Psychological Biases (Part 3)

Psychological Biases (Part 3)

Confirmation bias isn’t an occasional bug in our human operating system. It is the operating system. We are designed by evolution to see new information as supporting our existing opinions, so long as it doesn’t stop us from procreating. Evolution doesn’t care if you understand your reality. It only cares that you reproduce - Scott Adams


* The following is my first draft for a book I'm working on.  If you have any constructive criticism please let me know.  It's much easier to fix now than later.  Thanks.  Hope you enjoy.

Normalcy Bias

Normalcy bias is the tendency for people to underestimate the severity or impact of a potential disaster or crisis. It occurs when people believe that things will continue to operate as they always have, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. This bias can cause individuals and organisations to fail to prepare for, or respond effectively to, a disaster or crisis. Normalcy bias can lead people to ignore warning signs or to be complacent about potential risks. It can also cause them to be slow to take action or to underestimate the resources required to respond effectively. By recognising and overcoming the normalcy bias, individuals and organisations can improve their preparedness for, and response to, potential disasters and crises.


You’re in a hotel room.  You’ve just jumped into the shower and the fire alarm goes.  Do you quickly wrap a towel around you and escape the building or do you say ‘Meh. It’s probably just a drill’ and turn on the shower?  Even though their is a high risk of death many of us will fall for the normalcy bias and pick the shower.  It’s probably just a drill anyway, right?


Effort Justification

Effort justification is a psychological phenomenon in which people who have invested a significant amount of effort, time, or money into a particular task, goal, or product will rationalise their investment and justify their choices, even if the outcomes are not favourable or the original reasons for starting the task have changed. This is often done to avoid the negative emotions that would come with admitting the effort was wasted or the initial decision was wrong. Effort justification can lead to continued investment in an ineffective or unfavourable situation and can influence decisions and behaviours even when the initial reasons for investment are no longer relevant.


This is also know as the IKEA Effect.  Because you need to put effort into building your furniture you appreciate it more.  Legos the same, the fun is in the building.  After you place a bet your confidence about your decision goes up.  After you buy a product you double down on why it’s better than similar products.


The Ben Franklin Effect

The Ben Franklin effect is a psychological phenomenon in which a person's attitude towards someone they have performed a favour for becomes more positive. The theory is based on an experiment conducted by Benjamin Franklin, who observed that after doing a favour for someone, he found that his feelings towards that person became more positive and favourable

After doing someone a favour we rationalise it by saying we must have done it because we like the person.  We wouldn’t do a favour for someone we dislike, would we?


Backfire Effect

The backfire effect refers to the phenomenon where people who hold strong beliefs on a certain topic become even more entrenched in those beliefs when presented with evidence that contradicts them. The backfire effect is often used to explain why people continue to hold onto false beliefs and misinformation despite being presented with evidence to the contrary.

Have you ever changed someones mind with evidence?  Probably not.  I’m guessing they dismissed it or worked up a story to prove that the evidence supports their point and not yours.  Next time you see it don’t view their actions as ignorant, see them for what they are, The Backfire Effect.


Expectation Bias

Expectation bias is the tendency for people to interpret or recall information in a way that conforms to their expectations, beliefs, or hypotheses. This means that people's prior expectations can influence how they process new information.

The abortion debate is based on our expectations.  Is it a ‘foetus’ or a ‘baby’ everything else is based upon these expectations.  The same for the trans debate ‘feelings = gender’ vs ‘sex = gender’.  All our beliefs change how we view the world.


Observer-Expectancy Effect

The observer-expectancy effect refers to the phenomenon where a researcher's expectations or hypotheses can unconsciously influence their observations or results. For example, if a researcher expects a certain outcome, they may unconsciously manipulate the results or interpret the data in a way that supports their expectations.

In the 1980’s their was talk about child abuse and satanic rituals in nurseries.  These never actually happened, but over time kids started to construct stories that it did happen.  When asking kids questions about what happened researchers would unconsciously guide the kids towards answers that proved their point, resulting in mass-hysteria. 


Selective Perception

Selective perception is a cognitive bias in which an individual unconsciously filters out information that does not fit with their preconceived notions, beliefs or attitudes, while attending to information that supports their beliefs

Someone pours their drink all over you.  Your Selective Perception will determine how you feel/act towards this.  If you presume that they did it out of spite you’ll act in anger and retaliate.  If you presume they just tripped over their laces (idiot) you’ll take pity, laugh it off and tell them to tie there laces.  How we view the world shapes how we think, feel and act.  


Semmelweis Reflex

Semmelweis reflex is a phenomenon in which a new idea or discovery is rejected because it conflicts with established norms, beliefs, or paradigms. This reflex can occur in any field, and can impede progress and hinder the adoption of new and better ways of doing things.

The Semmelweis Reflex is named after Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis, who in the mid-19th century discovered that washing your hands could reduce the spread of infections in hospitals, but was met with resistance from the medical community.   We now know that washing hands has lead to saving countless lives.  What progress is the Semmelweis Reflex holding back today?

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