order to level up?


G.I. Joe Fallacy

The G.I. Joe Fallacy is a type of survivorship bias. It refers to the tendency to focus only on the successful examples in a given population, ignoring the many failures that may have come before them. This can lead to an inaccurate understanding of the challenges and obstacles that must be overcome in order to achieve a particular goal.

If we look at successful people we find a simple formulae - Work hard everyday and you’ll succeed.  Many believe this to be the key to success, follow this and you’ll be successful, but you’d be wrong to assume this works for everyone.  Most people work really hard and get nowhere in life/. Maybe there working hard on the wrong thing, maybe no-one ever sees what they’ve been working on, maybe, like Van-Gogh their works weren’t appreciated until after their death.  It’s not that we forget about the failures, for the most part we’re never aware of them.  Remember there’s more to success than working hard.  Working on the right thing, at the right time, to the right audience plays a much larger part than the effort you put into your work.


Gambler’s Fallacy

Gambler's Fallacy refers to the belief that a run of events that deviates from the expected probability is likely to correct itself in the future. This belief often leads gamblers to believe that a certain outcome is "due" or "more likely" because it has not occurred in a while, when in fact each event is independent and has an equal probability of occurring at any time.

If a roulette wheel has 5 reds in a row it doesn’t change the odds of the next spin.  It’s still roughly 50/50 odds for it coming out red again.

Your streak of good luck will end, but so will your bad luck. Don’t let the past outcomes influence your prediction, the odds are always the same.


Illicit transference

Illicit Transference is a term used in the field of psychology and refers to the transfer of feelings and attitudes from one object or person to another.  This type of transfer can be both positive or negative and can be influenced by a range of factors, including similarity, proximity, and previous experience.

You see this at play in advertising all the time.  Sexy models next to a watch.  What has a watch got to do with looking sexy?  Nothing, but when we wear one we feel sexy, rich, powerful, etc. the right watch can convince us that we’re James Bond and that’s due to Illicit Transfer.

You can easily boost your own appeal by imagining your a product, now copy the advertising from the type of products you want to be associated with. Who looks smarter a person with or without glasses? A person wearing a hoodie or a lab coat?  Think what feelings and attitude you want to present then use Illicit Transference to link yourself with products/people/messages that share these attributes.


Subadditivity effect

The Subadditivity Effect is a psychological phenomenon in which people tend to undervalue the total magnitude of separate items or events and instead focus on the relative magnitude of each event individually. This results in an underestimation of the overall value or impact of the events combined.

We’ve all underestimated the time it would take to do lots of small tasks or overspent your months pay on lots of small purchases.  Small things add up and given enough small things they can add up to a lot.  Give yourself a buffer by adding on time or savings if you think something will take a week, give yourself 2 weeks, if you think £200 will be enough give yourself £300.



Time-Saving Bias

The Time-Saving Bias is a phenomenon where people tend to overestimate the time saved by a given action, even when the time saved is small.

We often imagine short-cuts saving more time than they actually do.  Leaving things to the last minute, because you have a short cut is foolish as even with it you may still miss the deadline.  Always give yourself more time than needed, even when using short-cuts.


Zero-Sum Bias

The zero-sum bias is a belief or assumption that a win for one person or entity must correspond to a loss for another. This bias leads to the belief that in any exchange or transaction, the total benefit or advantage must be equal to zero, with the benefit of one side coming at the expense of the other.

Just because one side wins doesn’t mean the other has to lose.  Shopping is a good example you get what you want and the store get’s what they want (money). 

When deal making add to the deal so both sides are happy.  If both sides want X add in Y and Z and suddenly the other side having x doesn’t seem so bad.  Always look for the win/win, it’s more difficult, but everyone leaves happier as a result.


Ambiguity Effect

The Ambiguity Effect is a cognitive bias that refers to people's tendency to prefer known and certain options over uncertain or ambiguous options, even when the uncertain options have the potential to be more favourable.

When tying to persuade others, a lie about a definite outcome is far more persuasive than the truth about an uncertain one.  You’ll see politicians use this trick all the time, those who say ‘We don’t know’ are seen as weak whereas liars who say ‘This will happen’ are seen as powerful leaders.  Keep this in mind next time you see people offering certainty, they’re using the Ambiguity Effect against you.


Dread Aversion

Dread Aversion refers to a person's tendency to avoid making decisions or taking actions when the outcome of those decisions or actions is uncertain and could lead to unpleasant outcomes (dread).

This bias kept our ancestors safe.  The rustling of the bush could be wind, but it could also be a predator ready to pounce and kill them.  The risk is hardly worth it, so they avoided the bush and survived.  Nowadays that potential predator takes the form of anything that makes us anxious.

Anxiety keeps us safe, but it also limits our freedom.  Do you really want to be a slave to fear?  If something won’t harm/kill you work up the strength to face your fears and take back your freedom.

Endowment Effect

The Endowment Effect is where people place a higher value on things simply because they own them.  People tend to overvalue the things they possess, compared to if they were to buy the same things in the market.

The more something is a part of our lives, the more value we give it.  What’s more valuable a new teddybear or the worn out teddybear you’ve had since childhood?  To an outsider it’s easily the new one, but to you the fact that the old one has been with your whole life makes it far more valuable.  It’s more than just a teddybear, it’s a part of us.

What we own is a reflection of us, hence why we place more value on them.  When interacting with others keep this in mind their clothes aren’t the £10 t-shirt hanging on the sales rack at the local charity store, it’s a hidden gem that they acquired.  Treating it as such will lead to you quickly building strong bond with them. 


Loss Aversion
Loss Aversion refers to where individuals have a stronger preference for avoiding losses than acquiring gains of equivalent value.  This means that people tend to feel the pain of losing more than the pleasure of gaining, and as a result, they often act in ways to minimise potential losses.
This is why people get angry with loans, sure it was only '50p' to you, but it was my 50p!  Give it back!

To reduce the effect of this bias, imagine that everything you own is on loan (from the universe, god or whatever you want, it doesn't matter who the real ‘owner' is).  When you eventually do 'lose' it just tell yourself that you're giving it back to (Inset owner here).  This works for objects as well as relationships and people themselves.  You've been gifted with all these things, but only for a limited time, one day everything you have will be returned, including your life.  Enjoy it whilst you can.

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