Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Avoiding psychological biases that trick your brain.

The monthly Austin Rainbow Forum discussion group which I help organize meets on the first Sunday afternoon of each month, and I thought I would pass on background material for a talk and discussion March 7 by Paul McNamara titled "Avoiding psychological bias." I also want to point to an excellent article on cognitive biases and faulty heuristics by Ben Yagoda that appeared several years ago in The Atlantic. Here is McNamara's summary that I just sent out to the discussion group's email list: 

"How we look at the world and make decisions about the ways we live our lives can be profoundly affected by many of the psychological biases which we're all susceptible to. We'll discuss thirteen common types of bias, all beginning with the letter “c”. This presentation has been adapted from the The Center for Action and Contemplation’s podcast series Learning How to See. For those who are interested, here’s a link to the six episodes podcast series: https://cac.org/podcast/learning-how-to-see/ "

The thirteen biases are: 

1. Confirmation Bias: The human brain welcomes information that confirms what it already thinks and resist information that disturbs or contradicts what it already thinks. 

2. Complexity Bias: The human brain prefers a simple lie to a complex truth. 

3. Community bias: It is very hard to see something your group doesn’t want you to see. This is a form of social confirmation bias. 

4. Complementary bias: If peope are nice to you, you’ll be open to what they see and have to say. If they aren’t nice to you, you won’t. 

5. Contact bias: If you lack contact with someone, you won’t see what they see. 

6. Conservative/Liberal bias: Conservatives and Liberals see the world differently. Liberals see through a “nurturing parent” window, and Conservatives see through a “strict father” window. Liberals value moral arguments based on justice and compassion; conservatives also place a high value on arguments based on purity, loyalty, authority, and tradition. Our brains like to see as our party sees, and we flock with those who see as we do. 

7. Consciousness bias: A person’s level of consciousness makes seeing some things possible and others impossible. Our brains see from a location.

8. Competency bias: We are incompetent at knowing how incompetent or competent we are, so we may see less or more than we think. Our brains prefer to think of ourselves as above average. 

9. Confidence Bias: We mistake confidence for competence, and we are all vulnerable to the lies of confident people. Our brains prefer a confident lie to a hesitant truth. 

10. Conspiracy Bias: When we feel shame, we are vulnerable to stories that cast us as the victims of an evil conspiracy by some enemy “other.” Our brains like stories in which we’re either the hero or the victim ... never the villain. 

11. Comfort/Complacency/Convenience Bias: Our brains welcome data that allows us to relax and be happy and reject data that require us to adjust, work, or inconvenience ourselves. 

12. Catastrophe/Normalcy Bias: Our brains notice sudden changes for the worse, but we easily miss slow and subtle changes over time. We think what is now normal always was and always will be. Our brains are wired for what feels normal. 

13. Cash Bias: It is very hard to see anything that interferes with our way of making a living. Our brains are wired to see within the framework of our economy, and we see what helps us make money.

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